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
- 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
- State Superintendent Whiston was best known as the architect of the partnership agreements that last year prevented the closure of 38 struggling Michigan schools. With his funeral scheduled for today, Gov. Rick Snyder urged schools to lower their flags to honor his memory.
- Teachers across the state wore red to school on Wednesday in what they called a walk-in to show support for more school funding.
- Lawmakers in the state House approved a package of school safety bills that were drafted in the wake of a Florida school shooting. Vitti, meanwhile, says his plan to improve school safety goes beyond police and metal detectors.
- Online schools are growing in Michigan despite poor outcomes. Still, a TV report looked at how virtual schools can help students with disabilities who haven’t been successful in traditional schools.
- Education was one of the topics that GOP candidates for governor discussed in their first debate ahead of the August primary election.
- A national magazine included three Michigan high schools among the top 100 in the nation.
- Two local school districts that held votes on school tax hikes this week fell exactly three votes shy of the support they needed to raise taxes for school repairs. Voters in four other districts agreed to raise taxes for schools.
- A Detroit News editor has this advice for business leaders who want to improve Michigan schools.
- A News columnist urged the state attorney general to appeal a ruling that bars the state from reimbursing private schools for safety upgrades.
- A former Michigan teacher of the year says the answer to fixing our schools is simple. “We could genuinely invest in our children,” she writes.
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!”