Week In Review

Week in review: Convincing teachers there’s ‘more to Detroit than poor test scores.’

Among impediments blocking improvement in Detroit schools, the one that poses the most significant hurdle is the teacher shortage — the nearly 200 vacancies that have put some children in classrooms without qualified educators, forced others into overcrowded classrooms, and made it harder for schools to give students the support they need.

One of our stories this week took an inside look at the work the district is doing to fill those vacancies. That includes traveling to job fairs across the country and trying to sweet-talk young teachers into taking a chance on Detroit. Not all applicants are open to the idea, but recruiters are undeterred. When one prospect hurled a remark at district reps about the city having the lowest test scores in the nation, they still tried to make their case.

“There’s more to the story. There’s far more to Detroit than poor test scores.”

— Edwina Dortch, recruiter, Detroit Public Schools Community District

Also this week, we remembered state superintendent Brian Whiston, who died of cancer on Monday at age 56. We wrote about the more than 200 classes that the main Detroit district is offering parents in 50 different subjects. And we took a look at how salaries for veteran teachers in the main Detroit district compare to those in surrounding districts in the wake of a new contract deal.

Scroll down for more on these stories and the rest of the week’s headlines but before you do, check out some of the changes coming to Chalkbeat Detroit. The arrival this week of Koby Levin, our newest reporter, heralds the start of a more deliberate effort we’re making to engage with our readers and the communities we cover. That means we want to hear from you so please, drop us a line. Oh and one last thing: Teacher Appreciation Week is almost over. We don’t want you to miss out on your chance to recognize the teachers who made a difference in your life. Click here to donate to Chalkbeat in their honor.

— Erin Einhorn, Chalkbeat Detroit bureau chief

In Detroit

  • The district is spending $49,000 to recruit graduates at job fairs around the country, with a special focus on historically black colleges and universities. As of last week, 300 candidates had received  job offers, but it’s not yet clear how many of them will accept jobs.
  • Superintendent Nikolai Vitti hopes a new $30 million deal with the teachers union allowing the district to give teachers salary credit for years they worked in other districts will help attract some teachers. Though salaries for veteran teachers in Detroit still lag behind other large Michigan districts, the district is now closer to the middle of the pack. (Starting salaries in Detroit are also now more comparable to surrounding districts than in the past).
  • The district’s new Parent Academy, which offers classes in everything from styling children’s hair to helping them with their homework, is off to a slow start. A Chalkbeat reporter went to three Parent Academy classes last week and found no parents in attendance.

Across the state

In other news

  • A suburban third-grade teacher has been named the state’s charter school teacher of the year.
  • The Pistons are subsidizing tickets for Detroit fourth-graders to see the Detroit Symphony Orchestra perform.
  • A TV station surprised this Detroit teacher at school with a gift card and bouquet of flowers.
  • A charter school celebration this week included a high school senior piloting a plane over the state capitol that she learned to fly as part of her coursework.
  • Three Detroit schools were closed one day this week due to a power outage.
  • Detroit Public Television is inviting the public to attend a televised discussion next week on educating the workforce of the future. The taping will be held at a Detroit career and technical high school.
  • A suburban school that caught wind of a student plot to bring avocados to school sent a note home to parents warning: “Avocados brought to school that create a disturbance in school will be taken from students and the office staff will be making the biggest dish of guacamole ever!”