Rise & Shine: District leaders see hope in new chronic absenteeism data

Good morning!

Leaders of Michigan’s largest school district got some good news Monday: The percentage of students who were chronically absent from the Detroit Public Schools Community District dropped from 70% to 63% last year, according to preliminary data.

That’s still much higher than the state average of 20%, but Superintendent Nikolai Vitti touted the change as proof that his policies are putting a dent in a longstanding, thorny problem that has serious consequences for the district's academic performance. Lori’s story on that is here.

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— Koby Levin, reporter

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DOWNWARD TREND? Suspensions are down and there are more attendance agents in the Detroit city district since a new superintendent arrived two years ago. District leaders are crediting those changes with an apparent decline in the rate of chronic absenteeism in the last year. Chalkbeat

UNCERTAIN FUTURE Lawmakers are still hashing out Michigan’s budget, but time is up for schools. Districts across the state submitted their budgets by the end-of-month deadline without knowing how much funding they’ll get next year. WEMU

BENTON HARBOR Last week, Gov. Whitmer gave the Benton Harbor school district one year to improve or close its high school. The exact meaning of “improve” became clearer yesterday with the release of the deal that the school board must approve by tonight. It gives the district fewer than 365 days to, among other things, adopt a balanced budget, improve test scores, and reduce chronic absenteeism. Bridge

TRAVEL BUDGET A Detroit-area district is facing scrutiny for sending educators to trainings outside the state. Detroit Free Press

BIG BOND Ann Arbor is preparing to ask voters to support a $1 billion bond to repair its aging schools. Michigan districts largely depend on local property tax dollars to maintain their buildings, which is difficult for communities where property tends to be less valuable than in Ann Arbor. All About Ann Arbor

GRAD SPEECH FALLOUT A Detroit charter school was thrust into an unwelcome social media spotlight last month when two top students used their graduation speeches to air concerns about the school’s management. Now a top administrator is raising the possibility of legal action against the speakers. Arab American News

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY? A columnist argues that black communities should demand more of Democratic politicians, using Gov. Whitmer’s attempt to shutter Benton Harbor High School as an example. The Detroit News

MONEY TROUBLE Following a teachers union rally in Lansing for more funding, an activist makes the case for a larger state education budget next year. Battle Creek Enquirer

JAMIE DIMON The warm relationship between Detroit’s mayor and the CEO of one of the largest U.S. banks has seemingly bolstered the city’s credibility with federal lawmakers and corporate America. Schools haven’t seen much benefit yet, but Jamie Dimon, head of JPMorgan Chase, said “if the mayor asked us to look at (schools), we’d look at that, too.” Crain’s

SUMMER SCHOOL As the Detroit city district has curtailed its summer school offerings, a handful of parents say communication about the changes — and the remaining offerings— hasn’t been clear enough. WXYZ

RISING DEBT A personal finance writer lays out the ways Michigan could alleviate the rising debt burden on students who graduate from the state’s universities. The Detroit News