Monday, June 09, 2008

31 Ways How Detroit Public Schools Failed Our Children and Why We Need School Choice A Through Z by Akindele Akinyemi

There is probably no public policy issue in Detroit today that is more important, or more daunting, than the need to improve urban education. Despite an overwhelming citywide consensus on the value of a good education, both to individual children and to communities as a whole, the appalling performance of Detroit Public School system has proved remarkably resistant to change. While cities throughout the country experienced a renaissance during the 1990’s, making vast strides in everything from preventing crime to reducing the welfare rolls, their progress in educating their children was notably limited. To meet this challenge, urban leaders will need to embrace innovative measures to improving their school systems.

There are three key concepts that lie behind practically every successful attempt at education reform: Choice, accountability and a change of the guard. We must begin to support our candidates who are going to give parents parents and students real educational options to choose from injects competition into the public school system, forcing it to improve and adapt, while at the same time providing greater opportunities for those students who are currently being ill-served. Making schools accountable for their performance, by setting strict standards, tracking their success in meeting them, and mandating consequences for not doing so both establishes firm incentives for improvement and makes it impossible to sweep failure under the rug. Basing their efforts on these ideas, reformers around the country, of all political persuasions, have had significant successes in bringing about positive change through a wide variety of approaches. Taken together, and adapted to local circumstances, these specific measures and the principles of competition and accountability that generated them represent a blueprint for success in reversing the decline of Detroit's urban schools.
With every year, the evidence mounts that more options in the school system benefits all students, both those in the traditional public school system or those taking advantage of the increased choices provided. Competition encourages the public schools to innovate, reform, and be responsive to students and their families as well as offering an outlet for students that are not getting what they need out of the public system. A focus on competition also stimulates new approaches to education, with potentially dramatic benefits, that are stifled by the monopoly of a single form of public education. While the principle of school choice can be, and has been, applied in numerous ways, the essential goal is the same: to offer the best possible set of options to all students, regardless of their socioeconomic status or the happenstance of where they reside.
Detroit will never come back on track if we keep electing people on name recognition. These are people who may have name ID but have no 21st century vision.

For example, why are we allowing someone like State Representative Bettie Cook Scott to introduce bills like the following:

Introduced 2008 House Bill 5765 to reduce from 100,000 to 75,000 the number of students that qualify a school district as a “school district of the first class.” Detroit is the only such district, which is a statutory device to allow the Detroit School District to be exempted from a variety of regulations that apply to other districts, and receive special treatment in other ways.

This bill is compared to rape or molestation for those who are seeking educational freedom. Over 80% of parents want more charters for their children in Detroit.

Let's see the track record for Detroit Public Schools that Bettie Cook Scott supports.

1. Associated Press DETROIT (June 6, 2008) - An elementary school on Detroit's east side is under attack by teenagers in the area, police said. A bullet went through the back window of the principal of Gabriel Richard Elementary School while she pulled out of the parking lot earlier this week.

Police said they are not sure if the principal was targeted or a victim of a random shooting.
In recent weeks, teenagers have entered and the school and the playground and attacked elementary school children as young as 5 years old.

"High school kids are coming into the school to jump on the children, and those incidents are not being reported," said concerned parent Andrea Tellis.

Parents and teachers said they are disturbed because the violence has been escalating as time goes by.

"They need more Detroit police around here everyday," said neighbor Valerie Williams.
Assistant Vice Principal Ivan Branson confirmed the problem; however, he downplayed the parents' concerns and said it's a safe school.

This school did not even make AYP. On a personal note, it is chaotic daily at the school.

2. The Detroit School District as a whole did not make AYP this year at all. From elementary to high school.

3. On May 16, 2008 it was reported that Detroit Public Schools faced a $45 million deficit. Later, the deficit has reached $65 million deficit. The reality is DPS is $600 million in the red.

4. The DPS student population was 157,003 for the 2002-2003 school year, and has fallen to 106,485 for the 2007-2008 school year. This number is going to drop under 100,000 for the first time since 1918 to pave the way for more charter schools.

