STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Another issue with count day in Detroit Public Schools? "Predatory" enrollment

Leo Riskin

Jack Lessenberry notes in Week in Michigan Politics Detroit's infrastructure is failing its youngest citizens. Frequent power outages to schools this winter means students have lost 160 days. Power returned Wednesday in time for the day when students in attendance count toward federal funds. As Kate Wells said about last autumn's count day, "The more students a school has in attendance on count day, the more money they get from the state."

But the outages have provided a distraction from a continuing issue with DPS count days: they can be overrun with excessive marketing. And now, according to commentary in this week's Bridge Magazine, predatory enrollment campaigns are an epidemic. Marketing and student poaching are two sides of the same coin to lure students to poorly rated schools in a crowded charter marketplace.  

Kristen McDonald from The Skillman Foundation comes down hard on the "unsavory" practices saying:

Consider this: 85 percent of the 81,000 K-8 students in Detroit attend schools that scored F’s in academic status in the Excellent Schools Detroit scorecard, just under half of which also failed to show they’re improving. On another score, just 3 percent of 8th grade students in Detroit Public Schools DPS were proficient in math, the lowest performing of all cities. But instead of focusing everything on fixing that, schools are adding to the chaos with misleading ad campaigns in a battle to pull kids from one failing classroom to another.

You can read the full commentary here, as well as solutions proposed to administrators at the state and school levels.

But how should parents react when faced with such inducements? Is it as simple as resisting the free gift card or pair of sneakers? What's a parent to do when one choice is just as bad as the next? McDonald might call this a Hobson's choice: there's the illusion of free choice, but there might, in fact, be only one available. 

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