. Following the pattern outlined above, Michigan has also seen an increase in the state control of school systems. For example, financing for education has been done on a state level since 1994 under Proposal A (Arsen & Plank, 2003, p.1). While legislation such as this has increased the state's role in education, there have also been more high profile methods put into place for state involvement in school district management. Though not directly tied to student achievement, the State of Michigan has, in the past two decades, engaged in the takeover of school districts, typically, though not solely, for financial issues through the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act. Within the State of Michigan, three school districts have been taken over by the state. All three of these interventions have occurred since 2009, with the last of these interventions occurring in the Spring of 2012. While controversial, this legislation has played a large role in a handful of districts throughout the state. While distinctly trying to remedy issues within the management of school districts, it remains to be seen what impact, if any, these drastic interventions have on student achievement. The overall effect of these takeovers on student achievement remains unexamined. This paper aims to gauge the overall effect of these interventions using emergency managers thus far in the State of Michigan.
History of State Takeovers
With an increasing emphasis being placed on accountability and student achievement in the federal policy realm, since the 1990s, many different methods have been studied and implemented in order to bolster student achievement. The most drastic of these policies involve complete state takeover of the school district or bestowing control of the district with the mayor of the city in which the district resides. Interventions of this nature are becoming increasingly common as an increased desire for accountability takes hold (Wong & Shen, 2003B, p.6). "Twenty-four states allow state takeover of local school districts, permitting state officials to exert authority over a district in the case of academic bankruptcy, or woefully low-performing schools" (Wong & Shen, 2003a, p.6). "Since 1988, twenty states have taken over at least fifty-five local school districts" (Wong, Langevin & Shen, 2004, p3). These policies tend to be implemented in a "context in which years of decentralized reform alone have not produced system-wide improvement in big city schools" (Wong & Shen, 2003a, p.6).
The school systems effected "have had high concentrations of poor and non-white students...and often have a history of low academic performance, high dropout rates, financial mismanagement, and other negative performance indicators" (Green & Carl, 2000, p.57). Within these districts, there has been overwhelming feelings of "broad public dissatisfaction, with a crisis in school performance over several years preceding integrated governance" (Wong & Shen, 2003B, p.17).
Rationale of Takeovers
There are two dominant rationales that support these interventions: one academic in nature, the other management related. When looking at interventions based on academic performance it is clear that low academic performance plagues the districts in question. The state, in these instances, sees little to no action being taken to correct the dismal levels of student achievement within their schools. An alternative rationale for state intervention is more focused on the management of school districts. In these cases, the trigger usually lies in financial issues within the district. Districts such as these are running deficits and generally plagued by financial instability (Green & Carl, 2000, p.58). Most states that have employed the use of state interventions do so in a comprehensive way. Commonly, states do not take over local districts for purely achievement reasons; most are for a combination of reasons, including financial and management issues (Green & Carl, 2000, p.58). It has been found that it is hard to change either just the financial aspects within a district or purely the academic aspects of a district (Wong & Shen, 2003b). No matter the justification of the state intervention, there is a distinct vision that there is a need, either perceived or real, to install new leadership within these school districts (Green and Carl, 2000, p.58).
Political Environment Surrounding State Takeovers
Interventions such as these have sparked drastic opposition as well as garnered much support. In the minds of voters, education policy remains one of the most important issues to be addressed (Wong & Shen, 2003B, p.14). Due to this fact, it is clear why there has been much debate and discussion in affected districts as to the merits and pitfalls of these policies. "From a fiscal perspective, public schools constitute one of the largest local employers" (Wong & Shen, 2003B, p.14). There are clear arguments both for and against these policies; no policy "has generated the same level of controversy as state takeovers" (Wong, Langevin & Shen, 2004, p.3).