5. Detroit Public Schools will close 95 schools by 2009. Where are the children going to go?

6. The plan to secure and close 67 schools has been called "botched" and incomplete after $3 million spent on the task, with nearly half of the schools not having been cleaned out, and a football field of materials being warehoused. The process has been plagued by vandalism and theft. Redford High School on the city's west side has broken windows.

7. The district sought labor union concessions of $105 million, and the Detroit Federation of Teachers expects 300-500 teachers to retire or resign this summer. Additionally, principals and assistant principals will not receive the second half of their raises expected this year. Who will lead DPS in the fall?

8. There have been numerous incidents, including a food fight with over 300 students causing 52 students to be expelled, and a diabetic student unable to eat all day, after DPS recently laid off a large number of cafeteria workers.

9. Brenda Scott Middle School Principal Beverly Butler forbade students from purchasing milk or juice with their home made lunches, and required that all lunches not include sweets and chips as a disciplinary measure.

10. 450 more teachers were laid off, a championship chess team with a budget in previous years of $120,000 was defunded, and teachers without Spanish language skills were moved to bilingual schools to replace laid off teachers.

11. In 2006, The Detroit News condemned teacher's complaints regarding closing schools, saying that the teachers themselves know there is a problem with DPS, and that teachers are more likely than the general public to send their kids to private schools. So why do they have a problem with more charter schools opening?

12. An analysis of the financial crisis by the Michigan Citizen blamed the takeover board and former CEO Kennith Burnley for the cuts, pointing out that the district's deficit of $19 million per year can largely be attributed to debt payments of $19 million per year incurred from a $210 million loan from the state made by that board. At a meeting, teachers accused the board of inflating capacity figures and allowing the district to violate per classroom student limits.

13. A Detroit Free Press report showed that the district spent $1.3 million on conferences, catering, hotels, and related items. The district indicated that grants paid for much of that. This compares to a district budged of $1.3 billion.

14. DFT president Virginia Cantrell criticized the plan to close 52 schools, calling for a systematic, data driven approach, and saying that it would encourage more families to leave DPS. She later suggested that Governor Granholm take over DPS.

15. In March 2007, a revised facilities plan calls for 39 schools to close this year, with 4 possible schools closing next year, and 10 schools that may close. It also reorganizes some schools and creates 23 themed schools. It has not yet been approved by the facilities committee or the DPS board. Who sits on the DPS board that are running for State Representative? Terry Catchings in District 5, Jimmy Womack in District 7 (who is backed by Mayor Kilpatrick) and Annie Carter in District 11.

16. August, 2007, the Michigan Department of Education fined Detroit Public Schools $6 million for operating an illegal alternative schools program.

17. DPS has closed its alternative schools program for the 2007-2008 school year.

18. October 23 2007, at a meeting of the Detroit School Board at Western High School, Essie Taylor, President of Stewart Learning Academy, expressed concerns, saying "We don’t have security. I know things take time, but we don’t have the time." She also stated "We have a sixth grade boys’ class with over 60 students. These children are not coming first." She also stated that the district made only 2 of 12 promised repairs. . Deborah Fisher of DPS blamed a lack of text books in Detroit Public Schools on the transfer of 22,000 students, and the failure of each individual school to request additional textbooks in a timely manner.

19. December 6 2007, the Detroit Free Press reported that books and records were left to rot in closed Detroit Public Schools buildings. The 33 buildings are not being maintained.

20. December 19 2007, columnist Daniel Howes of the Detroit News bluntly wrote, "In making the rounds this week of the city's dailies, the schools chief painted a picture of financial mismanagement that is stunning in its ineptitude, corruption and possible criminality. It's sickening, this mess that essentially says the education of 105,000 Detroit students is less important to bureaucrats than gaming an inefficient system awash in taxpayer dollars and crying for more.", in response to an apparent visit by Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Connie Calloway.

