The year 2017 was a huge one for education in Detroit and Michigan.
After years of being controlled by the state or state-appointed emergency managers, Detroit’s newly elected school board went to work. Its members wasted no time in naming a new superintendent, Dr. Nikolai Vitti.
Thirty-eight of the state’s lowest-performing schools started the year under threat of closure. Under intense political pressure, the state backed off and began crafting agreements that required the schools to improve. (One charter school was closed by its authorizer.) Today, almost half of district schools are in such partnership agreements.
A first-in-Detroit education forum laid bare rivalries, but also revealed ways to work together — and new opportunities for improvement.
Meanwhile, President Trump’s choice of Grand Rapids philanthropist Betsy DeVos for education secretary brought national scrutiny to the state’s education policy. DeVos faced tough questioning during her confirmation hearing because of her lack of public education experience, and because many believed her vision of school choice has left Detroit with some of the worst-performing schools in the country.
As we look ahead to next year, many we talked to are anxious to see more third-grade students proficient in reading. Otherwise, with a few exceptions, in coming years those students will be held back. Educators are trying to get them ready now.
What would you like to see for Detroit students next year? We asked nine local leaders what they thought.
Jeffrey Robinson, principal of Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy: “To do more to increase education equity in the state of Michigan. And to play a greater part in addressing those inequities and making sure all students in Michigan get the education they deserve.”
David Hecker, president of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said his organization would love to see a headline that said: “Dems Sweep Elections: Legislation that actually improves education is top priority.”
Carolyn Bellinson, co-founder of Brilliant Detroit, a social service organization, offered this wish: “I would love to see a dedication by parents in underserved populations to really embrace the concept of reading to their children every day for 10, 15 minutes.”
Georgia Lemmons, Detroit district school board member, wants to see this headline in the new year: “Test scores in Detroit Public Schools Community District surpass state averages.”
Cindy Eggleton, co-founder and CEO of Brilliant Detroit, wants to see this headline: “Multiple grassroots, private and public partners unite to assure grade level reading is on track by third grade.”
LaMar Lemmons, Detroit district school board member, made this resolution: “To increase the enrollment and drastically move test scores” and “to increase music and art in the schools.”
Brian Calley, lieutenant governor, wants to see this headline: “Student improvement in third grade reading.” “It’s the most important measurement that we can focus on,” he said.
Sonya Mays, Detroit district school board member, wants to read this story: “A feature on specific innovations in Detroit education (partnerships, interventions, etc.) that are working really well.”
Ella Stanley, teacher at the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, made this resolution: “To read nightly because not only is it a daily expectation I set for my students, but I know that reading for enjoyment is an act of self care, something many teachers are missing.”