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Districts Begin to Implement Their Innovative Partnership Agreements

May 3, 2017

LANSING – Nine Michigan school districts will begin work immediately with their innovative Partnership Agreements to improve the state’s most struggling schools, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

The final Partnership Agreement was signed Monday night by the Pontiac School District, to join Detroit Public School Community District; Benton Harbor; Saginaw; River Rouge; Bridgeport-Spaulding; East Detroit; Muskegon Heights; and Kalamazoo in finalizing rigorous plans to work with state, regional, and local partners towards improving the educational achievement for 37 of the lowest-performing schools in Michigan.

“These districts worked hard to build Partnership Agreements that hold great promise for the students, educators and their communities,” said State Superintendent Brian Whiston. “They now hold the steering wheel and are in control of their future. We will work together to make sure they stay on course and provide support when and where it is needed.”

By entering into a Partnership Agreement, the possibility of these schools closing at the end of the current school year is avoided. The progress of each of the identified schools will be monitored and given assistance when and where it is needed. There are timeframes set for in the Agreements when each school needs to show measurable improvements.

“It’s encouraging to see the good working relationship that the Michigan Department of Education and the local districts have been able to develop to help students in struggling schools, which should be everyone’s focus,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “Having this sort of commitment at all levels to improving educational outcomes is a great example of the important work that can be accomplished when people are willing to work together.”

The nine districts are home to 37 schools that the state School Reform Office (SRO) had identified for possible closure. Now that Partnership Agreements have been reached, the SRO has agreed to delay any next level of accountability actions with the schools, such as possible closure, in order to give the school an opportunity to be successful. 

The agreements are unique to the needs of each district; partnership-driven; goal-driven; locally-developed and owned; and focused on the students.

Under a Partnership Agreement, the local district remains in total control of its schools with support from MDE and partners, Whiston said. Each agreement includes 18- and 36-month accountability timelines when they will be evaluated on the progress toward their goals.

With multiple partners – including local board members, the intermediate school district, education organizations, business, community members, parents, higher education organizations, foundations – committing to be actively engaged, work will ensue to identify a plan of supports and interventions that will improve student outcomes.

Academic outcomes are a primary focus, and other whole child outcomes that can impede improved academics like health, nutrition, behavior, social/emotional issues also will be addressed.

The Michigan Department of Education will be working intensely with the nine Partnership District, with each district having been assigned a liaison from MDE. This person will be responsible for supporting the district in implementation of its agreement; helping resolve problems and breaking down barriers; facilitating discussions and meetings; and ensuring that the Partnership District receives maximum support for success from MDE, as well as from the partners and other state agencies.

This Partnership Model puts a broad spectrum of technical expertise and resources in the hands of the struggling school district, and allows local districts to use community and state-level support systems to drive improvement and self-accountability. The ultimate benefit would be to regenerate a struggling school to be one that helps students and teachers achieve at higher levels.

To view the Partnership Agreements, go to the Partnership Model website.