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Published: Tuesday, 3/16/2010

98% grad rate goal in Detroit


DETROIT - A $540 million plan for Detroit Public Schools released last night calls for a 98 percent graduation rate, a 100 percent pass rate on state standardized tests, and a 100 percent acceptance of college applicants from the chronically underperforming district.

Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb announced the five-year plan as he addressed the state of the school district.

The target start of the plan would be next fall with progress measured through the 2014-15 school year.

Improving the district's average ACT composite score from 15.6 to 22.1 while improving attendance and lowering the dropout rate are included in the plan that would be partly paid with federal stimulus dollars and Race to the Top grants.

"I think it's possible if the right foundations are laid," said parent Ida Byrd-Hill, who has a son and daughter in the Detroit School of Arts.

"We're in 2010. Everything around the child is technology until they come into school. They have to power themselves down to go into a slow-moving school."

Paying for that technology might be a struggle for Detroit Schools, which faces a deficit of at least $219 million, enrollment that's dropped to 84,000 students, and a decrease in per-pupil funding from the state.

Mr. Bobb projected enrollment to fall by one-third by 2014, to 56,503 students.

Enrollment dropped below 100,000 students two years ago.

"Our academic plan will make DPS schools competitive with the best schools in the city, suburbs, and beyond because we will be gauging our success not against Michigan's standards but against more rigorous national standards," Mr. Bobb told a crowd at Renaissance High School.

Mr. Bobb was hired by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm in March, 2009, to correct the district's financial troubles.

He shuttered 29 buildings before the start of classes last fall; 40 more are expected to be closed in the coming year. He also has attacked costly waste, fraud, and theft.

But by targeting academics, Mr. Bobb has helped create an adversarial relationship with the elected 11-member school board.

Board members, complaining their hands are tied because Mr. Bobb controls the district's purse strings, have sued to get academic control back. A ruling is pending.

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