Detroit week in review

Week in review: The future coming into focus for Detroit’s schools

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

This was a week of breakthroughs, small ones that offered clues to what the future might bring for education in Detroit. Representatives from Detroit’s charter schools and main district were on the same stage answering questions from parents and teachers at the city’s first State of the Schools address. The heated exchanges between participants allowed the audience to get a new perspective on Detroit’s education leaders.

In addition, Detroit superintendent Nikolai Vitti unveiled a three-year strategic plan for the city’s main district. And its enrollment grew for the first time in many years.

One new piece of research that was not so welcome: A major national study says African-American children in Michigan rank last nationally when it comes to education and well-being.

Have a good week.

– Philissa Cramer, Chalkbeat managing editor

SHOWDOWN: This week’s “State of the Schools” event laid bare deep divisions between the city’s main school district and the local charter sector. The intense debate included Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti calling some charter schools “disastrous” and vowing to win more students back from them. Catch up on the highlights and one constructive outcome — new details about what district and charter schools offer. Plus, reactions from people who were there.

THE COUNT: Enrollment is up in Detroit’s main district for the first time in 15 years, driven mostly by the return of 11 schools that had been run by the state. The enrollment boost comes with $11 million in state funds. Meet one family that chose the district.

THE PLAN: Vitti used the enrollment announcement to detail his strategic plan. (Our early reveal.)

THE PULSE: One insider is optimistic about the city’s schools for the first time maybe ever.

MARKET SHARE: Flint has now surpassed Detroit to claim the No. 2 position for largest proportion of children in charter schools in the nation, with 55 percent of students in charters compared to 53 percent in Detroit. (Only New Orleans has a higher charter school market share; in 200 urban districts across the country, 1 in 10 students now attend charter schools.) Charter school enrollment is actually down in Flint, but public school enrollment dropped faster.

PARTNERSHIPS: Eleven Detroit high schools got college advisors through a new program this year. Nine after-school recreation centers are opening next week after the Detroit district and parks department teamed up. A new fund’s first initiative will be to retrain teachers at struggling schools. A rapper and a billionaire walked into a school to inspire children.

MAKING HISTORY: For the first time ever, Michigan’s Supreme Court heard arguments in a Detroit public school — with students watching on.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: A Detroit teacher with ties to Oprah Winfrey is running for City Council. A father explains why he trekked to Lansing to lobby for his daughter’s education.

D.C. IN DETROIT: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and First Lady Melania Trump visited a suburban middle school (whose graduates include our own Erin Einhorn) as part of an anti-bullying campaign. Not included, easily at least: reporters. More about how DeVos spends her days.

HIGH SCHOOL CHOICES: Enrollment in career training programs is up statewide. Computer science could get a boost. And could Michigan get a special diploma for students who are bilingual? Some are pushing for the option. (Here’s a Colorado student’s take on the idea.)

LOW PERFORMANCE: One national report says African-American fourth-graders in Michigan have the lowest rates of reading proficiency in the country.

LANSING REPORT: Under debate: a bill that would redirect some county taxes to charter schools. Charter advocates are (unsurprisingly) on board; Detroit schools chief Vitti says the change would cost his district millions of dollars. A columnist says they’re both right.

Detroit week in review

Week in review: Young children in the spotlight

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Evangelina De La Fuente, worries that the Head Start her 3-year-old twin grandsons attend could close or change. "The babies are secure and they’re happy and they’re well fed and they’re well taken cared for. It’s scary to think it could change," she said.

Hundreds of vulnerable Detroit families are bracing for change in the wake of the announcement last week from a prominent social service organization that it can no longer operate Head Start centers. Other social service providers are stepping up take over the 11 Head Starts that have been run by Southwest Solutions but their ability to smoothly pick up the 420 children who are affected and find classroom space for them is uncertain. That’s added stress to lives of families already in crisis.

“The babies are secure and they’re happy and they’re well fed and they’re well cared for. It’s scary to think it could change.”

—  Evangelina De La Fuente, grandmother of twin three-year-olds who attend a Southwest Solutions Head Start

Given the impact that quality early childhood programs can have on preparing children for kindergarten, advocates are calling for a better support system. That’s one of the missions of the new Hope Starts Here initiative, which was rolled out this morning. The coalition of parents, educators and community groups, led by two major foundations, spent the last year assessing the needs of Detroit children before unveiling a ten-year plan for how Detroit can improve the lives of young children.

– Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

Birth to eight

Students, teachers, learning

In Lansing

Across the state

In other news

Detroit week in review

Detroit week in review: Payrolls and proficiency

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit supertintendent Nikolai Vitti talks with students at Durfee Elementary/Middle School on the first day of school, September 5, 2017.

This week, we used district salaries to see how the central office has changed since Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti started in the spring: It turns out there are fewer people in the central office but more highly paid administrators. We sorted through the data and created several searchable databases. Click on any of them to learn more, including full district payrolls as of June 1 and Oct. 1.

The city district got more bad news when 24 more of its schools were added to the partnership program, which requires them to improve or face possible consequences. Nine other district schools can choose whether to participate in the program, which comes with additional support and resources. (Two city charter schools were also added to the list.)

And just in time to welcome those schools, a new state reform officer was appointed this week to lead the partnership program.

Hope you have a good week!

– Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

PARTNERSHIPS: Nobody is scheduled for closing yet, but the state added three school districts and four charter schools statewide to the partnership list this week. Potentially, almost half of Detroit’s district schools could be participants. Statewide, almost forty schools were added. (See the complete list here.) The state also named a superintendent to lead the newly formed partnership office and become the state school reform officer.

GET IT DONE: A columnist writes that impressive economic gains will be hampered by the state’s poor quality of education. While one editorial page writer urges the state to decide on a course of action for improving schools and do it, business leaders say a piecemeal approach won’t work. This columnist thinks what’s needed is political will at the top.

ALL OVER THE BOARD: A state house committee barely approved a proposal to eliminate the state board of education. Two insiders explore the issue. For the proposal to become law, both houses must approve the resolution by a two-thirds majority and then it must be approved by voters in the next general election because it would amend the state constitution.

CHARTER WARS: An editorial in a major newspaper says it’s a myth that charter schools are performing more poorly than city district schools. Another editorial supports allowing all public schools — charter and traditional — to benefit from property tax hikes.

KEEPING TEACHERS: One columnist blames state lawmakers for the teacher shortage. But a recent study shows you can keep teachers longer with bonuses and loan forgiveness. An advocate wants to encourage efforts to recruit more black male teachers.

YOUR INPUT: Fill out this survey to help shape the state’s new school transparency tool.

CAREER BOOSTS: Several districts will share a $1 million grant to boost career counseling. And the governor invested almost $3 million to support career tech education.

VOICES: How this group of Detroit parents was called to action in the state capitol.

POPULATION SHIFT:  At least one suburban district is hiring staff after the number of students who are learning English nearly doubled.

FOR A SONG: This Detroit teacher produces hip-hop videos to teach his students to read.

THE UNEXPECTED: In an unusual twist, the Hamtramck district reclaimed a charter school building.

DISAPPOINTMENT: A high school student in a special education program was denied an academic achievement award.

RESTRAINTS: A lawsuit alleges a Washtenaw County teacher taped shut the mouth of disabled student. District leaders say the parents waited a year to respond.

BOOK REVIEW: A teacher from a Detroit nonprofit wrote a book about his year-long experience teaching poetry to children in Detroit.