Detroit’s main school district took on a new curriculum, changed the way it picks students for its top schools, and grappled with infrastructure challenges so severe it was forced to shut down all its schools’ water fountains.

Statewide, voters elected a new governor and chose new members of city and state boards of education.

A charter school in Detroit closed suddenly, stunning students and teachers. A local university announced an effort to change the way teachers are trained — and to roll out an  experimental “cradle to career” Detroit campus.

And schools across the city began to discuss ways to confront the crisis caused by thousands of students changing schools every day, often in the middle of the school year.

Chalkbeat Detroit was there to cover it all, and much more. As we head into 2019, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on our top stories of 2018. 

1. How a doctor inspired a new way to train teachers — and how that is leading to a new kind of school

After decades of training teachers in largely the same way, professors at the University of Michigan are moving to end the longtime practice of sending educators into their own classrooms after just a few months of student teaching. They’re creating a new method — one based on the way doctors are trained — that will extend teacher training through their first three years on the job, building a new teaching school that will open next fall on the campus of Marygrove College.

2. The Detroit school district has been using a curriculum that’s ‘an injustice to the children of Detroit’ — but it’s not alone.

Curriculum experts say that Detroit is among hundreds — possibly thousands — of districts across the country that are using textbooks and educational materials that are not aligned to state standards. Detroit is now making a fix. The district made plans to spend between $1 million and $3 million to purchase new reading and math materials that were put to use in Detroit classrooms this fall.

3. Detroit district moves beyond test scores for admittance to elite high schools like Cass Tech and Renaissance

Detroit’s main school district changed the way it decides which students gain entry to the city’s elite high schools. Students applying to Cass Technical High School, Renaissance High School, and other selective high schools are no longer judged primarily on the results of a single exam. Instead, an admissions team uses a scorecard that gives students points in various categories. The effect this year was that more students were accepted from district middle schools — and no student got in without taking the entrance exam.

4. The children of 8B: One classroom, 31 journeys, and the reason it’s so hard to fix Detroit’s schools

One in 3 Detroit students changes schools, often in the middle of the school year. This kind of enrollment turmoil has a debilitating impact on schools, dragging down test scores, exacerbating behavioral issues, fueling dropout rates, and making it more difficult for all children to learn — not just those who are on the move. In short, it’s a major, but often unrecognized, reason improving urban schools has become one of the most intractable problems facing American cities.

5. ‘If we don’t learn from this one, shame on us’: Lessons from a Detroit charter school that was set up to fail

The sudden closure in late September of the Delta Prep charter school stunned educators but a review of hundreds of pages of documents, and interviews with key leaders involved in the school since its creation, show that the forces arrayed against every school in Detroit had pushed Delta Prep’s chances of survival to nothing within a year of its opening, if not before.

6. With clean clothes, this Detroit school sees a new attitude and improved attendance

Administrators at the A.L. Holmes Academy of Blended Learning struggled to get children to come to school every day — until it added a washing machine. Once the school could help families with their dirty clothes, absences and suspensions fell.