Overwhelmingly, "the public is increasingly demanding that the school district be held accountable for their sustained failures" (Wong & Shen, 2003b, p.6). These interventions come with both technical assistance as well as financial aid, leading some districts to welcome the immediate, and long lasting, help (Berman, 1994, p.69). These policies usurp "decisions made at the school site" that are generally "constrained by collective bargaining agreements" (Wong & Shen, 2003B, p.13). Efficiency and accountability are the two main pillars that pro-takeover advocates promote as power is essentially consolidated within the state level, leaving local districts without the authority to affect their district (Green & Carl, 2013, p.60-61). Also, there is a sector of literature that remains unconvinced that the methods employed will have the desired effect; "states have tended to look for long-term solutions through managerial changes...such remedies can bring desirable results, but there is some doubt about whether they can play a significant role in avoiding financial disasters" (Berman, 1994, p.69). Whether for or against state takeovers, there is a general consensus that increased state involvement whether it be through accountability or state takeovers, will increase the level of responsibility taken by local districts (Wong & Shen, 2003b). Overall, "state takeovers present a broad challenge to our understanding of the boundaries of legitimate power and influence in the American federal system: it seeks to reconstitute the democratic institution of local school governance and restore local performance accountability by temporarily altering the accepted governance arrangements for public education" (Wong, Langevin & Shen, 2004, p.3).
There has been numerous attempts to derive the effect of such drastic interventions on the low performing schools that they take place in. The research surrounding the effect of state interventions has been controversial and largely inconclusive (Green & Carl, 2000, p.66). Wong & Shen examined student achievement in districts such as Detroit and Chicago in order to determine the effects of mayoral and state takeovers. They have found that when a takeover is more contentious politically, there is a less of a rise in academic levels than those that do not suffer from political squabbles (Wong et al., 2003, p.117). They caution that there is not enough data at this time to draw firm conclusions as to how these takeovers are effecting student achievement. They conclude that not enough time has passed to determine if the gains in student achievement through mayoral and state takeovers can and will be sustained (Wong et al., 2003p.117-118). Although Wong & Shen have performed the most exhaustive research on the matter, they still received unambiguous results as to whether these interventions are having an effect on student achievement in any substantive way (Wong et al., 2003, p.102).
State Takeovers in Michigan
Michigan has had an interesting history with state takeovers in regards to education. Prior to 1988, the State of Michigan had no concrete legal authority to takeover school districts (Citizens Research Council [CRC], 2011, p.v). The original act, PA 101 (1988), allowed the state to take over the management of local entities in cases of financial crisis. PA 101 created the authority for the appointment of an emergency financial manager to a municipality, public utility, or "an authority established by law" (Low, 2012, p.20). PA 101 progressed with the passage of Public Act 72 of 1990, expanding the narrow powers granted in Public Act 101, giving the state explicit legal authority to intervene in school districts in the case of severe financial crisis (Lowe, 2012, p.20). This controversial law was finally utilized in school districts, in the late 1990s when Detroit Public Schools became the first school district in the state to go through a state takeover.
The first implementation of Public Act 72 within a school district occurred when the State gave authority to the mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer in 1999. The reasons given for this shift in power "included years of failed school reform efforts, a graduation rate estimated to be around 30%, abysmal academic performance, declining enrollment, and troubling financial and accounting practices" (Hess, 2007, p.1). Due to strong community and union backlash Archer had little success (Hess, 2007, p.2). Despite community objections, including legal action taken against the state, the appointed board remained in place, with a vote scheduled for five years after the takeover began to see if the arrangement should continue.
In 2011, Public Act 72 was replaced with Public Act 4 (CRC, 2011, p.v). This version of the statute lowered the threshold for state intervention, by "expanding the list of initiating events" and "allowing for a preliminary review at the discretion of the state treasurer" (CRC, 2011, p.v). Additionally, PA 4 shifts the title of the emergency financial manager to emergency manager, allowing for the person put in charge to dictate a plan that reaches farther in scope than purely financial matters (CRC, 2011, p.vi).
After PA 4 was repealed on the November 2012 ballot with 52% of the vote. The state legislature passed the law again in another form, PA 436. Within the new law, all previously appointed and acting emergency managers are able and liable to continue their appointments under the conditions decided upon, at the time of their appointment, yet is almost identical to the law that was repealed (Lowe, 2012, p.19). Additionally, the state has recently set up the Education Achievement Authority, which will take the lowest performing schools, the bottom 5%, and take over the management of them in order to turn around academic performance. This is the first purely academic state intervention in the state and only began operating schools within the past year. The ways in which the State of Michigan has to intervene in districts is increasing as time goes on.
