As teachers open their classroom doors in Detroit, a new superintendent and a newly elected school board mark a fresh start to the school year. Schools chief Nikolai Vitti has created a new cabinet to tackle the big issues facing Detroit. On the ground, one parent has taken a hands-on approach to improving schools by sharing her story of how relationships with teachers ensured her child’s success. Another parent challenged critics of Detroit’s schools to look deeper than its systemic issues.
In addition, other issues, like the challenges many families face in transporting students to quality schools, and the district’s effort to boost art and music instruction remain top of mind. As families and teachers prepare to kick off the school year, here’s six stories to get ahead of the curve.
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Nearly half of Detroit schools offered no music or art last year. Next year could be different.
Six hours, eight buses: The extreme sacrifice Detroit parents make to access better schools
Here’s Detroit’s slimmed-down testing schedule, which Vitti says is only a first step in reducing pressure
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The two major foundations behind the creation of a ten-year plan to improve the lives of Detroit’s youngest children are putting up $50 million to help put the plan into action.
As they unveiled the new Hope Starts Here framework Friday morning, the Kellogg and Kresge foundations announced they would each spend $25 million in the next few years to improve the health and education of children aged birth to 8 in the city.
The money will go toward upgrading early childhood education centers, including a new Kresge-funded comprehensive child care center that the foundation says it hopes to break ground on next year at a location that has not yet been identified.
Other foundation dollars will go toward a just-launched centralized data system that will keep track of a range of statistics on the health and welfare of young children, and more training and support for early childhood educators.
The announcement at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History drew dozens of parents, educators and community leaders. Among them was Detroit Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti who said one of the major impediments to improving conditions for young children has been divisions between the various government and nonprofit entities that run schools, daycares and health facilities for young kids.
Vitti said the district would do its part to “to break down the walls of territorialism that has prevented this work from happening” in the past.
Watch the video of of the announcement here.
In a city where 60 percent of young children live in poverty, a ten-year plan aims to improve conditions for kids
PHOTO: Erin Einhorn/Chalkbeat
A coalition of community groups led by two major foundations has a plan to change the fortunes of Detroit’s youngest citizens.
The Hope Starts Here early childhood partnership is a ten-year effort to tackle a list of bleak statistics about young children in Detroit:
- More than 60% of Detroit’s children 0-5 live in poverty — more than in any of the country’s 50 largest cities;
- 13% of Detroit babies are born too early, compared to nine percent nationally;
- 13% of Detroit babies are born too small, compared to eight percent nationally;
- Detroit has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country;
- Nearly 30,000 of eligible young Detroiters have no access to high-quality early learning or child care options.
- That translates to learning problems later on, including the 86.5% of Detroit third graders who aren’t reading at grade level.
Hope Starts Here spells out a plan to change that. While it doesn’t identify specific new funding sources or propose a dramatic restructuring of current programs, the effort led by the Kresge Foundation and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, names six “imperatives” to improving children’s lives.
Among them: Promoting the health, development and wellbeing of Detroit children; supporting their parents and caregivers; increasing the overall quality of early childhood programs and improving coordination between organizations that work with young kids. The framework calls for more funding to support these efforts through the combined investments of governments, philanthropic organizations and corporations.
Read the full framework here: