Following news of Detroit Public Schools scoring record lows on a national test, an editorial in The Detroit News recommends following the lead of Washington, D.C., which adopted a mayoral control system. The editorial cites the effective control that resulted as the recipe for success. Unfortunately, The News bypassed the most effective reform in the nation's capital: The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program (use the scroll bar to select "District of Columbia").
The program grants $7,500 annual scholarships to a limited number of low-income students, who can use the scholarship to attend any private school in the city. Of the 7,200 applicants in 2008, 1,900 students received scholarships via a lottery system.
A study released this year showed overall achievement gains for students in the program. Parents of these children were more satisfied with their schools than those with children in public schools, and participating schools were safer. Washington residents on the whole support the program.
If Detroit genuinely wants to turn things around quickly for kids trapped in a failed school system, it will run, not walk, in the direction of implementing Washington, D.C.'s most successful reform program.