The State of Michigan has utilized both mayoral control, as well as, purely state run takeovers with the implementation of emergency financial managers and emergency managers into local districts. While the state has yet to utilize this method in a multitude of districts, there has been vocal opposition surrounding these statutes since they were first used as a tool for reform in municipalities and school districts. As evidenced by the numerous lawsuits brought against Robert Bobb there has been considerable push back over the use of these interventions. There have been three primary cases of the use of emergency managers in the State of Michigan: Detroit Public Schools, Highland Park Public Schools, and Muskegon Heights Public Schools.
Michigan School Districts in Trouble
Detroit Public Schools
Detroit Public Schools were the first school district within the state to be given an emergency financial manager under PA 72. In March 2009 a state review board declared DPS in financial crisis, and Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Robert Bobb as emergency financial manager [EFM] of Detroit Public Schools [DPS]. When Bobb was first put into place, DPS was running a deficit estimated at $300 million (Michigan Department of Education [MDE], 2009). Bobb was declared to have complete control over all financial matters within the district (Detroit Public Schools [DPS] office of public relations, 2009). On March 19, only three days after being appointed, Bobb announced the non-renewal of over 786 contracts with administrators, curriculum leaders, principals, assistant principals, and central staff, in addition to instituting a hiring freeze (DPS office of Public Relations, 2009). Quickly after the school year ended in 2009, Bobb ordered 41 schools to be "reconstituted" and all employees had to reapply for their jobs (Oosting, 2009a). By August 2009, Bobb had turned over 17 high schools to private management firms for $20 million in order to improve student performance (Oosting, 2009b). In December 2009, Bobb ordered the demolition of "14 vacant schools...[deemed] the worst of the worst, crime-infested eyesores" that the district owned (Associated Press (AP), 2009a). Throughout 2009, Bobb managed to cut the deficit from $300 million to $219 million.
In early 2010, Bobb created a plan to close 45 schools; about one-quarter of school buildings within the district (Foley, 2010). This plan also outlined a plan to construct and renovate buildings where necessary. Bobb proposed an ambitious plan that would cost the district an estimated $540 million dollars to promote more rigorous academics within the district. Bobb stated the plans for building closure and promoting academics were akin to a "revolution," furthering excellence for all students within the Detroit Public Schools (AP, 2010d). Throughout 2011, Bobb continued to implement plans to cut the spending of the district in order to remedy deficit issues such as outsourcing the maintenance staff of the district to a private company.
From the time Robert Bobb was appointed as EFM for Detroit Public Schools, there was a significant and vocal opposition. In August 2009, the school board hired a superintendent of schools without the authorization to do so from Bobb who was in charge of all hiring and firing. Quickly after the board and Bobb clashed on the appointing of a superintendent for the district the DPS school board filed a lawsuit against Bobb indicating that he was overreaching his powers granted under PA 72 (Oosting, 2009c). Bobb quickly filed a countersuit indicating that the board violated the first order he issued (Oosting, 2009d). Again in October 2009, the school board again attempted to appoint a district treasurer. The state quickly came to Bobb's aid and struck down the board's attempt (Foley, 2009). Governor Granholm supported the actions of Bobb through this period as she declared, "Detroit schools are in an academic as well as financial emergency" (AP, 2009a). The lawsuits between the DPS school board and Robert Bobb were not settled quickly as both sides appealed the courts decisions in 2010.
The board filed another suit against Bobb because he received money from the Broad Foundation in order to fund activities within the district. The board claimed he was in violation of the state ethics law by taking money from a private donor (AP, 2010c). In addition to this, in the Fall of 2010, the board also asked the courts to block the school closures Bobb proposed. The board claimed he was once again overstepping the bounds set forth by PA 72 (Harrison, 2010). Courts sided with the board during this lawsuit ordering Bobb to work with the board on deciding school closures (Harrison, 2010). Observers of the actions and lawsuits within the district frequently stated that these lawsuits were adding to the daunting task of turning the district around. They were cited as a "distraction from what should be done" within the district to improve conditions for everyone involved (AP, 2010f).
Throughout 2010, Bobb implemented plans to curb dropout rates and raise district test scores while his role was continually in question until PA 4 replaced PA 72. The order by Detroit Public Schools to change the formal title of Robert Bobb from emergency financial manager to emergency manager was issued on March 16, 2011. Through this he was granted and assumed all powers possible in order to insure "fiscal accountability and the preservation of the provision of education services essential to the public health safety and welfare" of Detroit Public Schools (DPS, 2011, p.2).
