Top 10 Michigan school districts impacted by school choice

Districts hit hardest by choice

Top 10 districts losing students to other districts

These districts saw the highest percentage of students opt for another traditional district elsewhere, led by Ecorse which saw nearly half of its students leave. Click on a district to see where students went and differences in demography.f

 % White students
DistrictStudents in districtLeft for another
public school district
Percent leavingSchool-age
School enrollmentGap
Mount Clemens2996139447%5121-30
East Detroit6985295442%37.218.6-18.6
Iron Mountain114846040%91.989.5-2.4
South Lake209183140%61.841.9-19.9
New Haven242393038%80.870.6-10.2

Top 10 districts losing students to charter schools

Nearly half of the students who live in the Detroit Public Schools attend a charter school. Many city school districts across Michigan have seen thousands of parents choose charters over the struggling traditional public schools. Click on a district to see where students went and differences in demography.

 % White students
DistrictStudents in districtLeft for a charter schoolPercent leavingSchool-ageDistrict enrollmentGap
Grand Rapids27272678824.9%3523.1-11.9

Note: Minimum of 1,000 students living in the district. Source: Michigan Department of Education, U.S.Census

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Tue, 09/20/2016 - 10:05am
Albion Public Schools was so affected by Schools of Choice that it no longer exists and had to merge with Marshall, after falling from a K-12 to a K-8 and then a K-5 district in less than 3 years
Tue, 09/20/2016 - 11:56am
I had the same reaction to the list! Albion HS was a Class B school when school choice was passed. It quickly went down, mostly through white flight and mismanagement, and when I taught there, it was Class D. Albion lost so many students that there was no way out of the financial mess, and the district closed entirely last spring.
B cherem
Tue, 09/20/2016 - 10:35am
"The grass always seems greener elsewhere", which is a sentiment that keeps public schools declining to be mor like southern schools which historically have served the economically poor and those most needy ( special Ed). Without a robust mix of talents & diverse students, all suffer some loss. A fe do gain, but at what larger cost to our democratic and community spirit? With charters and schools of choice ---you (We) lose communities of care and a certain solidarity that reL community can create. Charters and schools of choice have sabotaged more than the small gains created. Disproportionality once again! Makes me sad for us all.
Tue, 09/20/2016 - 11:31am
The grass is greener where you water it. Sadly, those who have the "water" aren't using it where it is most needed.
Tue, 09/20/2016 - 12:18pm
So to answer question at hand, the purpose of schools are to educate kids or to serve some social science objective? Secondly the definition of success and decision of how best meet educational needs of kids in question is best answered by bureaucracy running said schools or parents of kids?
Lynn Stevens
Tue, 09/20/2016 - 1:26pm
Let's talk about why they're leaving by using a microcosm. Back in the late 1990s/early 2000s, River Valley Schools lost a large proportion of their students to New Buffalo Area Schools. Outsiders said it was due to the new high school building. Parents said it was because their children were treated as children eager to learn. River Valley assumed they were all potential criminals and treated them accordingly. River Valley offered no advanced placement classes because "our seniors aren't ready for them". Well they aren't ready if you don't prepare them starting when they're freshmen. New Buffalo was so small, they couldn't offer classes but they arrange for interested students to take AP classes through Michigan Virtual High School. New Buffalo had a Cisco Academy to teach computer science. River Valley allowed students on computers in the library only when those students were taken to the library by a classroom teacher and simultaneously there was a tech present. There were exceptions in the River Valley District -- Three Oaks Elementary and Chikaming Elementary students were educated -- Chikaming was one of the state's first Blue Ribbon schools. It all fell apart at the middle and high school levels. New Buffalo Elementary did not do as well with their students. Today RV is a Class D school and tiny NB -- before Schools of Choice, the entire district had 650 students -- is a Class C school. That's a lot of transfers. This tiny example shows how, given the chance, parents and students will opt for the school that assumes they're there to learn and gives them maximum opportunity to do so.
Mon, 09/26/2016 - 7:20am
This is a great system for children with parents that have the awareness, opportunity and means to shop public schools. Not so great for children in families that cannot shop around, are left in a declining district with shrinking funds and high concentrations of economically disadvantaged families, to deliver educational programming, . In some cases school choice has elevated the quality of programming in schools, while choice has significantly increased the use of and spending on marketing (marketing dollars do not go to educational programming). The fact is that this system does create winners and losers for students, communities, and school districts. We need to have a plan to support declining districts and the students that are not afforded the opportunity of choice. Right now our plan is to allow those districts to shrivel up and die on the vine. It is not the fault of the parents that opt for districts that are winning the programming and marketing game in this system. We are all responsible for educating ALL of Michigan's children. No matter what, our communities will be left with the consequences of this system of winners and losers.
