Our Michigan Future Schools initiative has come to an end. For the past seven years it has been a major component of our work. The initiative was designed to help launch new high schools in the city of Detroit that prepared students to graduate from college, not just high school. It was initiated and funded by Michigan foundations: the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, the McGregor Fund, the Kresge Foundation and the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation.
Our work started with selecting, through a competitive bid process, school operators to work with in designing and operating college prep high schools in Detroit. We were governance neutral. Willing to work with DPS, charters and even private schools. Schools were provided with grants averaging $800,000 over four years––a planning year and the first three years of operation. We also provided the schools with capacity building services. Which became much more extensive––and needed––than we anticipated when we launched the initiative.
We helped launch eleven high schools. Nine charters and two DPS. Two closed and another merged with an existing school. During this past school year we worked extensively with seven schools. Six that we provided grants to plus one more. Six charters and one DPS. The schools we funded, by and large, opened with a ninth grade and added a grade at a time. They were designed to be small high schools with enrollment once fully implemented of around 500. All seven schools we worked with this past school year will have graduating classes next school year.
Detroit high school students have more higher quality school options because of the initiative. Of the seven schools MFS is currently working with, which have received extensive capacity building services from MFS, four are far enough along to have letter grades in the latest Excellent Detroit Schools scorecard. All four are rated C or better. Four of ten open enrollment high schools with a score of C or better that are located in the city of Detroit. (There are five more in the suburbs which have a grade of C or better. Including University High School––the first high school Michigan Future helped launch.)
The other three schools MFS worked with this past school year are not far enough along to have a letter grade. But all, so far, are progressing to where they are likely to have student achievement similar to the four that do have letter grades.
That said the schools, in aggregate, are a long ways from meeting our aspirational goal of a preponderance of students earning a college degree. Its way too early to know how many of the graduates of MFS schools will earn college degrees. Our best guess at the moment would be in the 20-25 percent range. Trailing some of the best national charter school networks who have college completion rates in the 35-40 range. But substantially better than the around ten percent completion rate for students who attend non-test-in Detroit high schools.
Over the seven years we learned a lot about what the characteristics are of college ready students. Far more that their test score. And about the capacities of high schools that graduate students college ready. Much different than what most high schools are designed for. In future posts we will share lessons learned.
Michigan Future will return to being exclusively a think tank. What we were designed for 25 year ago. To be a source of information and ideas on what Michigan needs to do to be prosperous in an economy being transformed by globalization and technology. That work will include––really for the first time––a state policy agenda. The lessons learned from our Michigan Future Schools work will be incorporated into our education recommendations.