With the start of the school year now just over two weeks away, pressure is mounting on schools to hire enough teachers before classes begin. That pressure is especially intense for new Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who has been trying to fill hundreds of vacancies ahead of his first full year as the district’s leader. The new contract approved by the school board this week could help by raising salaries, but the district is still listing nearly every teaching category as an area of “critical need.”
As teachers prepare to return to class, some may be thinking of ways to talk to their students about last weekend’s violent attack on demonstrators protesting white supremacists in Virginia. Chalkbeat has been gathering ideas from teachers about how to help kids through these difficult conversations. Check them out — or add some of your own ideas.
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The final countdown
- As it tries to recruit enough teachers, Detroit’s main district is using several new tactics. Among them are job fairs like one yesterday that drew 150 candidates. Another job fair is scheduled for Aug. 31.
- The Detroit News urged Vitti to take his time to make sure the people he hires are up to the task.
- The head of the city teachers union says the teaching shortage is the direct result of recent state policies.
- The teachers’ new contract was approved by the school board on Tuesday. If it wins final signoff from a state financial oversight board, first-year teachers in Detroit could soon make more than their peers in Grosse Pointe and other suburbs.
- The school board Tuesday also approved a $28 million settlement with a contractor as well as an agreement with the Highland Park School district to educate some Highland Park students — as long as the school board of the tiny district agrees.
- If you missed the board meeting, you can review contracts, hiring decisions and other actions considered by the board by clicking here. For the first time in recent memory, that information will now be posted online days of ahead of scheduled board meetings.
- Among teachers joining the Detroit district this year are 11 who’ve come from Spain to teach Spanish.
- Teachers are not the only target for recruitment. The district is also trying to recruit students, hosting a free day at the Michigan Science Center tomorrow for district families, as well as a special “Slow Roll” bike ride, among other events.
The new boss
- Vitti says he draws on his memories as a child with dyslexia as he relates to Detroit children with special needs. He and his wife, who are co-hosting a forum for special education families next week, talked with the Free Press about their experience as special ed parents.
- One school advocate took Vitti to task for a district Tweet that quoted him saying poverty shouldn’t be an excuse for poor school performance. Those comments are “not helpful,” she wrote. “It puts the blame on those who are victims.”
- The Detroit News weighs in on the federal lawsuit that accuses the state of depriving Detroit children of their right to literacy, arguing that the courtroom “isn’t the place to fix the problems that have plagued the district.”
- This suburban high school student helped kickstart an effort to bring more than 2,000 new books to a Detroit school library.
Across the state
- The head of a state association of charter school authorizers says the state’s decision not to close low-performing schools means that “future generations of Michigan students are going to be failed by their schools.”
- A bill that would require schools to teach African-American history is getting a new push from its sponsors after a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Va.
- A News columnist says the “sad reality” of poor educational quality in Michigan is imperiling the state’s future economic prospects. But the state’s top education and economic officials say they’re ramping up efforts to prepare students for good-paying jobs.
- The state education department will reduce the overall score students need to pass an English-proficiency test.
- The state’s largest teachers union opposes a new alternative teacher certification program that a private company can now offer in Michigan.
- Community groups, churches, businesses and other organizations are hosting school supply drives and shopping sprees to help Michigan kids get ready for school.
- Parents and advocates are worried that a successful after-school program that last year served 26,623 Michigan students could lose funding under President Trump’s proposed budget.
- While Detroit has dozens of shuttered school buildings now sitting vacant in city neighborhoods, closed Grand Rapids schools are mostly still occupied.
- A quarter of the teachers in this district missed more than 20 days of school.
- These are the state’s top private high schools.