Robert Bobb's contract with DPS officially ended on June 30, 2011. Under Bobb, nearly 60 schools within the district were closed and 30 more were proposed to be closed in 2011 after his depature. He did not renew contracts of principals of failing schools and laid off every teacher in the spring of 2011, saying that the district would have to cut about 20% of teachers prior to opening in the Fall. Bobb provided the beginnings of a turn around throughout his two years with the district though admitted; the district "will require additional initiatives, school closings, reviewing prospective charter operations to create a system of schools" (AP, 2011c).
DPS had closed over half of its school buildings by the time that Roy Roberts, Bobb's replacement, took office (AP, 2011d). Roberts quickly proposed a budget with cuts equaling "$230 million in expenses and 853 jobs" (AP, 2011e). He pushed for more Pre-Kindergarten programs and to reduce class sizes that increased under the oversight of Bobb (AP, 2011e). The expected budget shortfall within Roberts first year was $327 million, though when long-term bonds are factored in the budget shortfall was only $127 million (AP, 2011e). The most controversial policies that Roberts pushed through in 2011 was the expansion of the DPS charter office. He transferred 34 low achieving schools under their authority (Wayland, 2011). In addition to this, Roberts implemented a 10% wage cut for teachers. This move saved the district $81.8 million (AP, 2011d). Roberts was said to hope to aid the academic performance of the low performing schools transferred to charter schools through the action, though also used as a cost saving measure (Wayland, 2011). There was push back on these policies as the Detroit teachers union filed a lawsuit against Roberts. While the lawsuit ultimately failed, the union accused Roberts of a power grab during his first few months in office. He was being charged with violating the collective bargaining rights of the state, by implementing the wage cut without negotiating with the union (Oosting, 2012). He did gain favor through his implementation of a pilot program offering free lunch to all DPS students (AP, 2011e).
During 2012, Roberts continued to slash spending through the district. Policies implemented by Roberts included keeping a handful of schools open during school breaks to allow students the opportunity to have somewhere to go, as well as, hopefully increase academic performance for those students by increasing the amount of time in school (Green & Carl, 2000, p.67). Throughout 2012, Roberts also continued to push for the restructuring of DPS as he declared 26 schools to be self-governed allowing for decisions to be made at the school level instead of at the district level. He cited cost savings measures, as these schools would have 95% of funds going straight into the classroom instead of paying for district administrative overhead costs. These schools were cited to have strong community involvement and slowly increasing academic performance. Roberts hopes to see these schools continue along this path aided by the ability to make decisions at the school level (Foley, 2012e). In 2013, Roberts is continuing to cut spending in an aggressive move to fulfill the deficit elimination plan, as well as continues to explore the closings of schools to make a "smaller portfolio" for the district (DPS Office of the Emergency Manager 2013). The use of emergency managers in Detroit Public Schools has resulted in drastic changes in the district and it is clear that this pattern will continue until the Detroit Public Schools is stable, at least financially, in the eyes of the state.
Highland Park Public Schools
In January 2012, the Highland Park School District "failed to pass the 10-member review team's financial stress test" (Sands, 2012A). By failing to pass the review board's solvency test, an emergency manager was appointed for the district. It was clear that the community was reluctant to support this motion as the review board cited the district as being "uncooperative" (Sands, 2012A). Governor Snyder appointed Jack Martin in early 2012 after the district was declared in a financial crisis. During the first month of his tenure, Martin made plans to consolidate two K-8 buildings and demolish three empty school buildings (Sands, 2012B).
Shortly after being appointed, Martin ran into legal problems, as acting head of the district. The Ingham County Circuit Court ruled "the work of the state financial review board that recommended Martin's appointment was null and void because the group's private deliberations violated Michigan's Open Meetings Act" (Sands, 2012b). Martin was asked to step down by Governor Snyder shortly after. This occurred just one month after he was appointed as emergency manager of the district. The review board voted unanimously to replace Jack Martin, as they still saw the district as being in a crisis though no timeline was given at the time for that action (Foley, 2012d).
