Week In Review

Week in review: How to build a successful school if you’ve never worked in one

We took an inside look this week at a new program that aims to tackle one of the major impediments to creating great schools in Detroit — with so many Detroit schools struggling, many local educators have never worked in a high-performing school. It’s the reason why a local foundation is funding an effort to import educators from other cities to provide intensive coaching to school leaders in three Detroit schools.

Another effort we wrote about attempts to attract and retain veteran teachers. A new agreement with the Detroit teachers union, designed to reduce the district’s severe teacher shortage, would increase pay for experienced teachers — including those already working for the district, and those coming in for the first time.

Other changes coming include a plan to expand summer school to kindergarten, first and second grade as part of an ramped-up focus on reading before a tough new state reading law takes effect. We put together a list of eight things to know about the new curriculum coming to district schools next fall. We highlighted a program that zeros in on the fathers of preschoolers to get them involved in their children’s education from the very start.

And, we noted that, though very few Detroit children are among the 15,000 junior engineers who converged on the city for a worldwide robotics competition this week, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti hopes to change that in coming years by expanding high school robotics programs. Among people who will be attending the robotics tournament is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She is due to land here today, her first public appearance in Detroit since becoming the nation’s education chief.

Scroll down for more on these stories and the rest of the week’s headlines. And, please, get outside this weekend and enjoy the long-delayed arrival of spring! Thanks for reading!

— Erin Einhorn, Chalkbeat Detroit Bureau Chief

In Detroit

  • Backers of a new program that imports out-of-town coaches to work with Detroit school leaders hope it will eventually expand to other schools across the city, but it’s already hit an early snag with the news that one of the schools involved could be merged with another school.
  • The new teacher pay deal — which now goes to the full school board and must be approved by a state financial oversight board — will mean major pay raises for some current teachers and will sweeten the pot for teachers wanting to jump from charter or suburban schools. In the past, those teachers had to start at the bottom of the district’s pay scale.
  • District leaders are reaching out to the fathers of preschoolers. “If we keep the fathers involved from preschool, they’ll be there for elementary school, middle school, and high school,” said one of the founders of the district’s new Dads Day in Pre-K program.
  • In addition to adding grades K-2 to its summer school program, the district is also changing middle school summer programs so that students can again use summer school as a way to avoid being held back — something middle schoolers haven’t been able to do in years.
  • Our list of things to know about the new math and reading curriculums coming to Detroit schools next fall includes how they’ve been rated, what they cost, and why the English curriculum provides teachers with a script to use in class.
  • New robotics programs coming to city schools could make Detroit students contenders the next time a global robotics competition comes to Detroit. But this time around, when DeVos stops by the tournament today in downtown Detroit, she’s not likely to meet many Detroit students.
  • With the help of a $5 million, three-year grant, a successful local charter school operator plans to double the number of students it now serves, adding 5,000 seats by 2020. The plan involves taking over low-performing charters, adding seats to schools it operates now, and opening new schools.  
  • The city and school district plan to raise $9 million from private donors to overhaul a career and technical high school that will train both students and adults for currently available jobs. Detroit’s largest employer has already kicked in the first $1 million.
  • Some critics have raised concerns about the district’s plans to expand its involvement with a city security program that installs networked security cameras. More than 100 students and parents have signed a petition opposing the program’s expansion.

Across the state

  • A package of stories from a Detroit radio station offers a detailed look at state plans to improve education and asks: Will it work? Also in the package is a helpful guide to the convoluted way that Michigan schools are funded, as well as insights into who is spending money to influence state education policy now that DeVos has been sidelined by her job in Washington. Plus, it includes a detailed history of the last 25 years of state policy that has led to the decline of Michigan schools.
  • The Michigan House approved on Tuesday a $56.7 billion budget plan that would give schools the largest increase in per-student funding in 17 years. The plan would also boost spending on school security in the wake of the recent Florida school shooting.
  • The Senate is expect to vote on its version of the state budget next month. The Senate already this week voted to back $18.6 million in school security updates for public and private schools while a House committee held hearings on the best way to protect schools.
  • A Michigan judge has ruled that the state’s effort to send $5 million to private and parochial schools over the last two school years would violate the state constitution’s ban on public dollars flowing to private schools.
  • A march by Michigan teachers at the state capitol this week was attended by a celebrity filmmaker.
  • A Free Press columnist wonders how the anger reflected in student and teacher protests over safety, school funding, teacher pay and other issues will affect candidates in this year’s crucial elections.
  • A suburban school librarian makes a case for why school libraries, staffed by certified school library media specialists, are crucial to improving literacy in Michigan.
  • A former state superintendent welcomes the involvement of a prominent group of business leaders to the education discussion, but warns that there are important things business leaders need to understand about schools.
  • A western Michigan preschool program is making strides with low-income children. But funding to expand it to more families is not on the radar.

In other news

  • The main district has announced an appeal process for students who were not initially accepted to the city’s selective high schools.
  • If the Detroit school board eventually decides to change the names of some city schools, a former Free Press reporter has a suggestion for someone whose name should be on a school.
  • Monday is the deadline to apply for $500,000 in funds that a local foundation is offering to people with innovative ideas to improve the lives of young people of color in Detroit.
  • A local organization is asking Detroit district students in grades 3 to 8 to nominate their teachers for an annual teacher of the year competition.
  • Just before graduation, these Detroit students are learning how to manage money.