Tue, 09/20/2016 - 4:32pm
Plymouth Canton schools are loosing students to charter because they opened the district to school of choice. The classrooms at the high school has on a average 38 kids and not enough desks for kids to sit. I live in the district and I want out, my younger children are already at the Charter schools. My high school students are close to graduation, so they will stay. Plymouth Canton needs to do a lot of changes, or they will continue to loose. And God forbid you post your review & concerns on the district Facebook page, they will delete your comment & threaten to block you, only positive butt kissing reviews are allowed!!!
Tue, 09/20/2016 - 9:24pm
I agree. Classes are to big at PCCS. They should take care of the students that they do have to make the charter students think twice before leaving. Once they leave why would they want to come back with so many students per class. Charter schools are not the problem. If the schools were making the community happy they would be unable to fill the charter school.
Thu, 09/22/2016 - 9:35am
Yes, and let's not forgot that the PCCS district stopped cleaning the school buildings everyday. At the Charter the classes, bathrooms etc, are cleaned every day! My high schoolers say the bathrooms are the Park are disgusting, no toilet paper at times. I grew up in Detroit, our schools sound like they are turning into how Detroit public schools were back in my day. I had to pack toilet paper in my backpack and my kids are having to do the same.
Tue, 09/20/2016 - 11:19pm
I agree with your comments, I noticed the same thing on the Facebook page for my son's middle school. It's pathetic. Nothing will ever change if you can't even talk about the problem. I have been on a wait list to get my son into a charter school for over a year. I want out, especially out of the middle school we are in.
Wed, 09/21/2016 - 4:00am
I don't understand why this is being broken down by the color of the students skin. If they choose to go to another school why should they not be allowed to no matter the reason. Detroit schools all went to crap and its trending into the suburbs maybe it's because the lack of proper guidance in the black community that becomes a distraction on the white kids (maybe not). Articles like this are ridiculous parents are not allowing there kids to transfer to other schools because they are not superior, they are superior and they should have the option to send there kid to a better school as long as they are paying taxes. Good day.
Sat, 09/24/2016 - 11:44pm
Phil L., I am not so sure the Wikipedia isn't more reflecting the media perception and the support of a political agenda for Detroit. The move to the suburbs may have begun when Ford built the River Rouge plant, 1917, and added to by the building of Willow Run bomber plant, 1941, the Warren tank plant, 1940. If you notice each of those were major employers south, west, and north of Detroit. Maybe it had to do with the people in the variously immigrant communities assimilating and their children being confident in moving closer to their work and away from the comfort of their ethnic enclaves. Similarly this current cry of 'white flight' may have to do with a shift in the perceived value of education for people's children. Is it truly 'white flight' if the families still live in the neighborhoods and the move is only the students during the day, returning home to the neighborhood each night? Or is 'white flight' a media term to engender excitement/emotion into their articles? What if the move to different schools is based on the child's experience in the neighborhood school and perceived academic success/stability in the school they are choosing to go to? And what if the kids want to stay there because they are comfortable and don't want to go through the hassle of changing schools again? My grand daughter was in the Portage district and had significant food allergies, the neighborhood school wasn't all that accommodating, so she was moved to the Portage charter school where they we willing to add the necessary accommodations/protocol, that mindset extended in all aspects of the classroom, they didn't even consider moving back. Was that 'white flight' or was it about the needs of the child? It is much simpler if it moves are based on ethnicity, it would shift the responsibility from the schools/education system to the parents. It could be a justification why changing school practices aren't needed because that was not a reason for the students transferring. I think claiming it is 'white flight' discourages looking past that to consider what the root causes might be.
Celeste Turner
Sun, 10/09/2016 - 8:58am
What you must understand about Detroit is that parents didn't choose charters. The emergency managers came in and closed large numbers of DPS schools in neighborhoods so the students had to attend a charter school that opened. Walking distance matters when poor and choosing a school. Others were offered bussing to schools out of the city. You can't call it choice when you leave neighbors with no public schools in the neighborhood.
Dr. Richard Zeile
Tue, 03/28/2017 - 8:27am

The numbers don't really support the assertion that "In many cases, students have been using the state's choice programs to move to districts with fewer minorities," because in many cases students have been using choice programs to move into districts with equal or greater minorities. In fact, the argument could be made that choice programs have enabled many minorities to further integrate low-minority districts.