In October 2012, Highland Park was assigned a new emergency manager, Donald Weatherspoon. The main action that has occurred as a result of this process is that the schools of the Highland Park School District have been turned into a public-charter hybrid district. This was seen as the "only feasible solution" (Sands, 2012b). Weatherspoon accepted a bid from Leona Group, a charter management company to run the district's schools now (Moore, 2012). The Leona Group runs numerous charter schools throughout the Midwest and Arizona (Leona Group). The school district's name was officially changed to the Highland Park Public School Academy System (Sands, 2012b). It appears that while reform in the Highland Park district were off to a slow and rocky start, with the appointment of Donald Weatherspoon, things may finally be on track for the district to turn around.
Muskegon Heights Public Schools
The third district to receive an emergency manager in Michigan was that of Muskegon Heights Public Schools. The review team found the district to be in need of an emergency manager in April 2011 (Moore, 2012). The Muskegon Heights Public School Board voluntarily asked for an emergency manager (Moore, 2012). The review board acted quickly and agreed with the districts plea for an emergency manager and appointed Donald Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon quickly surmised that the only feasible solution to turn around the district would be to turn the district's schools into charter schools (Moore, 2012). A bid by Mosaica Education was accepted and the schools were turned over to them to run (Moore, 2012). Weatherspoon was appointed as EM for Muskegon Heights prior to that of Highland Park. The two districts have had similar policies implemented, as Weatherspoon employing similar strategies in both districts. Weatherspoon has been quoted as to saying "Now that the finances are somewhat stabilized in both districts, I will focus on helping the charter schools improve student performance" (Moore, 2012). Overall, Weatherspoon sees his role as aiding the charter management organizations in improving both Muskegon Heights and Highland Park.
Similarities Within Districts
In each of the three districts mentioned above, the emergency managers have gone about district management in similar ways. In Detroit, massive cuts in terms of staffing and building closures were seen immediately after Robert Bobb was placed in the district. This is similar to the immediate actions taken in both Highland Park and Muskegon Heights. Jack Martin, in Highland Park proposed school closures immediately upon taking control of the district. Through the transitions to charter management organizations, both Highland Park and Muskegon Heights have gone through similar large scale staffing changes and building closures as DPS has experienced since 2009. Highland Park and Muskegon Heights have focused the majority of their efforts on the financial stability of the district, by transferring the buildings to the control of charter management organizations. Similarly, DPS has integrated more charter schools into their district. DPS has had more of academic bent to their policies as both Robert Bobb and Roy Roberts have come up with plans to remedy low academic achievement in the district. As time progresses in Highland Park and Muskegon Heights, they may engage in more achievement related interventions, but thus far have only directly addressed the finances of the districts.
In order to determine the effect of emergency managers on the achievement of students within the district, the use of case studies will be employed. The use of case studies is the most effective way to examine the goings on in each district, as the policies implemented in districts with emergency managers are not easily quantifiable. In addition to this, there are only three cases in the State of Michigan of this occurring leading to a small sample size. Due to this, the use of case studies will allow for an in-depth analysis of policies being implemented in the districts in question.
In order to determine whether or not the presence of an emergency manager within a school district is having an effect on student achievement, a controlled comparison case study, using the method of difference will be utilized. For each district, a comparison district will be identified along the lines that they share similar characteristics and values in terms of the independent variables being identified. The comparison districts do not have emergency managers in place but have faced, and do face, similar problems to the three districts with emergency managers. Through the use of comparison school districts it will try to be determined if the districts that have emergency managers are following the pattern of similar districts in terms of student achievement or if they are unique, following a different trajectory than other districts similar in organization and circumstance. The data collected will be analyzed in relation to student achievement for the three districts without emergency managers in Michigan.
The data was obtained through the Michigan Department of Education, through self-reported data as well as through assessment data. Factors being utilized for each district relates to district organization and demographics. In terms of district organization, factors such as the number of schools will be looked at; the size of the district is important to recognize the scale of the district. In addition to this, the number of charter schools within the district will be examined, as the addition of charter schools to a district is something that is not done often in Michigan. A unique aspect of Detroit Public Schools is the large number of charter schools that are being added to the district. In addition to this, the expansion of the use of charter schools is a current trend in education policy. Charter schools have seen modest success in relation to student achievement (Green & Carl, 2000). Due to these unique aspects of charter schools, the number and role of charter schools authorized and included into the public school districts will be examined in this analysis. Additionally, to understand and gauge the financial health within the district the yearly deficits being accumulated by each district will be examined. In addition to these measures of district organization, demographics within the district will be looked at. Variables such as percent of students who are of a racial minority, number of students, poverty level in the district as indicated by free and reduced lunch enrollment, and unemployment data within the city will be looked at to gauge whether or not the population within the district is shifting in any way throughout the time period in question, 2003-2012. The variables will provide insight into what is going on within the school district through the time period.
