Why High Schools?

Many will ask why are we focusing exclusively on high schools. Conventional wisdom is that its too late.  Many urban students enter high school way behind and its assumed they can’t catch up.

Quite simply we chose to focus on high schools because that is where the need is the greatest. With a very few exceptions there are no open enrollment high schools (traditional public or charter) serving Detroit students with high graduation rates, high college attendance rates and high levels of academic achievement.

The absence of high quality urban high schools is a national problem, not just here in Detroit. It needs fixing.

It also is the area where Michigan Future, Inc.  – through its work with University High School in Ferndale – and the funders have the most experience. We think we have learned a lot about what it takes to operate a quality urban high school. Those learnings are the foundation of the strategy for Michigan Future Schools.

Finally we think that high schools in and of themselves matter. First for students who leave middle school with decent foundation skills. Attending a low quality high school in most cases trumps a good k-8 education. Far too many students who enter a low quality high school with decent skills leave with low academic achievement.

But we also have learned that it is not hopeless for students who enter high school with low skills. That a quality high school can  help most students get on track for college success. Its hard work and takes real innovation in teaching and learning. A decade of innovation here and across the country demonstrate that it can be done. MFS is all about taking those learnings to scale.