Week In Review

Week in Review: What are Mayor Duggan’s plans for city schools?

Happy snow day everyone! While you’re curled up inside, we have lots of education headlines to catch up on, starting with our story this week on the possibility that Mayor Mike Duggan — after largely steering clear of education in his first term — could get involved in the city schools.

After almost two decades of state involvement, the notion has some advocates worried about what the mayor might do. But others hope Duggan can play the role of peacemaker in a divisive system of disconnected, competitive schools that isn’t serving children well.

“We don’t control the schools. We don’t want to control the schools. But anything we can do to help, we’re willing to do, and that can take a number of different forms.”

— Eli Savit, Senior Advisor and Counsel to Mayor Mike Duggan

Also this week, we have education highlights from the governor’s proposed budget and a look at state legislation that could lead to A-F report cards for every school in the state. We covered a technology push from Superintendent Nikolai Vitti that has already led to laptops for every student at three Detroit schools. We spent some time with community activists who are delivering letters to business leaders asking them to put the same resources into schools that they put into trying to lure Amazon to Detroit.

And, our colleagues in Indiana have a story this week about a charter school operator possibly coming to Indianapolis after running into difficulty in Detroit and Newark. Scroll down for more on these stories and the rest of the week’s headlines. And stay warm!

— Erin Einhorn, Chalkbeat Detroit Bureau Chief

Rebuilding Detroit schools

  • As Duggan contemplates ways to get more involved in Detroit schools, City Hall is already leading an effort called the Detroit Children’s Success Initiative that will put more social workers, therapists, and family support staff into schools.
  • The three district schools that now have one laptop for every student are part of a district-wide technology push that Vitti hopes will mean every district child will have a computer at school within five years.
  • Starting next fall, all elementary school students in Detroit’s main district will get three field trips to cultural institutions every year, starting in kindergarten. But an advocate for arts education writes that Detroit schools need to do more than just add arts classes and cultural experiences.
  • Members of the community coalition behind the “Amazon Won’t Be Our Last” campaign tried to deliver a letter to the office of business mogul Dan Gilbert to encourage him to join their effort, while the head of an organization that helps high school graduates get to college writes that the key to landing the next Amazon is helping kids pay for and succeed in college.

 In the state house

  • As Gov. Rick Snyder announces his 2019 budget, here’s our list of four things to know about his education proposals. Also, here’s a video series from a policy think tank that explains how school funding works in Michigan.
  • The state superintendent and school board might have dropped plans to assign A-F letter grades to Michigan schools, but the legislature has other plans. A new bill discussed this week would create a report card for schools, giving them a grade schools in each of six categories.
  • An effort in the state house seeks to abolish an elected state Board of Education.
  • State lawmakers are also considering dropping the requirement that experienced teachers be trained to diagnose reading disabilities. A new bill calls for that skill to be taught to teachers while they’re still in college.  
  • The state education department is leading an effort to help struggling school districts recruit, hire, and support teachers.
  • Snyder signed legislation that will let Michigan students receive high school or college credits through dual enrollment opportunities in border states.

In other news

  • The former Detroit charter school manager now being considered to turn around schools in Indianapolis was running a northwest Detroit charter school when it was shut down last spring. It then nearly wasn’t able to pay its teachers their final paychecks.
  • A local bookstore will award cash prizes to the best essay it receives from a fourth grade student in the main Detroit district.
  • The mother of a Detroit first-grader said a classmate tried to set her daughter’s hair on fire.
  • With many Michigan schools closing today because of snow, here’s some insight into how school officials make those calls.
  • This charter school in western Michigan has a dorm for homeless students.