State level assessment scores measured in terms of proficiency levels will be used to measure student achievement. The data was obtained through the Michigan Department of Education. Specifically, MEAP test scores, the State of Michigan's metric to gauge student achievement in districts will be utilized as the primary indicator for the level of student achievement within a district. Test scores from the past decade will be used, specifically that of the 2003-2004 school year to the most recent examination given in Fall 2012. Over the past decade there has been a shift in what subject test, i.e. reading, math, social studies, science, is given in each grade. There have been six tests that have been given each year in the same grades and subjects. The tests that have been given every year for the decade in question will be utilized. The specific tests that will be examined are: fourth grade math, fourth grade reading, fifth grade science, seventh grade reading, eighth grade math, and eighth grade science. Test scores will be measured as percent proficient in each district. An important caveat to note when examining MEAP scores is that the state has changed the level of proficiency numerous times, the latest occurring prior to the 2011 test (Ackley, 2011). The overall level of proficiency, when aggregated for the state, declines over the past two years as the level of proficiency was recalculated (MDE, 2012a). This has caused proficiency levels to drop in every district across the board. It is expected that the districts with emergency managers will not have strong changes in student achievement, as most of the actions of emergency managers focus on the finances of the district and not as intensely on classroom level changes such as instruction.
Detroit Public Schools-Flint Public Schools
The comparison district is Flint Public Schools for the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) district. Detroit Public Schools is the largest public school district within the State of Michigan. While Detroit is unique for many reasons, besides the primary difference in size, Flint Public Schools was chosen as a comparison district. Flint Public Schools are located on the east side of the state, similar to that of DPS. One of the main comparisons between DPS and Flint is that they have a similar level of minority students within their schools at well over 80%. Much like DPS, Flint has seen their enrollment decline rapidly over the past decade, beginning with over 20,000 students and having just over 9,500 in the past school year. Circumstances within the cities of the districts have also had sustained levels of high unemployment, between 9% and 14% unemployment for the past decade. DPS is unique in that the district is a charter is a charter authorizer; charter schools authorized by DPS incorporated into the district. One of the only other districts to do this on par with DPS is Flint Public Schools. Flint like DPS authorizes charter schools, which are then incorporated into their district. Additionally, both districts have spent between $14,000-15,000 per pupil in the last school year and have spent similar amounts throughout the past decade.
While Flint and Detroit Public Schools are similar in many ways, there are differences that should be noted. DPS served around 66,000 students in the past school year (2011-2012); Flint served around 9,500 students in the last school year. While the difference between the two is large, Flint is still also one of the largest school districts in the state, specifically, the sixth largest within the state (MDE, 2012b). Another distinct difference between DPS and Flint is that Flint has managed to operate their district without the presence of a deficit until the 2011-2012 school year. DPS has sustained a deficit within their district for more significant period of time. DPS has run a deficit in each year in the past decade. DPS also has had a more sustained problem with failing schools in their district. Around 82% of schools in the DPS district were failing in the 2012-2013 school year; this was only around 35% of schools for Flint Public School district. While the differences between these two districts are notable, they share commonalities that make comparisons possible. Flint is one of the most comparable districts within the state of Michigan to Detroit Public Schools, for the reasons noted above.
Highland Park Public Schools-Hamtramck Public Schools
Highland Park School District will be compared to the Hamtramck school district. Both have suffered from similar problems throughout the past decade. They are both school districts in the Detroit area. Both of these districts are similar in size. They had around 3,500 students each from 2003-2008. Consistently, the level of poverty in each of the districts, as indicated by the free/reduced lunch program participation, hovered around 80% for the past decade. In addition to this unemployment was virtually identical as the two cities occupy the same county. Funding per pupil was similar in both districts as well. Between the 2009-2010 school year and the 2012-2013 school year, both districts were running deficits, indicating similar financial predicaments.
