The Detroit Lyin’s

When asked about the low test scores of Detroit’s charter schools during her confirmation hearing, Betsy DeVos said that she “looks forward to correcting some of the record regarding Detroit.”

While it is common knowledge that Michigan’s NAEP rankings have gone from the middle of the pack down to the bottom 10 in the time that DeVos has supported her style of education reform there, there are still people out there writing about a Detroit miracle.

On January 12th, James Goenner wrote an Op-Ed in the Detroit News about the miraculous Muskegon Heights School District.  Goenner was a consultant to the Muskegon Heights ‘transformation’ so anything he says should be, at least, fact checked.

According to Goenner, Muskegon Heights was broken beyond repair until the district became an all charter district where parents have choice about which school their children go to.  As a result:

Fast-forward to today and you’ll find that the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy has strong leadership, balanced books, and improving academics. It is on a glide path to pay off its old debt. All of its nearly 1,000 students attend by choice. No one is assigned. Like all Michigan charter schools, it’s prohibited by law from levying taxes. Because charters receive less money than districts, it provides taxpayers with a bigger bang for their buck.

And this solution is replicable. It’s a strategy that could be deployed with struggling districts throughout the nation to create a fresh start for kids in a taxpayer-friendly way.

All of this was accomplished by people who cared enough to persist and had the stamina to overcome the numerous obstacles that were thrown in their way. Betsy DeVos was one of them, and so was I. Without her quiet support, leadership, and encouragement, I doubt we would have ever been able to turn this innovative idea into a real solution.

So I went to the Michigan Dashboard & Accountability Scorecard website, and here’s what I learned about Muskegon Heights School District.

While there were once five schools in this district, now there are just two, Dr. Martin Luther King Academy and Muskegon Heights Academy.  The other three schools are now listed as ‘closed.’


So it seems like there isn’t much of a choice there anymore with so few schools.  But Goenner says that the schools there have ‘improving academics’ so I though I’d check those two schools out.


So one school is in the bottom 2% of all schools and the other is in the bottom 0%.  Unless the second school once had a ranking with negative numbers, there is no way that being in the 0% can be an improvement over anything.

So this is yet another example of a lie to support the narrative that charter schools are superior to public schools.  If this turnaround was supported by Betsy DeVos and it is any indication of her ability to devise real solutions to complex issues, I’m feeling pretty pessimistic about the direction education will take if and when she is confirmed as Secretary of Education.

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6 Responses to The Detroit Lyin’s

  1. Jonathan says:

    Goenner must factor in body temperature when calculating academic growth.

  2. Pingback: Gary Rubinstein: Lying about Detroit and Muskegon Heights and Michigan | Diane Ravitch's blog

  3. Mike says:

    Is it possible that academics could improve, but not improve enough to affect rankings?

    • mpledger says:

      Or course there are a lot of ways that these schools could have improved, or got worse, that would not have been caught by these statistics. But the reformers only seem interested in measuring schools this way so, to argue with them about what works, you have to speak in measures they (supposedly) understand and (supposedly) take notice of.

  4. Pingback: Ed News, Tuesday, February 7, 2017 Edition | tigersteach

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