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Low-Performing Detroit Schools To Get New Management

Michigan plans to create a new management authority that will take over the lowest-performing schools in the state, starting with Detroit, in the 2012-13 academic year.

The "Educational Achievement System," as described by Gov. Rick Snyder at a press conference today, will allow schools to operate with more autonomy, have a longer school day and year, and devote more money to classroom expenses. Roy Roberts, the emergency financial manager for the 73,000-student Detroit system, will be the chairman of the executive committee that will oversee this new initiative.

Snyder, a Republican, said that the system will start as a partnership between the Detroit district and Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, though it will be a free-standing entity. Schools will remain under the authority of the EAS for five years, during which they will be expected to improve student performance. After five years, the school will have the choice to remain under the operation of the new authority, or return to Detroit Public Schools management.

The first schools outside the city of Detroit are expected to join the EAS in the 2013-14 school year.

Roberts, a former executive with GM, said that 2011-12 will be an incubating and planning year for the new management authority. The city's children "deserve our very best efforts," he said. "This is not about giving up on DPS or its students, it's about strengthening it."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined the press conference through videoconferencing. He noted that 2009 results on the math portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress were "devastating" for the city and illustrated the urgency of the problems there. About 69 percent of DPS' 4th-grade students scored below basic. In 8th grade, 77 percent were below basic. The test scores marked the lowest performance in the history of the NAEP.

"This city has no viable future if the status quo is allowed to stand. We are fighting for the future of the city," Duncan said.

Snyder and Roberts also announced they are working with foundations, businesses and philanthropic organizations on a plan modeled after the "Kalamazoo Promise" to guarantee that all students who graduate from a high school in Detroit can attend a two-year college in Michigan. They hope to expand the program to four-year colleges soon.

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