News and analysis from The Center for Michigan •
©2015 Bridge Michigan. All Rights Reserved. • Join us online at

Original article URL:

Talent & education

School Quality: Detroit’s other big results due tomorrow

Editor’s note: The Excellent Schools Detroit scorecard is now viewable online.

Schools being schools, there’s no shortage of measurements to track their progress and quality. Actually finding useful information in that sea of data? That’s something else entirely.

Tomorrow, Excellent Schools Detroit will roll out the result of two years of work – a comprehensive, easy-to-understand guide for parents seeking the best possible information on their educational options for their children. The Excellent Schools Detroit Scorecard will be “actionable information,” said the group’s chief executive officer, Dan Varner, “the single best place for parents to go to get apples-to-apples data around education in Detroit,” including traditional public, charter, private and parochial schools, 204 in all. The list will also include some suburban schools that have targeted Detroit students for special programs in other districts.

Expect surprises, Varner said at a roundtable briefing before the report’s release on Aug. 7.

Some schools, run by established charter companies, will receive F grades, due to their refusal to participate in the Excellent Schools Detroit assessment process. Varner called these non-participants “reprehensible.”

“They’re taking public money,” he said. “They should be accountable.”

Schools won’t be ranked purely by state performance data. The rankings also used the “Detroit 5Essentials” survey, conducted by the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute, which polled teachers and students on “five essential competencies” for improvement – effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment and ambitious instruction.

There were also community site reviews, conducted by 264 volunteers. Those individuals evaluated schools based on appearance, apparently physical soundness and other factors, including the surrounding neighborhood, for children walk to school.

“We had one building that really disturbed me,” said Bernita Bradley, who led one evaluation team. The school was in a good neighborhood, and is generally sought-after by parents, but “radiators were leaking in the classrooms. One teacher had two (insubordinate) boys in her class whose job was dumping water from the leaking radiator. And some schools were in terrible areas, but are treated as prized possessions. Everything is immaculate, and you can really feel the difference.”

Some parents won’t be bothered by things like leaky radiators, Bradley said. But they deserve to know about it.

Schools will be rated on a letter-grade basis, Varner said, and Excellent Schools Detroit will recommend parents seek out schools only at a C-plus or above. That will only be about one-quarter of the whole. The group intends the ratings to be tough but fair.

“An A school on this list will be an A school anywhere, not just Detroit. We want families to fill the seats in the highest-quality seats we have, and we want the lowest-quality schools to suffer financially,” Varner said.

There will be separate classifications for new and “fresh start” schools, like those in the Educational Achievement Authority, which are in the midst of a turnaround process. EAA schools, and those that opened since 2009, may qualify for a thumbs-up grade, meaning evaluators felt they were headed in the right direction, but still too new for a letter grade. Those ranked “promising” are also recommended by Excellent Schools Detroit.

While the first report may appear after the date when most parents have chosen a school for their children, Varner said the report, once posted, would be regularly updated. A separate scorecard for early learning programs is coming later this year.

Excellent Schools Detroit is funded mainly by foundations and has a 90/90/90 mission – to see 90 percent of students graduate from high school, go on to post-secondary education and succeed without remediation.

The scorecard will be available at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 7 at the Excellent Schools Detroit website.

3 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Charles Richards

    I would have appreciated far more information about how the grades are derived. Ms. Derringer says, “Schools won’t be ranked purely by state performance data. The rankings also used the “Detroit 5Essentials” survey, conducted by the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute, which polled teachers and students on “five essential competencies” for improvement – effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment and ambitious instruction. – See more at:” How important is the state performance data? All of the elements of the Detroit 5 Essentials are inputs, and are subjectively judged. How much of the grade depends on output? Do the grades take into account socioeconomic factors?

    1. Nancy Derringer

      Mr. Richards,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. You can learn more about Excellent Schools Detroit and their ranking methodology via their website.

  2. Larry Krieg

    I’m not sure if the expression, “consumer-oriented rankings” was Bridge’s or Excellent Schools Detroit’s, but either way it is symptomatic of much that is wrong with education today that it is viewed in the “consumer-supplier” frame of reference. We do our communities a disservice treating education as a commodity to be “consumed”.

    Education is a fundamental way for one generation of a community to provide both opportunity for the next generation to advance, and continuity of societal values, ethical principles, and collective wisdom. As Thomas Jefferson famously said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” We distort our perspective and diminish the importance of education when we view it only through the lens of business principles.

Leave your comment...

Your email address will not be published.

Currently on Bridge

Yes, fixing the roads is an urgent need, but no, Proposal 1 isn’t the way to do it

Tax burden Prop 1 would impose too heavy to bear

Todd Courser hits Lansing like a cannonball

Will we be better off if Proposal 1 passes? Former treasurer says yes

An Earth Day pitch: When you hang up the phone for good, toss it the right way

Michigan’s roads affect everyone, so a 'yes' vote on Proposal 1 makes sense

‘Diplomacy Begins Here’ conference aims to illuminate international relations

What NOT to post on Facebook: Jokes about prison rape, when you’re in charge of preventing prison rape

A program to give young offenders a second chance is sending many to prison

Similar accounts in suit over alleged teen prison rapes pose challenge to state's defense

‘New fish’ ‒ One teen inmate’s account of alleged sexual assault

Early learning summit in June could impact Michigan’s children

Money Smart Week: Be penny wise, and pound savvier

Plan B or no Plan B, here’s what happens if road proposal fails

The political tale behind the selling of Proposal 1

A Bridge primer: Untangling the pothole promise of Proposal 1

Who supports, and opposes, Proposal 1

Let's rebuild Michigan through its greatest asset: its water

Could a public boarding school model work in Detroit?

Coalition supporting Detroit schools a step in the city’s road back

Chasing fads? Today’s schools are struggling too much for that

For one Michigan legislative staffer, an hour or two in the spotlight

A cull is a kill, and it’s an overreaction to deer ‘problem’

Lack of college guidance keeps poor and rural students from applying

Those who can, do – and get their hands ‘dirty’ in the process

For one Detroit mom, a complicated path to employment

Detroit by the numbers – the truth about poverty

Michigan should require dental screening for all children entering kindergarten

Where in the world is the Center for Michigan?

After two years, hard to call ACA anything but a success

Bridge’s Academic State Champs emphasizes all the wrong measurements

A graying population poses challenges for Up North counties

Up North, isolation impedes health care for seniors

Enbridge oil pipes and the Straits of Mackinac: Too risky to ignore

Not bigger government, but better services when Community Health and Human Services merge

Invest in non-partisan journalism.

Donate to The Center for Michigan. Find out why.