While Highland Park Public Schools and Hamtramck Public Schools are nearly identical in numerous ways, there are differences to be noted between the two districts. Highland Park has a larger number of minority students than that of Hamtramck. Only about 50% of students in Hamtramck are minority students. Highland Park, on the contrary, serves a population that is comprised of over 90% minority students. It should also be noted that after 2008, Highland Park saw a rapid decline in enrollment, from 3,500 students to just over 900 students in the 2011-2012 school year, while Hamtramck saw a modest decline to around 3,000 students.
Muskegon Heights Public Schools-Benton Harbor Public Schools
The city of Muskegon Heights and that of Benton Harbor have shared a similar story through the past decade. Both have experienced rapid business and population flight to nearby wealthier cities. The cities have experienced similar levels of unemployment throughout the last decade; the average unemployment over the past decade for these two cities is remarkably similar: 9.32% in Muskegon Heights and 8.71% in Benton Harbor. Financially, Benton Harbor and Muskegon Heights have had similar levels of funding per pupil over the past decade, spending just over $10,000 consistently throughout the period in question. During this time, the two districts shared similar financial problems as both districts began to run deficits in 2006. They also have consistently served similar high needs populations as both districts' students were over 90% minority and eligible for free/reduced lunch. The only slight difference between the two districts is that of size. Benton Harbor serves a slightly larger population of around 4,800 students in 2003 and 3,000 in 2012, whereas, Muskegon Heights served just over 2,000 students in the 2003 and 1,300 in 2012. The Benton Harbor school district clearly serves almost twice the number of students as Muskegon Heights. These two districts are the most comparable in the sample.
Detroit Public Schools
Detroit Public Schools had an emergency manager put into place in 2009. Test scores for all six tests between 2003 and 2009 for Detroit Public Schools and Flint Public Schools were similar. After 2009, and the insertion of an emergency manager into the district, the proficiency levels in Detroit Public Schools did not change, or break away, from that of Flint in any drastic fashion. It should be noted that there were higher, though unsubstantially so, proficiency levels for 4th grade reading, 7th grade reading, 8th grade science, and 8th grade math in the 2012 school year for Detroit. These differences in proficiency can be noted in appendix A.
As Detroit continues to retain an emergency manager, it is unclear whether the policies put into place by those individuals will make a significant and lasting impact on the levels of proficiency and student achievement within the district. Policies enacted by the emergency manager within Detroit Public Schools are unique to the district and may be having an effect on the levels of achievement within the district. Both Detroit and Flint have experienced a growth in the number of charter schools authorized and included into the school districts. This is something that is seen as relatively unique to these districts. Detroit Public Schools have authorized and utilized the charter school option on a much more grand scale than that of Flint, though both continue to see the number of charters within the district rise. In addition to this, both districts continue to see building closures as students continue to leave the district. Though only partially representative of what is occurring in these districts, the idea that students are leaving faster than they can cut expenditures is nothing new in either district, as districts like DPS have been running a deficit for well over a decade. There has been considerable political turmoil within DPS, though they have instituted multiple plans to increase academic achievement within schools as well as lengthen the school year by allowing students to come in over holiday breaks. Only time will tell if the policies enacted by the emergency manager in DPS will have a lasting and meaningful effect on proficiency levels within the district schools.
Highland Park Public Schools
Highland Park was appointed an emergency manager in the spring of 2012. Quickly after this period, numerous policies were enacted by, then acting manager, Jack Martin. After only a month, Donald Weatherspoon replaced Martin. Highland Park has had a much more turbulent experience with the emergency manager process than other districts. While there have been slight inconsistencies with leadership in Highland Park, the reform process continued throughout the past year. Under emergency manager leadership there were many changes enacted in the district. Most notably the running of district schools was entrusted to a charter management company, the Leona Group.
By examining test scores over the past decade it is clear that Highland Park and Hamtramck were achieving similar proficiency levels on the MEAP test with Hamtramck was achieving at a slightly higher level throughout. This can be noted in appendix B. In the past year, Highland Park schools have seemed to continue a downward trajectory as Hamtramck continues to out perform Highland Park. The academic future of this district now lies with the charter management company, though Weatherspoon is continuing to implement policies to affect academic achievement in the district. After one year, it looks as though proficiency levels continue to be low throughout the district. The presence of the emergency manager and the stability that brings to the schools are not manifesting themselves in the achievement levels in the district at this time.
