By Charles Sercombe
If you factor in the effects of Hamtramck’s nearly 50 percent poverty rate, the public school district here is performing fairly well.
That’s the finding of The Center for Michigan, a non-partisan think tank that did a major study of education in the state.
The Center conducted 250 community meetings throughout the state, including one in Hamtramck.
Using a number of factors, including the fact that 90 percent of Hamtramck’s public school students qualify to receive a free lunch or a lunch at a reduced price, the Center ranked Hamtramck Public Schools’ academic performance at 200 out of 560 districts.
That’s an uptick compared to the grade given to Hamtramck schools by the Michigan Department of Education. The MDE ranks the district in the bottom 10 percent based on student academic performance.
Hamtramck Superintendent Tom Niczay pointed out that the conservative think tank The Mackinac Center for Public Policy also gave Hamtramck schools a far better ranking than the MDE.
The Mackinac Center ranked Hamtramck schools 120th out of 585 districts.
In an email to district employees, Niczay criticized the MDE.
“Tell everyone that will listen how grossly unfair the MDE rankings are by not factoring the poverty rate,” Niczay told employees in his email.
Niczay also added: “We are ranked ahead of Livonia, Berkley, Farmington, Utica, Royal Oak and Fitzgerald to name a few.”
As for charter schools, they have consistently scored at about the same level as public schools. In Hamtramck, most of the charter schools have scored lower than the public school district.
The Center for Michigan study also sought input from the public about their perceptions and thoughts on education. The findings may surprise some:
At “best” the Center said, the public says public education is “mediocre.” Those who are toughest critics of education are minorities.
Ways to improve education, the Center reported, include beefing up early childhood education, better teacher preparation, and more support for teachers.
As for the reforms already tried, the public doesn’t think much of expanding schools of choice, increasing the school year or having kids learn online.
Editor’s note: This article was posted in 2013.