- Instead of taking them over, the Michigan Department of Education is giving 21 low-performing school districts the opportunity to enter into a partnership in which they will be expected to make progress in exchange for targeted support, The Detroit News reports.
- Leaders of the districts, which include both traditional and charter schools, have three months to meet with state officials for what state Superintendent Brian Whiston describes in the article as “positive, yet pressing, conversations” as they work out the details of the partnerships..
- The agreement gives districts access to resources, such as assessment tools, promising and research-based programs, and connections to partners that can provide support, including business and community members and higher education institutions. A liaison from the state is also assigned to each district to support the partnership.
Research on state takeovers of struggling school districts has shown that the voices of local educators and community members are sometimes left out of the process of trying to turn around a school. Retaining control at the district level, while also being offered support from state officials and external partners, therefore, seems to be what most school and district leaders would prefer.
Outside experts can sometimes identify problems or suggest strategies that educators would not have known about otherwise. For example, a study of rural districts that received federal School Improvement Grants to implement the transformation school improvement model showed that when principals received technical assistance regarding a particular strategy, they were more likely to fully implement that strategy. Working with outside providers, however, often requires school leaders to be open about discussing data and willing to change practices that have long been in place. Administrators who have already created a "culture" of sharing data to improve outcomes are likely to have an easier time collaborating with external partners.