Friday, August 03, 2007

David Heckler Way Off Base with Charters by Akindele Akinyemi

David Hecker' article on how Newt Gingrich helped create what ails Detroit in today's Detroit News is way off balance.
Without me going into detail I will paraphrase what Mr. Heckler stated in his article.
"Any chance that the economic decline in Michigan and Detroit is a result of the decimation of the manufacturing industry because of trade policies Gingrich advocated? Any chance that it is a result of the profit-over-people, free-rein-for-corporate-America philosophy that is part of Gingrich's foundation?"
Those trade policies like NAFTA was signed into law by then President Bill Clinton. However, Gov. Granholm considered Clinton to be one of the most beloved men in the world. While the rest of the world was transforming itself from manufacturing to technological Michigan stayed in Mammoth Cave and did not see the light for years. It's no wonder that we cannot come out of the financial hole we are in today.
Gingrich is not wrong to promote free market economics in urban areas like Detroit. Every economist known to the free world have concluded that unions today are becoming obsolete. There are more talks on the table on the issue of regionalization or privatizing city services.
But the important point is that graduation rates are too low. Many in our community, including the unions, are working to improve the school system.
We know that this is far from the truth. What union is working to improve Detroit Public Schools?
53% of the money for public education is CONTROLLED by federal & state bureaucracies - immune from parental influence at the local school district level. And, it has not always been this way. This provides a 'siphon' opportunity from classroom efficiency and quality, PLUS tremendous centralized power to mandate regulations on local school districts. Further, such power provides a focused, centralized 'playground' for unions, social do-gooders and bureaucratic central planners to leverage their narrow interests, without answering to world-class quality, local school boards, parents and local taxpayers - - plus self-serving resistance to change.

Gingrich wants Detroit to try different things.

Yes. So do I and many others who feel that Detroit Public Schools are a failure.

A takeover by the state, perhaps? Well, that was tried already, and it didn't work.

It could have worked if those grassroots junkies wold have not interfered.

A proliferation of charter schools? Studies indicate that they do no better and often worse than traditional public schools.

Studies from Western Michigan University and Michigan State University? Both studies were funded from the National Education Association.

Charter Schools work. Period. Why do they have long waiting lists?

On the other hand in Detroit Public Schools the larger the school the greater the rate of crime, violence, discipline problems, absenteeism and tardiness. Large schools have 4 times rate of serious discipline problems than small schools: '38% of principals in large schools reported serious discipline problems compared with10% in small schools

Perhaps smaller school districts and schools provide opportunity for more parental influence, as used to be the case with higher test scores, and more student motivation to excel. Further, from my own experience small schools offer the opportunity for students to consider themselves more a part of a one-clique family fostering achievement and better knowing each other (and more inclusion) and better respecting teachers - - than one of detachment from the body as a whole as with larger institutions and their massive bureaucracies. For example, in smaller high schools nearly every boy who wants to play sports can get on the varsity which helps him develop responsibility by his own efforts, and other attributes - - than would be the case in huge schools where most do not have a chance

Educational choice is a topic of vital importance because polls have shown us that Detroit parents are desperate for quality school options for their families. A poll conducted by John Bailey & Associates found that half of the parents surveyed stated they have considered moving from the city in order to gain access to higher quality educational options. It’s clear many parents already have acted on this, as evidenced by Detroit Public Schools having lost more than 50,000 students in just a few short years.

Charter public schools are filling a vital role for families, now serving more than 27,000 students in the city; 45,000 in Wayne County, and more than 99,500 across the state.
Detroit is home to 44 charters, including 21 high schools. They exceeded the local traditional district on 24 of 27 MEAP tests this year, up from 20 in 2005-06. Charters tied on two other tests and were within 1 point on the last exam.

During the past two years, the Skillman Foundation has recognized excellence among the city’s charters by awarding 14 Good Schools grants to them.

Nine Detroit charter schools — and 18 in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties — are “beating the odds,” using a state standard that requires at least 50% of students to qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch and at least 60% proficiency in math and English language arts on the MEAP. The Detroit charters are MLK Jr. Educational Center, Winans Academy of Performing Arts, YMCA Service Learning Academy, DEPSA, Plymouth Educational Center, Detroit Merit Charter Academy, University Preparatory Academy, Warrendale Charter Academy and Old Redford Academy.

University Preparatory Academy in Detroit sends 90% of its graduates to college.

In Detroit, 71% of charters made AYP last year, vs. 54% of Detroit Public Schools.

Detroit charter public schools hire teachers in Detroit, invest in city buildings, and help improve the tax base in Detroit.

In Detroit, 95% of charter teachers are certified or permitted, compared to 83% in the traditional district. Across the state 95% of charter school teachers are certified compared to 91% of non-charter teachers that are certified.

Charters DO provide special education services. It’s the law. About 9% of charter students have special needs; some schools have rates topping 30%.

Significantly, charter school special education students out-performed their peers in their host districts by a dramatic 6-15 percentage points on the 2006-07 MEAP tests.

We can go on and on but Mr. Hacker gets the picture.

I am in agreement with Mr. Gingrich. Dismantle the Detroit Public School System and allow innovation to take over.

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