The Coalition Has Spoken: The Report — Part I

Written by: Stefanie Marshall

Primary Source: Green & Write

The much-awaited report from The Coalition for the Future Detroit’s Schoolchildren is out, and it is clear that emergency management has not worked for Detroit Schools. This week’s blog will focus on the recommendations of the coalition, while next week, I will highlight interviews with Detroit stakeholders to express their responses to the report.

According to the Coalition’s report, Detroit has a choice: “continue accepting the status quo or take bolder steps.” Lansing’s choice, meanwhile, is to either create the conditions necessary to harness change or continue to experience the burden of running schools. Importantly, this could possibly mean needing to pay Detroit Public School’s (DPS) debt.

 The Reality

Courtesy of the Michigan Department of Education

Courtesy of the Michigan Department of Education

Of the 204 schools that serve students in Detroit and the 25 schools that serve at least 75% of students from Detroit located in Detroit suburbs, a small fraction are above the state average on standardized testing – only 5 public schools (4 in DPS, 1 charter school in Detroit) in reading and 7 public schools in math (5 in DPS, 2 charter schools in Detroit) total.

The recommendations are explained in a report, but bottom-line, The Coalition recommends:

  1. Reinstall an elected school board
  2. Improve transparency, and focus on quality and coordination of charter schools and their authorizers.
  3. The debt that DPS has accrued should be assumed by the state
  4. The Detroit Education Commission (DEC) should be created to coordinate opening, closing and siting new schools in Detroit
  5. School Leadership Teams should be formed that include parents, staff, and students
  6. The need to adequately resource the State School Reform Office (SSRO) and the State School Reform District (SSRD)
  7. Create a shared database for data, enrollment and transportation

What is clear from the report is that the coalition is calling for equal footing, rediscovering local voice, and school choice for residents.

Accountability

The report also states that, “We cannot unleash the talents or hold school leaders and teachers accountable for gains in student achievement” unless local schools have freedom to choose their own instructional team and programs.

So far, Mayor Duggan is on board. In a report just released, “As DPS and the charters operate their schools, I do support the idea of a Detroit Education Commission, appointed by the Mayor, to make sure real choice is available to all our children and to assure complete information is available to all parents to make those choices.”

 The State School Recovery Office

The State School Recovery Office (SSRO) was created in 2010 to, “advance dramatic improvement in Michigan’s lowest achieving schools by assisting staff in developing, implementing, and monitoring effective school redesign plans.” The report recommends that the SSRO/ State School Recovery District (SSRD) take over the responsibilities of the responsibilities of the Education Achievement Authority central office and be appropriately funded to fulfill its’ responsibilities. The report also states that the agreement with Eastern Michigan University should be terminated, and that the SSRO should be working to transition schools back to DPS.

Overall, the report is a cohesive document, particularly if you are pro-school choice. It contains great visualizations and provided some transparency, while making it clear that change is needed, and fast. Very few schools that are serving the children from Detroit are meeting the academic mark. However, the metrics for some of the statistics are not provided, which minimizes the attempt to be transparent in the report. Next, the report proposed a database be developed to compile data from all schools serving Detroit’s children. This database would require the need for an appropriately staffed office, the system of collecting the data, statisticians, amongst others that would need to play a crucial role in seeing this play out. Just as the report recommends adequate funding for the SSRO, so would this recommendation.

The main red-flag in this report is the request that the state take over DPS’s debt– that will not likely win over the state government officials in Lansing. DPS owes about $350.2 million in long-term debt notes. This report is a start, however, according to Elena Herrada, member of the Detroit Public School Board which has no authority under emergency management, this is not the first time a group of stakeholders were organized in Detroit’s history. In my next blog, I will provide insights from Elena Herrada, Dr. Tom Pedroni and Karen Twomey.

Contact Stefanie: marsh413@msu.edu

Follow Stefanie: @StefLMarshall

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Stefanie Marshall
Stefanie Marshall is a doctoral student in Educational Policy. She is interested in inequities in science education, specifically in urban contexts. Before coming to MSU, Stefanie worked in various capacities in education including a teacher, a district manager for a Supplemental Educational Service provider, a Teach For America field instructor, and summer school administrator. Stefanie earned a Bachelors of Science in biology from Oakland University and a Masters in educational policy and leadership from The University of Michigan.