Educators charged with turning around struggling schools in cities like Detroit face a long and daunting list of challenges: tumultuous home lives that force children to frequently change schools; poor transportation and untreated health problems that lead to too many missed days of class; and thin resources that make it tough for schools to help children catch up on years of academic deficits. Our story this week looks at how one principal is responding to all of that to try to bring her school back from the brink of closure. It won’t be easy.
“This is a heavy lift. We’re dealing with things that are not always in our control, but … all I can say is, I have a lot of hope.”
— Alisanda Woods, principal, Bethune Elementary-Middle School
Also this week comes the second report from the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, the prominent group of city leaders whose last set of recommendations in 2015 led ultimately to the return of a locally elected school board in Detroit. This time, the Coalition 2.0 agenda calls for, among other things, the warring factions in Detroit education to voluntarily work together.
Plus, we take a look at master teachers coming to Detroit’s main district, and how they will be able to mentor teachers and help alleviate the teacher shortage. And, a report from two Michigan researchers explains why the way the state pays for students with special needs is not sustainable.
Have a good week!
– Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit
- The business, education, nonprofit, labor and philanthropic leaders in the Coalition say fixing Detroit’s schools will require a focus on attendance, reading and funding for special education, among other priorities. The group is also calling for changes to make schools more desirable for students and teachers. City leaders urged everyone to work together because, as a prominent coalition co-chair said, “Recommendations are only as good as their implementation.”
- One newspaper columnist believes the report does a good job of focusing on Detroit children, but the challenge will be avoiding politics.
- This policy paper explains why the coalition’s recommendation to fully fund special education is so important.
- A proposed master teacher program in Detroit would help both new teachers and teachers that are struggling.
- A newspaper columnist believes Detroit schools Chief Nikolai Vitti is skirting the law by not signing off on a charter school’s purchase of a vacant from school building.
- The main Detroit district will have a small surplus in fiscal year 2018.
Across the state
- Despite gains, the state’s schools are among the most segregated in the nation.
- A package of bills from state Democratic lawmakers would require more transparency about companies that manage charter schools.
- Gov. Rick Snyder has declared December “Career Exploration and Awareness Month” to increase interest in professions such as construction. And in case you almost missed it, Computer Science Education Week, created by the governor to explore computer science careers, ends Dec. 10.
- These Michigan schools had the highest number of expulsions last school year, although expulsions and violent incidents were down overall. Look up how many explusions your school had. Meanwhile, a state Senate committee is expected to vote on a bill that would exempt law enforcement officers from rules on how unruly students can be handled in school.
- A new lawsuit charges that Michigan’s emergency manager law is racist.
- Click on this map to see where “childcare desserts” are in Michigan. Chalkbeat took a close look at a Denver neighborhood with few options for licensed child care.
- Flint funders believe its new school will be a model for early childhood education across the country.
- Teachers unions asked a state Supreme Court justice to disqualify herself from a case about taking money from teachers’ checks for health benefits because she was a legal adviser for the governor. One college professor asks whether the issue of back pay for health benefits raises a larger question about the state’s commitment to public schools and teachers.
- The state’s largest teachers union has lost a quarter of its members since employers stopped requiring employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. The union’s former leader received a $23,000 raise when he retired last year, boosting his pension.
- Michigan should copy nations and states that have successfully improved schools, a newspaper editorial says.
- These columnists believe Michigan’s plan to comply with new federal education law shows the state has not learned from its past mistakes.
- This blogger says Michigan should provide school letter grades for parents to ensure clear information about performance.
- Natural resources, human ingenuity and creativity, not more college degrees, will produce more economic growth, one blogger says.
In other news
- How this teacher turned the implosion of the Silverdome into a lesson on persisting after failure.
- A lawsuit against the state of California argues that students in its lowest performing schools are being denied the right to read. Here’s Chalkbeat’s original story about a similar, federal lawsuit in Detroit.
- Parents could use tax-free savings accounts to pay for students’ school-related expenses, including extracurricular activities, under legislation approved by the state Senate this week.
- Looking for more on how the new federal tax proposals might affect education? We’ve got you covered here and here.
- Make a small contribution for your favorite student to a state college savings program for Christmas.
- A Cass Tech student’s passion for equal education for everyone grew from her childhood in Detroit’s main district and a suburban district.
- What this strategic third-grader did with the food she never ate at school.
- A cyber school student explains why online learning was the best choice for him.
- A book by a university author takes a close look at the lives of troublemakers in the classroom.
- Coleman A. Young Elementary School kicked off its LitWorld LitFest today with Board Member Angelique Peterson-Mayberry and Messiah Knight, a student who raps about the “Three Be’s” school tradition: Be Respectful, Be Responsible and Be Safe. See the video here: