The Michigan’s School Reform Office (SRO) has announced that Woodward School and Washington Writer’s Academy in Kalamazoo, MI may be closing due to low standardized test scores. The Michigan SRO says the two schools are consistently underperforming and the potential closings could affect about 750 students. They are two of 38 schools that are being considered for closure across the state.
Natasha Baker with the Michigan SRO informed parents in early January they would receive letters from state officials explaining the changes. During a parent forum on January 30 at Woodward, parents had received the letter and voiced their anger and distress. Those in attendance at the forum included parents of students, Woodward teachers, the Kalamazoo School Board President Patti-Sholler Barber, Kalamazoo Schools Superintendent Michael Rice, Woodward Principal Frank Rocco, and Michigan Representative Jon Hoadley.
Some parents stated their anger set in when they thought about the impact this would have on their children. The letter stated their child went to a “failing school”. The letter offended some parents because there is school of choice in Kalamazoo and they felt they were being ridiculed for choosing these schools.
Professors at K who will be affected by the school closures include Siu-Lan Tan, Professor of Psychology. She is very passionate about keeping these schools open as an avid supporter of education.
“As I’ve worked with Woodward for the past 19 years, 4 projects a year, I know this is a great school with dedicated teachers, and many excellent programs that benefit children in ways not always reflected in test scores,” Tan said in a statement to students in her Development Psychology course who complete a Co-Authorship Project. This project allows K students to co-author a book with an elementary student at Woodward. This day project is very enriching for the K student as well as the Woodward student, who may have limited experiences with college students in a relaxed environment where they are allowed to express themselves and have fun.
Some efforts made to keep the schools open included a petition anyone could sign which was sent to the Michigan SRO. This petition stated Woodward School and The Washington Writer’s Academy have made immense progress in the past 2 years including increased dedication to students and increased open communication with parents as a way to incorporate them in their child’s education. The petition asked that the School Reform Office visit the schools in question of closure to meet with the students and see just how much they are learning and growing in the school environment. The petition was presented by concerned parents who ask for the schools to be removed from the list for possible closure. The parents argued that closing these schools will be a detriment to the Kalamazoo community and disadvantageous for faculty, staff and students who called these schools home.
While the fight to keep both schools open continues, there will be numerous forums over the next 30 to 45 days until a decision is made based on consideration of geographic, academic and enrollment of other Kalamazoo public schools.