Close schools because of poor test scores? Michiganders say no

MICHIGAN - Michigan residents who participated in a poll earlier this month overwhelmingly oppose closing schools based solely on test scores, believe there are other ways to fix low-performing schools, and say parents should have input in the school closing process.

The results of the poll — conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and commissioned by the Michigan chapter of PublicSchoolOptions.org — were released today. The public school options group is an advocacy group that promotes the rights of parents to choose their children's schools.

Patrick Lanne of Public Opinion Strategies said opposition to using test scores solely to close schools was strong both among Republicans and Democrats.

"It's a near consensus," he said, and "something that is very rare."

The results confirm what the organization has heard from parents not just in Michigan but across the country, said Tillie Elvrum, president of the group.

"They realize that standardized test scores ... don't tell the whole story about school quality and performance," Elvrum said.

The results come as the state School Reform Office moves forward with controversial plans later this year to identify chronically low-performing schools that would be recommended for closure. The schools identified would have ranked in the bottom 5% academically in the last three school years.

The poll of 600 voters was conducted Oct. 6-9. About 60% of the calls were completed via landline, while 40% were conducted over cell phones. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Lanne said during a media conference call this morning that while voters are concerned about the quality of public education, "closing public schools is really not a part of their prescription for improving schools."

Some key findings:

•Just 2% of the participants said that closing low-performing schools is a potential fix for improving public education. Participants were given a list of eight potential fixes, and 27% said returning the curriculum to the basics of reading, writing and math received the most support. That was followed by the 22% of participants who said spending more money on public schools and the 12% who said increasing teacher salaries are options. Closing low-performing schools ranked dead last.

•82% of Michigan voters agreed with the statement that "a public school should never be closed based solely upon results from statewide standardized testing." Broken down by political party, 75% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats agreed with the statement.

•93% agreed with the statement that "the state should not be allowed to order a public school to close without a formal public hearing, giving parents and teachers the opportunity to discuss the impact of the schools closing on the local community." About 26% of the 600 poll respondents were parents with a child attending a public school in Michigan.

"Parents are very passionate about wanting a seat at the table and having their voices heard, and of course having due process," Elvrum said.

Those parent voices, she said, should be listened to "over special interests."

Detroit Free Press


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