21. DPS contractor Aramark Facilities Management was blamed for failing to properly secure schools closed on April 4 2007, incorrectly cited as having been paid a $15 million oversight fee for the work. The Aramark contract was for computer work and counting assets, and was for $498,644. The Michigan Citizen reported: "Including the Aramark contract, the $3.15 million Vacant Properties Security, Inc. contract for cement window coverings, and a $2.1 million contract with the MPS Group for “re-alignment cartage services,” only $5.8 million of the $18 million that the district estimated it would take to close the schools has surfaced."

22. Schools were flooded and textbooks destroyed before being boarded up for an additional $3.2 million in December 2007. Parents have been complaining about a lack of textbooks in the remaining schools. City High School and other closed schools were vandalized, with damages "at least in the millions.

23. 103 of Detroit Public School's 225 schools did not meet the goals in the Federal No Child Left Behind Act, up from 63 last year.

24. 70,000 students are eligible for free tutoring under the No Child Left Behind Act, but only 10% of them participate. Many observers blame the Detroit Public Schools for failing to adequately publicize the availability of tutoring by the November 19 deadline, and not using radio adds or other media, for financial reasons.

25. As part of a nationwide study, John Hopkins University labeled the following DPS schools as "dropout factories" because less than 60% of incoming freshmen made it to their senior year.

26. In December, 2007, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Department of Education for the State of Michigan warned the Detroit Public Schools that it would be forced to fine DPS for failing to provide private tutoring for children in failing schools, and for failing to allow those students to transfer to a different school.

27. In a December 24, 2007 Detroit News editorial, Reverend Edgar Vann of Second Ebenezer Church on the North End of Detroit called on DPS to stop school gang violence as a necessary prerequisite to improving student performance, saying "we have violence that causes some schools at times to be virtually out of control. This is not conducive for learning."

28. On March 29, 2006, students at Mackenzie High in Detroit staged a walkout to protest the lack of textbooks and toilet paper. 32 were arrested, with 8 charged for disorderly conduct, and 1 for inciting to riot. Students complained that they had only one textbook per 3 students, an administrator had an expensive plasma television, amid allegations of a missing $3,000, and leaking roofs which damaged 45 new computers in storage.

29. On August 31, 2007, Detroit Public Schools announced that they have opened a Detroit Police mini-station in Henry Ford High School. However, this effort for safety failed when Detroit Police clashed with students from Henry Ford High School that spilled over to Kentucky Fried Chicken on Evergreen and 7 Mile Road on the Northwest side of the city.

30. Only 24% of DPS students graduate from high school ON TIME.

31. The city had collected $259 million through the millage between 2002 and the fall of 2005, without renewed voter approval.

Yet, Rep. Scott is against charter schools in our city and keeping our children trapped on a failing plantation. Therefore, we must replace her this year immediately with this champion of educational civil rights:

If Carol Banks is not elected to the State House THIS YEAR DPS might as well have the federal government run it because protecting the funding for DPS is not smart.

Another champion of education is our all-star in District 7 Carol Weaver. She is running against Mayor Kilpatrick's lapdog Jimmy Womack for state representative.

Now why in the world would anyone in District 7 elect Jimmy Womack, who is being supported by Mayor Kilpatrick through Mike Turner (who is working hard to make sure Womack is elected on behalf of the Mayor) when Womack supports the notion of our own children (particularly Black males) being expelled from the district. Remember this is the same Womack that suspended fellow board member Marie Thornton.

Dr. Womack does not embrace the theory of creating a financial market for the City of Detroit. Dr. Weaver embraces an emerging sector to develop a financial market for our community through education.

Dr. Womack ignores the significant calls for the Detroit Public Schools to cooperate more with charters, including renting abandoned schools to charters, and to learn from successful charter schools. When Dr. Womack was the DPS president he indicated that he was not interested in creating schools that are not part of the traditional public school system.

Under Dr. Womack's leadership in Detroit Public Schools:

24.9 percent graduated on time. One out of four students graduates from DPS.

