Detroit week in review

Week in Review: New programs, new plans, new questions

Two of our stories this week highlight new programs that could soon be offered in Detroit’s main district. Among them: a proposal to create gifted programs in all district schools, and the possible creation of freestanding Montessori schools.

Also, graduation rates across the state are at their highest level in years — but other evidence suggests graduates might not have the tools they need to succeed in college. Plus, we talked with a local student who is one of the leaders behind a pair of upcoming national student walkouts planned to protest gun violence.

Also worth noting is the Free Press’ look inside a kindergarten classroom crammed with 38 students, and some other insanely crowded classrooms. It’s a story familiar to teachers across the city — we spent time in a first grade class with 37 students last year — and a problem that will be extremely difficult to solve without higher teacher pay or other tools to help fill almost 200 district teacher vacancies.

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

  • If the plan to expand gifted classes across the district goes forward, every district second-grader would be tested for possible placement in the program and three arts schools may be created for gifted students.
  • Superintendent Nikolai Vitti wants every district school to have a distinct identity, including adding freestanding Montessori schools, an expansion of the two-year old program.
  • With so many unfilled teacher vacancies across Detroit’s main district, 14 schools have oversized classes, including one that has a third grade with 48 students.
  • A Detroit charter school is the first ever to win the Detroit Public School League championship.
  • The city of Detroit was awarded $100,000 to launch a youth career program.

Across the state

  • Graduation rates are at their highest level in years but scores on college readiness exams raise questions about whether the graduation rate is a good measure of school success.
  • Check out our story to see graduation rates for all Michigan schools, as well as their college readiness rates.
  • Gov. Rick Snyder has announced a “Marshall Plan for talent” that calls for $100 million in new funding to help certify students in fields such as technology, manufacturing, healthcare, and skilled trades.
  • Snyder’s bid to boost base K-12 funding by the largest amount in years is contingent on Republican lawmakers agreeing to cut state aid in two areas they favor: cyber charter schools and using  public funds to teach private or homeschool students.
  • As lawmakers consider raising funding for schools, the Detroit News urged them to fix inefficiencies in the system first.
  • A Michigan think tank has released its annual school rankings measuring how well elementary and middle school students perform on tests compared to schools with similar rates of poverty.
  • The ranking is one of several that offers parents an alternative tool to measure schools if they don’t like the state’s approach. Bridge Magazine released its rankings last week.
  • Career and Technical Education enrollment is up by 5 percent in Michigan schools.
  • The new federal tax law allows parents to dip into their 529 college savings plans to pay for K-12 private school tuition — but not in Michigan. Here’s why.

Walking out

  • A Detroit student who is helping to organize two nationwide school walkouts to protest gun violence says she’s less concerned about a shooter coming into her school than she is about gunfire in her neighborhood.
  • Students across the state say they’re planning to participate — and many administrators say they won’t punish students who join the protests.
  • A former state superintendent backs the idea of a nationwide teacher strike to protest school shootings, even though teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan.

In other news

  • As two suburban high schools merge, class offerings will be shifted into four career-focused academies where students can specialize in public safety, business and education, culinary arts or science and technology.
  • A group of suburban hockey players has adopted a Detroit elementary school.
  • A local coalition of education leaders has a new director.