Much has changed in Detroit education over the last year: New schools have been announced and struggling schools have closed. A new citywide education commission is now running a bus route that includes stops at both district and charter schools. And an A-F grading system for schools is in the works.
But most of the struggles that have defined Detroit schools for a generation have remained stubbornly unchanged, from low test scores to deteriorating infrastructure, to students who don’t routinely come to school.
The changes and the persistent challenges are likely to dominate the discussion next Thursday, December 6, when city education leaders convene for Detroit’s second annual State of the Schools address. The education advocacy group 482Forward is organizing the event, and reporters from Chalkbeat, Bridge Magazine and WDET are moderating it.
When the first State of the Schools was held last year, it was one of the first public forums in years to hold both the leaders of Detroit’s main district and the leaders of its charter schools accountable for the state of city schools.
The event featured Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, whose Detroit Public Schools Community District includes roughly half of the schools in the city, and also the heads of the city’s two largest charter school authorizers.
The lively discussion included some fiery exchanges as well as an opportunity to compare how well district and charter schools are addressing issues like transportation, special education, and the arts.
Vitti is scheduled to return, as is Rob Kimball, who leads the charter school office at Grand Valley State University, which is now Detroit’s largest charter school authorizer. Kimball also chairs the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers.
The pair will join school leaders from district and charter schools, and will field questions from parents, teachers, and students.
“The impetus for us was really just to have people walk away with a clearer understanding about who makes what decisions about their schools and what they’re doing in those positions,” said Jamila Martin, the director of operations for 482Forward.
Martin said the organization wants to highlight the role of charter schools since charters and the boards that oversee them don’t get the level of attention that the much more high-profile Detroit school board does.
“There’s no regular opportunity for charters and authorizers to be in the spotlight,” said Molly Sweeney, the group’s organizing director. “It’s once a year where they’re obligated to be public about what they’re doing.”
The event is scheduled for Thursday, December 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. It will be held at the IBEW hall at 1358 Abbott Street. It’s free and open to the public but registration is required.