76% have dropped out. They are on the streets or at home NOT in charter or suburban schools as Womack continues to cry about.

11.0% have a 4-year degree

4.2% have a graduate degree

80% of graduates from Detroit Public Schools function on a 6th grade level.

55% of the general population graduating from DPS are functionally illiterate.

Voted for Dr. Connie Calloway to receive a salary of $280,000 while only $55 is going into the classroom for children in DPS.

Conducted secret meetings behind other Board members back violating the Open Meetings Act.

Against homeschooling. Supports HB 5912 (a bill that would have parents who homeschools their children to sign their children up with the failing school district to receive state aid money restricting educational freedom for parents).

Totally against charter schools and those parents who are for charter schools. His own spokesperson said this, There have been significant calls for the Detroit Public Schools and Jimmy Womack to cooperate more with charters, including renting abandoned schools to charters, and to learn from successful charter schools. DPS (along with Jimmy Womack, Terry Catchings and Annie Carter) has indicated that it is not interested in creating schools that are not part of the traditional public school system.

Supports policies that protects gay and lesbians in DPS but will not support prayer in schools.
failed to negotiate a quick deal with the Detroit Federation of Teachers to stop a two week strike in 2006 that resulted in 25,000 students leaving Detroit Public Schools. That resulted in $186,725,000 in loss state aid money under Dr. Womack's leadership.

$200 million deficit under Dr. Womack's first year as Board President which resulted in 40,000 students leaving the district. That's $298,760,000 loss in state aid money under his leadership.
Thirty Michigan high schools made Newsweek's ranking of the best high schools in the country. Not one came from Detroit under Womack's leadership on the school board.

When Jimmy Womack was the Detroit School Board President Fitch Ratings Ltd. downgraded Detroit Public Schools’ limited tax general obligation rating to junk-bond status because of mounting financial pressures for the district. The New York City-based agency downgraded the district to a noninvestment grade of ‘BB+” from “BBB-.” In lay terms this like going from a 550 credit score to a 250 credit score on your FICO.

Ok, yet, this Mayor wants Womack to run for State Representative. News flash, this is the same Mayor that is supporting the highest level of corruption in Detroit including his cousin Ajene Evans, who is running for State Representative in District 6 against Sheila Dapremont. Wow, can you imagine sending someone to Lansing high as a kite? Most of the lawmakers in Lansing are high already so why do we need to further embarass ourselves with incompetent leadership?

Educational choice candidates are necessary because there is a greater demand for more charter schools in Detroit. The cap must be lifted and how much more accountablity do one charter need if there are already strict accountablity measures in place? All politics and no academics.

Presently, Arizona leads the nation in offering educational options to parents and students with innovative programs such as choice among traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, and scholarship programs. That flexibility allows families to find programs and schools suited to their children’s individual abilities, temperaments, needs, and interests—a process that ultimately results in improved academic achievement. How come we cannot bring such measures to Michigan? Because our leadership in Lansing are compromised.

Arizona has introduced a program that evaluates and categorizes schools on the basis of students’ academic achievement as measured by standardized tests. However, putting more money into a system without structural reform is a tried and failed approach, akin to pouring water into bottomless bucket. The problem is not unique in Michigan. The question is why are we not enforcing these measures in Michigan?

The record of state takeovers is equally abysmal. In a Reason Public Policy Institute report, author Richard Seder examined the track record of state intervention strategies and concluded, "State takeovers run the risk of transferring responsibility from one inept bureaucratic hierarchy to another, neither one with an idea of how to improve student performance."

So how come there are talks about another state takeover in Detroit? Detroit Public Schools cannot be fixed at all. It is irreparable.

However, school choice advaocates are supporting the following measures and debunking the myths about charter schools in Detroit and why we are supporting candidates for choice this year in the state representative races that MUST WIN BY ALL MEANS:

A. Charter public schools in Detroit exceed the local district on 24 of 27 tests - up from 20 last year.

B. Statewide, charter public schools exceeded the average scores of their host districts on 23 of 27 tests — compared to 19 last year.

