Michigan Education Dept. Fails at Job, Private Group Does It Instead

Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

After the Michigan Department of Education failed to create a state-required accountability system for schools, an education reform group did the job instead.

Using available state-published data, the Great Lakes Education Project created an A-to-F grading system for Michigan's schools, rating them in terms of proficiency, growth, English literacy, and graduation rates, along with a comparison to similar schools. The organization accused the department of "illegally" hiding school information from parents by not publishing its own report card.

"Our kids get report cards so we can measure their progress, praise their successes and get them the help they need when they're facing challenges," the group's executive director Beth DeShone said in a press release. "State law says our kids' schools get report cards, too, and it's months past time for the Department to send them home."

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DeShone told the Detroit News that the group was able to create its report card in about 20 hours, "demonstrating how simple it would be for the department to comply with—not break—state law."

The department was required to release a report card by Sept. 1, but notified the state legislature that it would not be able to meet that deadline using data from the 2018-2019 school year. Nearly three months have passed, and the department has yet to publish the required report card.

To create its own report card, GLEP used data from the 2017-2018 school year and says there is nothing stopping the MDE from doing the same to comply with the law.

"We are creating the system now. We aren't withholding any information. We aren't withholding grades," department spokesman Martin Ackley told the Detroit News. "The Legislature and GLEP know very well that this is going to take time."

Yet DeShone said the Great Lakes Education Project's ability to create a card in such a short time proves the department is making "excuses" about not being entirely transparent.

"While officials in the department make excuses, we've used the guidelines laid out in the law to fill the transparency void and empower parents, policymakers and voters with school report cards," DeShone said.