A recent op-ed in The Detroit News included quotes from local parents, as well as polling data, showing that
parents want more choices for their students. And I absolutely agree that they should have them. What the piece doesn’t focus on, however, is what parents in Detroit unequivocally need:
better choices. In a region where many charter schools are making a bad name for charter schools everywhere, a piece that doesn’t also make a call for
quality is, in my opinion, irresponsible. For instance, a report on charter school quality from Education Trust-Midwest showed that 65 percent of
charter schools in Detroit perform worse than Detroit Public Schools among African-American students in eighth-grade math. To put that into context, of the cities assessed every two years by the federal Department of Education,
there are no cities that perform worse than Detroit when it comes to eighth-grade math. In the summer of 2014, the Detroit Free Press
ran a series of stories aimed at the charter school sector. Many anti-charter voices heralded the series, saying that it was overdue and using it as evidence that it was time to get rid of all charter schools in the state. Some pro-charter voices called the series biased and uninformed. The more moderate contingents on both sides wisely used it as an opportunity to move forward with an agenda that holds charter school authorizers and operators accountable for providing a quality education in Michigan. Nearly a year and a half later, we still haven’t seen much movement in Lansing to make this happen. Sure, there have been proposals. There have been debates. There have been warnings from the Department of Education. But there hasn’t yet been a bill signed that aims to hold accountable those in charge of providing choice to Michigan students. So while I applaud The Detroit News for amplifying the voices of those parents who want more choices, it's important to limit those choices only to schools that provide a better education to our students.
Valentina Payne joined Bellwether Education Partners in 2021 as chief of staff to Andy Rotherham on the External Relations team. Prior to Bellwether, she spent seven years at brightbeam, where she most recently served as its chief growth officer, overseeing operations, finance, fundraising, and strategic growth of the organization.