Monday, January 15, 2007

The Miseducation of Detroit

Detroit students from Aramark website.Originally posted by Nadir at

Mike Wilkinson’s Detroit News article on the exodus of students from Detroit Public Schools paints a glass-half-full portrait of the city’s failed school system. Wilkinson notes that parents are taking advantage of “school choice,” and are sending their children to charter schools in Detroit and public schools in the suburbs.

What Wilkinson doesn’t discuss is the tragedy that results from the miseducation of Detroit’s students. The hardships that families must endure by transporting their children across town or to the suburbs are often too difficult to bear in the nation’s second poorest big city. Many students who can’t find a way to a new school in a region without quality public transportation simply drop out.

Diane Bukowski’s article in the Michigan Citizen tells the grimmer side of the same subject. Diane analyzes the losses that Detroit families endure, not the gains of surburban school districts.

At Chadsey High School, one of the schools again targeted after being saved from the 2005 round of closures when students walked out in protest, students reacted with dismay and anger.

“My whole thing, if they close Chadsey, I know half of the students are going to drop out,” said Satin Johnson, 14. “Some of them get a chance here. Where will the students from Munger Middle School [next door to Chadsey] go if they close Chadsey? Those are our brothers, sisters, cousins and friends.”

The unfortunate truth is that except for a few jewels, DPS schools offer a poor quality educational product. Superintendant William Coleman and Board President Jimmy Womack are focused on cutting costs and keep their budget in line, not on providing a quality education for students.

Already we see that the plan is to allow the hemorrhaging to continue. How else could the system go from 232 schools to 120 in just three years? The board doesn’t want to retain students. If it did, it would change its ways.

What is needed at DPS is new leadership and radical reform of the school’s educational and business models. A school board that is dedicated to Detroit’s future through the nurturing and education of its children would duplicate proven models like those at Cass and Renaissance across the city. It would find ways to attract students beyond iPods and Gameboys on count day. What Detroit’s families want is real schools that provide a real education, and because Coleman, Womack and the rest of the board refuse to provide it, those families are leaving in droves.

Even in its current challenged condition, Detroit is Michigan’s economic engine. A poorly educated workforce is not attractive to business. Therefore jobs are leaving Michigan like students are exiting DPS. Unless something changes, the result will be an undereducated, impoverished state with higher crime rates than those that exist today.

Until Jennifer Granholm, the Michigan legislature, Kwame Kilpatrick, the city of Detroit and the DPS school board make a commitment to improving Detroit’s public schools, the state will continue to lose jobs, revenue and population.


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