Muskegon Heights Public Schools
Much like that of Highland Park, Muskegon Heights had an emergency manager installed within the past year. Donald Weatherspoon opted to go the charter management route with Muskegon Heights as well. Mosaica was chosen to fulfill the charter contract for the district. In addition to the change to charter management of the district, other changes, namely that of staffing changes and restructuring may be influencing student achievement. Benton Harbor and Muskegon Heights have had similar test scores within the last decade. This can be evidenced in appendix C. During the last year of testing, there is still no marked difference between Muskegon Heights and Benton Harbor. Muskegon Heights is currently the largest charter district within the state. The effects of this have not manifested themselves in district test scores within the past year, however in the future that may occur. Although only one year has passed since the implementation of an emergency manager in Muskegon Heights, the fact that there is no marked difference between that of Muskegon Heights and Benton Harbor demonstrates that the changes in policy implemented by the emergency manager are not harming, or improving, student achievement in the district. Though little time has passed, it is important to note that achievement is being sustained at the very least.
Summary of Findings
Overall, the findings for each district point to a similar trend. The districts with emergency managers are failing to continuously outperform their comparison district. Both Highland Park and Muskegon Heights within the past two years have not seen improvements or declines in their proficiency levels. The past two years have resulted in similar levels of proficiency regardless of having an emergency manager in place. There is no distinct difference between these districts and their comparison districts. Detroit, on the other hand, has seen marginal improvement in their proficiency levels, and has started to outperform Flint in a few subjects. The presence of an emergency manager within the district has seemed to make a marginal impact on proficiency levels as compared to Flint. Overall, the presence of emergency managers in the school districts examined has made little difference within the first two years, although as time progresses in Detroit, the policies implemented by the emergency manager has appeared to have some sort of impact on student achievement.
The merit in studying the student achievement in school districts with emergency managers this school is to determine whether or not, thus far, there has been impacts on student life and proficiency levels within the district. As the education community continues to search for answers to achievement issues, there is a constant question as to weather any policy regarding education is helping or hindering student's learning. By looking at student achievement within these troubled districts, even one year after an emergency manger is placed in the district, one can begin to picture the impacts of the policies put into place. Even after one year, in the cases of Highland Park and Muskegon Heights, any difference in the level of achievement should be noted. If after only one year, positive, or negative, impacts are found on achievement in these districts is worth being studied.
While there has been debate over the jurisdiction of emergency managers in school districts, it is clear that most of their actions within districts has been financial in nature. Academics have been a second priority to emergency managers, or tackled in conjunction with finances of a district. By examining the policies implemented by emergency managers it is clear their primary goal is to remedy the financial situations within the districts. However, implementing policies, such as having charter management organizations take control of schools within the districts, may effect student achievement. While the actions taken my emergency managers in the districts studied, they have addressed academics on a secondary level. Student achievement is seen as a problem in each of these districts and the rhetoric surrounding them indicates hopefulness that the emergency managers will be able to remedy achievement issues as well as financial issues.
It is clear that one year after an emergency manager has been placed into two districts in the State of Michigan, it is too soon to draw any firm conclusions as to the impact of the emergency manager and policies he has put into place. While this was considered to be the case, it is a positive thing that there is no drastic drop off in student achievement in the districts as that would lead to the belief that there were negative impacts from the prescreen of the emergency manager and his policies. In the case of Highland Park and Muskegon Heights, much in the way of achievement now rests on the charter management companies running the districts.
Alternatively, the emergency manager type leadership has been in place in Detroit Public Schools for over four years. The effect within the Detroit Public Schools has been somewhat muted much like that of the aforementioned districts. DPS continues to go through extensive policy changes each year that an emergency manager is at the helm of the district. The policy shifts in the Detroit Public School district seem to be having an effect, albeit a small one, as MEAP scores are slightly higher than that of a similar district, Flint Public Schools.
The achievement levels in these districts needs to be monitored and studied as time goes by. There are distinct questions as to the effect of these managers and policy shifts that are occurring in these districts. The future of this law and the districts affected will continue to be issues throughout the State of Michigan.
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