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Alliance for Academic Excellence:
A Voluntary Public School Choice Grant in Michigan

It was Metis's experience designing and evaluating magnet and school-choice initiatives that brought administrators from Utica, Michigan, to seek the firm's expertise in developing a groundbreaking initiative to improve educational opportunities within three school districts. Metis worked with this tri-district consortium outside of Detroit to attain a school choice grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help the districts provide rigorous educational opportunities to secondary students who may not have them in their zoned school districts.

The three districts, which comprise urban (Mount Clemens), suburban (Utica), and rural (Armada) areas, have unique goals but share a strategy of adding new programs and seats that will increase educational options for students in low-performing schools. For example, Utica has added an International Baccalaureate program—a challenging and rigorous model of international education—as well as a cutting-edge career and technical education program focused on mechatronics. Mount Clemens is redesigning its high school into two career-pathway programs and will expand its Middle Years International Baccalaureate Program to grades 6–10. Armada Area Schools is expanding its successful high school math and science enrichment program to the middle school level. Metis is evaluating the VPSC-supported programs, comparing results for students who are accepted into the choice programs with a control group who are eligible for the programs but not accepted. This type of rigorous evaluation makes it possible, with little doubt, to correlate positive effects to the programs themselves.