Flint schools approve accountability measures, partnerships to improve performance

FLINT, Michigan — Flint Community Schools will work with six heavy hitters over the next 18 and 36 months to improve its performance, under a partnership agreement approved Wednesday. 
 
The partnership agreement is a tool to maintain local control while also sparking collaboration and bringing in additional resources to poorly performing schools, said William DiSessa, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education.
 
If performance benchmarks — including increasing attendance rates, reducing suspensions, and improving standardized test scores — are not met, the district will face “mutually agreed upon” measures listed as bullet points in the partnership agreement:
  • Close and reconstitute.
  • Engage an intermediate school district to assume control of the school(s).
  • Closure.
The listed consequences are required by state law, DiSessa said. The Michigan Department of Education has never closed a partnership school or a school district, he said. However, continually poor performing schools have previously faced a state takeover and last month a new CEO of Benton Harbor Schools was named through a state agreement.
 
“We are not planning to close any schools. Let me say that right up front,” DiSessa said. “The whole idea is to be collaborative. There is a consensus there to move forward. … After that 36 months, hopefully there is going to be ample progress and turnaround. If not, there could be additional accountability steps.”
 
Under the partnership agreement, Flint Community Schools maintains local control of the schools. It also includes commitments from six community partners to provide additional assistance to Flint schools, including help removing barriers to academic achievement from the Michigan Department of Education, technical support and professional development from the Genesee Intermediate School District and Michigan State University, financial support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, community education coordination by the Crim Fitness Foundation, and community engagement by Concerned Pastors for Social Action.
 
“In signing the Flint Community Schools Partnership Agreement, we are excited to continue to develop and fortify existing relationships with these essential partners, each of which is committed to improving student outcomes in Flint,” said interim Superintendent Gregory Weatherspoon.
 
The partnership agreement follows an announcement in March that the Michigan Department of Education would be entering into discussions with 21 school districts, including Flint Community Schools. Four of the district’s buildings performed in the lowest 5 percent of schools statewide and were identified as needing intervention: Accelerated Learning Academy, Holmes STEM Academy, Northwestern High School, and Potter School.

Flint Community Schools included every open school building in the partnership agreement, which allows all Flint school buildings to be eligible for increased assistance and resources, DiSessa said.
 
“The partnership agreement signifies the District’s commitment to deliver on and measure student attendance, student behavior, school curriculum and state exam performance, and to develop an Advisory Council to create a continuum of support from cradle-to-career for Flint students,” Weatherspoon said in a statement released Wednesday evening.
  
The 19-page partnership agreement is dated June 2018 and was posted on the state’s website on July 5. The Flint Board of Education approved it Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The state gave the school district 90 days to sign the contract or face possible closure.
 
The agreement starts with the 2018-19 school year and continues through both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years. Among the goals outlined by the partnership agreement:
  • Increase student attendance to 88 percent in 18 months and to 90 percent or higher in 36 months.
  • Reduce out-of-school suspensions by 5 percent in 18 months and 10 percent in 36 months, by implementing a positive behavior intervention and support system.
  • Increase student proficiency in math and literacy by 5 percent in 18 months and 10 percent in 36 months.
The partnership agreement also outlines creation of the Advisory Council, which will produce a “comprehensive, multi-year, multi-partner” district plan that will remain intact during leadership changes.
 
Over the past five years, the Mott Foundation has provided more than $54 million to support Flint Community Schools, including help to get the district out of debt, purchasing new text books for all K-12 students in core subjects, funding the community education initiative, and building improvements at Southwestern Classical Academy.
 
“We hope the partnership agreement with the state will help Flint chart a course for progress in our public schools that will lead to better outcomes — and brighter futures — for our students. We also hope the state will more directly address the broad challenges that contribute to declining student achievement across Michigan,” Mott Foundation President Ridgway White said in a statement.
 
White also specifically applauded the Board of Education and Weatherspoon for including all Flint schools in the agreement and engaging the broader Flint community in its improvement plan.

Steve Tunnicliff, assistant superintendent of the Genesee Intermediate School District, said it remains committed to ongoing collaboration with Flint Community Schools.

“While we have worked with Flint schools and community partners in many areas for a number of years, this formal 'partnership agreement' offers even more opportunities to collaborate with, and support, Flint schools to help ensure that Flint children reach their greatest potential,” Tunnicliff said in a statement Thursday. 
 

Read more articles by Marjory Raymer.

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