Week In Review

Week in review: Life without gym class

One of our stories this week looked at something that has been missing in Detroit schools for years: gym class. Almost half of the schools in the city’s main district have no full-time certified physical education instructors. Though the district hopes to change that next year, parents say their children — many of whom don’t get recess either — are struggling to focus in class.

“He’s had behavior issues, but if he had the gym time, there’s different activities he would do to burn off energy … They would get that anxiety and fidgetiness out of them.”

— Victoria Haynesworth, Bagley Elementary School parent

Also this week, we highlighted a program some schools are embracing that not only helps make up for missed gym and recess time, but that teaches children how to peacefully and respectfully work together.

We reported that Mayor Mike Duggan’s effort to bring district and charter schools together on a joint bus route hit a snag when Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told school board members about a “misunderstanding” he’d had about the cost of the effort.

We wrote that a nearly 10-year experiment to see whether Detroit students would be more successful in smaller high schools could be ending. The district is considering a plan to save roughly $2 million a year by merging small high schools back together. And we covered the district’s announcement that it plans to expand services to parents, using a $3 million grant to create a new parent academy that will include home visits.

Scroll down for more on these stories and the rest of the week’s headlines. And thanks for reading!

— Erin Einhorn, Chalkbeat Detroit Bureau Chief

 In Detroit

  • Of 106 schools in Detroit’s main district, only 57 have at least one full-time physical education teacher. Next year, the district plans to give every school money to hire a gym teacher.
  • Mayor Duggan’s office isn’t worried that the district’s cost concerns will imperil a joint charter and district bus route planned to start in September. A top Duggan aide said school leaders and the city have been meeting and are “working in the same direction.”
  • A columnist, meanwhile, notes that the history of state and city interference in Detroit schools is fueling skepticism about the mayor’s proposal.
  • The nationwide experiment to break up large high schools into smaller schools led to three high schools being created within Osborn and Cody. But the Osborn schools were merged last fall and now the district wants to merge the Cody schools, among three proposed high school mergers.
  • The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is funding the district’s new $3 million, three-year Parent Academy effort. That program includes home visits that have been credited with building stronger bonds between families and teachers.
  • The national program that teaches better behavior through physical activity is not meant to replace recess or physical education. But one principal says it provides an outlet students need.
  • As Detroit teachers start collecting reimbursement checks for money illegally taken from their pay by the state, some are getting less than they expected — and some are getting more.
  • Students taking advantage of a four-year scholarship for graduates of Detroit high schools now have another college to choose from.
  • A program in some Detroit schools helps students who are far behind their peers build up reading skills — but the program is currently full.

The state of state schools

  • These are the five ways Gov. Rick Snyder says Michigan should change its thinking about education.
  • A group of state business leaders has some suggestions as well. They looked at education practices in other states and recommended better teacher training and a stronger rating system for schools. The report also outlined four myths about Michigan schools.
  • A Free Press columnist says the report is welcome but notes it came years too late — and for the wrong reasons.
  • The business group’s report is one of 12 that recently urged major changes for Michigan schools. Bridge Magazine read them all and reached four conclusions. The magazine also broke the 12 studies down into what it calls a six-minute read.
  • Those reports, and a discussion about how Michigan can respond to these wake-up calls, were the subject of a solutions summit that brought hundreds of education and community leaders together this week. If you missed it, watch it here.
  • The state superintendent says Michigan schools are making positive changes, but notes “it takes time to make reform work.”
  • Improving schools can be challenging in a state where an alarming new report shows school performance is deeply affected by children’s difficult home lives.
  • One schools advocate asserts that if Michigan had spent the last two decades investing in education instead of cutting taxes it would now be a strong contender for Amazon’s next headquarters.
  • In a state where many districts are bleeding enrollment and struggling academically, this district is bucking the trend.
  • See fall enrollment data for every Michigan school here, including the 58 schools that had more than 1,500 students enrolled, and the 50 largest districts in the state.
  • A local charter school principal explains why she traveled to Lansing recently to lobby lawmakers on matters of funding and the new law that will soon force schools to hold back third-graders who aren’t reading at grade level.

Law and order

In other news

  • The state’s charter school association says that a girls basketball finals game last weekend marked the first time that both contenders in a state championship were charter schools.
  • The Michigan Science Center and Toyota are partnering to provide all Detroit district eighth-graders with free field trips to help them prepare for the state’s science exam.
  • An organization founded by a suburban teen is giving away free prom dresses and accessories.