C. Detroit Edison Public School Academy is the only Detroit school to receive a Michigan Department of Education 2006-07 Blue Ribbon for outstanding improvement strategies and delivering quality education.

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

E. 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.

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

G. In Detroit, 71% of charters made AYP last year, vs. 54% of traditional schools.

H. Charters can have a positive impact on a community’s well-being by providing educational options that attract and retain families and their associated tax base.

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

J. With the passing of Proposal A, Michigan law allows parents to decide what public school is best for their children. Choices include the local district, a district nearby or a charter public school district…parents choose and funding follows.

K. 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.

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

M. 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.

N. Fine and performing arts — For example, students who attend the Marvin L. Winans Academy of Performing Arts receive the equivalent of nearly $225,000 in performing arts lessons by the time they graduate.

O. Tutoring — For example, DEPSA has a new student development center, engages middle schoolers in tutoring kindergartners, offers in-school assistance, before- and after-school academic programs and a voluntary Saturday program that draws 200+ students weekly.

P. Old Redford Academy offers sports programs and requires its high school students to maintain a rare 2.5 GPA in order to participate.

Q. Community High School in Detroit won its district baseball title last year — after going a year without a team because coaches told students they had to improve their grades before playing.

R. The number of charter schools "beating the odds" climbed from 25 last year to 40 this year. These primarily urban schools meet a state formula requiring at least 60% proficiency in math and English language arts, with at least half of the students qualifying for free- or reduced-price lunch.

S. When the Detroit Chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and MAPSA conducted a survey on the top issues facing parents and students in schools SAFTETY was #1 NOT academics. Most parents feel that Detroit Public Schools have become a battleground for death instead of academic acheivement.

T. The Advanced Technological Academy in Dearborn, MI bought the old Davenport University in Dearborn for their high school program. Advanced Technology Academy is the only school in the nation to fully implement the Ford PAS program as the cornerstone of its high school curriculum. This high tech facility will help us assure that every student leaves high school with the career pathway skills needed to succeed in college and the work place.

U. University Prep Academy is building a brand new 7-12 grade campus at the Detroit Science Center. The only group to oppose this was Detroit Federation of Teachers.

V. Strong multiculturalism exists in charter schools. For example, consider Hamtramck's 350-student Frontier International Academy, a charter school serving grades 6-12. About 1/3 of its students are Arabic; 1/3 are Bengali; another 15% are from Bosnia, Croatia and Poland; and the final 15% are African-American. Frontier features Arabic taught in all grades. Strict discipline policies, character education and uniforms demonstrate order and safety. English-as-a-second-language (ESL) instruction is a staple.

W. Nearly 60 percent of Michigan charter public schools work with a small service provider serving five or fewer schools, or with no service provider.

X. Michigan was one of 10 to receive a federal grant in 2007 to help create new charter schools and increase school choices for families. Michigan will receive nearly $22 million over the next three years -- the fourth largest amount.

Y. African American charter students outperformed their host district peers in both math and English language arts on the 2006-07 and also exceeded the state average by 1 point in math and nearly 1.5 points in English language arts.

Z. Michigan charters receive an average $2,289 per student less than their traditional host district schools in total revenue, according to the Michigan Department of Education 2007 charter school report. At that rate, charters save taxpayers more than $200 million a year.

Who in the world would not want to support a candidate who advocates schools of choice? The old argument of charters taking money from Detroit Public Schools is just that....old. If we are not complaining about Wal-Mart taking money from Meijer, BP taking money from Shell Gas and Foodland taking money from Glory Supermarket, Save-A-Lot or Aldi then why the hell are we complaining about charter schools and those candidates running for office who support schools of choice?

If we are serious about transforming education in our city then we must allow competition to flow like water. Carol Weaver, Carol Banks, Jeanean Bryant and many others are supporting our platform for educational reform in Detroit. Will you jump on board to create a 21st century educational model in the City of Detroit?

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