How Well Are Detroit Schools Performing?

What is the most predictive factor of school performance?

Stephen Henderson speaks with Dan Varner, CEO of Excellent Schools Detroit, a non-profit coalition aiming to bring high-quality education to Detroit students. They discuss academic performance trends, possible solutions, and how you can see the grade your child’s Detroit school received:

  • Performance issues: Varner says Excellent Schools Detroit annually looks at private, public, and charter schools that educate Detroit children, using data and surveys from students and teachers. He says Detroit schools overall are not performing well, with little to no improvement over the last few years. He says this trend is not unique to Detroit and that the metro region and Michigan as a whole has suffered academically.
  • Going the distance: According to Varner, “the single factor most predictive of school performance is the average distance traveled to that school by the student body.” He argues that magnet and charter schools are expected to perform higher than neighborhood schools because they draw from a greater area. He says students who attend these schools are more likely to have parents who are actively involved in their child’s education and have the means to allow them to travel farther to go to school. Varner argues that to prevent lower-income children from being disadvantaged if they don’t live near a good school, a common school transportation system and a wider distribution of schools are needed to give equal opportunities to all Detroit students.
  • Scores for schools: Varner says the Excellent Schools Detroit scorecard is meant to not only be a reflection of school performance in Detroit but also to be a primary tool for parents to use when selecting a school for their child, especially during the early years of their education. To view the scorecard and view the grades of schools near you click here or visit

To listen to the full discussion click the audio link above.