Detroit week in review: One principal’s fight to erase her students’ learning deficit and keep her struggling school open

Educators charged with turning around struggling schools in cities like Detroit face a long and daunting list of challenges: tumultuous home lives that force children to frequently change schools; poor transportation and untreated health problems that lead to too many missed days of class; and thin resources that make it tough for schools to help children catch up on years of academic deficits. Our story this week looks at how one principal is responding to all of that to try to bring her school back from the brink of closure. It won’t be easy.

“This is a heavy lift. We’re dealing with things that are not always in our control, but … all I can say is, I have a lot of hope.”

— Alisanda Woods, principal, Bethune Elementary-Middle School

Also this week comes the second report from the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, the prominent group of city leaders whose last set of recommendations in 2015 led ultimately to the return of a locally elected school board in Detroit. This time, the Coalition 2.0 agenda calls for, among other things, the warring factions in Detroit education to voluntarily work together.

Plus, we take a look at master teachers coming to Detroit’s main district, and how they will be able to mentor teachers and help alleviate the teacher shortage. And, a report from two Michigan researchers explains why the way the state pays for students with special needs is not sustainable.

Have a good week!

– Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

Coalition 2.0

In Detroit

Across the state

Teacher pay


In other news

Extra credit

  • A Cass Tech student’s passion for equal education for everyone grew from her childhood in Detroit’s main district and a suburban district.
  • What this strategic third-grader did with the food she never ate at school.
  • A cyber school student explains why online learning was the best choice for him.
  • A book by a university author takes a close look at the lives of troublemakers in the classroom.
  • Coleman A. Young Elementary School kicked off its LitWorld LitFest today with Board Member Angelique Peterson-Mayberry and Messiah Knight, a student who raps about the “Three Be’s” school tradition: Be Respectful, Be Responsible and Be Safe. See the video here: