June 20th, 2011
03:10 PM ET

Rescue plan under way for beleaguered Detroit Public Schools

When fewer than one in six children in your state are ready for college upon high school graduation, and the school system in your state's largest city is failing both financially and educationally, it's time for drastic actions - such as a longer school day and year, a more challenging curriculum, dramatically more resources and funding for classrooms, greater parental input and more accountability for school principals and staff.

"Today, we change the game. We must change the game," Roy Roberts, the executive committee chairman of Michigan's newly-minted Educational Achievement System, said on Monday. "It's not about blaming the past, or our teachers or educators, who in nearly all cases are trying their level best to get the job done, in some cases under trying situations. We have great people working in broken systems."

Help is on the way for the debt-ridden, underperforming Detroit Public School System. Gov. Rick Snyder, R-MI launched the Educational Achievement System, a new partnership between DPS and Eastern Michigan University, at a press conference with Roberts at one of Detroit's success stories, Renaissance High School. The new authority will oversee a "statewide school district with a focus on improvement of underperforming schools," Roberts said. It's designed to help the bottom 5% of schools improve both student performance and the effective use of school funds.

During the 2011-2012 school year, underperforming schools will be tasked with trying to improve within the Detroit system, but those that fail will be moved into the Educational Achievement System for 2012-2013, Roberts said. If and when schools improve, they will be allowed to return to their local district, if they wish, or they could stay under the auspices of the Educational Achievement System, Roberts said.

Gov. Snyder said he hopes to expand the program throughout Michigan.

"If you look at it statewide, only 16% of our kids are college-ready and that's absolutely unacceptable," the governor said. "We need to focus on a new way of doing things, and how we can do that more effectively. For Detroit to be successful, it depends on successful schools. For Michigan to be successful, it depends on a successful Detroit, so we're all in this together and we're going to make this happen as a team."

Roberts has a dual role in the process, running the new authority, while simultaneously maintaining his duties as the DPS Emergency Manager.

DPS is $327 million in debt, Roberts said, and almost half the money the system spends doesn't directly help students. Snyder said currently, about 55% of school funds go to the classroom, and one goal of the Educational Achievement System is to up that figure to about 95%.

The state plans to expand the program into a wide-ranging public-private partnership, with multiple benefactors.

"It's time for us to make a commitment to those kids. So, what I'm announcing today is we're launching a major initiative to go raise funds and resources from the business community, the philanthropic community, the foundation community," Snyder said.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who appeared at the press conference via teleconference, said the whole community has a vested interest in the program succeeding.

"We're not fighting just to save children and save the public school system, We're fighting to save the city of Detroit," Duncan said.

Detroit has shuttered dozens of public schools in the past two years. Roberts said in a city that's still home to 45 of 92 Michigan schools identified as consistently low-achieving, and where roughly 80% of high schools failed to produce a single college-ready graduate, he won't let the status quo stand.

For Roberts, the quest is personal.

"Every time I walk through these several communities and I see little brown, black and white kids not being properly educated, I see myself as a child. So, this is really important. This is life's work, as far as I'm concerned."

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soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Jim Davis

    As a Student that was failing in gradeschool, when my Dad got my report card he arranged a meeting with my Teachers and gathered all the details, and the lesson plan. He gave up his own time, and mine and put me to the grindstone. He told me he would let up when I was able to PROVE I could succeed by my GRADES. My life was extremely uncomfortable, both on and off untill I figured out it was easier to do the work myself. I not only learned discipline, I used that "Skill" to Graduate from College, pay off my Student Loan ONTIME ( 10 Years ) and worked my way up the ladder of Success. Losers are those who REFUSE to suffer and sacrifice for themselves, and then again for their Children. THATS THE WAY IT IS, LEARN IT OR FAIL. THE CHOICE IS YOURS.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Don

    I've been teaching only four years, but the problem seems very clear to me. There is a breakdown in our social values. I'm not saying there are not bad teachers or bad schools, because there certainly are. But when there is no support in student's homes and children are not being taught the value of education there, in the home, schools become holding tanks for kids during the day. The only solution is to empower the system with more authority to decide what these kids are going to do and more alternative schools to get their lives on track and instill better self-discipline. If it needs to be done military-style, so be it. Either that or hold parents responsible, not teachers.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat2u

      That's what the biggest problem is Don. They took the authority away from the teachers. Now the students that are there only to be disruptive, have a free hand. That is the worst thing they ever did.

      June 20, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I have told many of my pupils, who need to look good for the stage, that it is not easy to lose weight. One weighed about 400 pounds and couldn't understand why she was not cast when she had a great voice.
    I tell the truth: "it's very painful to lose weight."
    It's also very hard work to make good grades in school.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bobcat2u

    I was born and raised in Detroit. Back in sixties they had an excellent school sytem. The teachers really cared about their students. There has always been the minority in the classrooms that were only there because they had to be, but for the ones there to learn the education was there for the taking. Now I don't know wether to blame the system or the students or both. I lean more towards both. A great deal of the teachers I've dealt with over my childrens years in school, have not impress me with their credentials. A few of them admitted to me that were really not much more than teaching assitants. I guess it goes back to YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. If they would get all those thug students under control, maybe the teachers wouldn't be so afraid and the schools would be able to entice good teachers back in. They have a system in Detroit that makes trouble students attend behind locked doors. ( I'm refering to juvenile hall .)

    June 20, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy

    I CAN tell you one thing: when teachers are not allowed to control their classroom, the students who do NOT care will cause chaos; the students who want to learn cannot because of an untenable situation. This is part of what my daughter endures; this is one of my biggest frustrations.

    June 20, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat2u

      EXACTOMUDO banasy. When they took the power of disipline away from the teachers, that was all she wrote. Back in my days, if I got in trouble at school, first I would catch from the principle, and then I'd get a second dose at home. Ahhh !!! The good ole days !!! LOL

      June 20, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      Reading what bobcat wrote, plus this post, I can say that is exactly the problem. I don't recall any students from my high school days doing NOTHING (that was only 20 years ago) or causing, literally, whole-class disruptions. There were lazy students and ones who talked or passed notes, but if the teacher had to "send someone to the office", they didn't come back that day. The consequences of getting kicked out of class were harsh, starting with calling the parent(s) to come pick their kid up from school. If it continued, kids got suspended. At least in my school district, administration does not do that. There is absolutely NO responsibility placed on students and parents. Some then turn around and say that the teacher cannot control the classroom or that it is their fault somehow. Think back to when you were 16 and ask if you would make the right decisions if given the choice. Most would probably NOT do homework and NOT behave. There are simply no real consequences for these behaviors any more.

      June 20, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat2u

      Don, I really do not envy your position as a teacher. What kind of area do have teach in ? Hopefully it's not a hood.

      June 20, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Detroiter

    Being born and raised in Detroit, I learned through experience and from plenty of setbacks. A lot of Detroit kids are raised in homes that don’t value education and they become more street smart using their common sense instead of education to survive. They get distracted by their environment which tells them that education is not important “NOW, TO TAKE A SHORT CUT” .Not only just Detroit but other urban or inner city teachers have to develop a different learning style for inner city kids. These children want to know how to make money NOW to survive and how to obtain more money in the long run. Teachers need to associate the different learning subjects to everyday life. Inner city kids need to know why they need Algebra, Calculus or even English.

    Teachers should have them role play for fun sometimes in class so the kids can visualize themselves doing these things, giving them scenarios of everyday situations and how to solve them or go about them. Encouraging them to stay focused because if they don’t, they will be setback or lose interest these careers. They need to stay surrounded in these career fields to keep them interested and motivated. Explaining the importance of studying and reading over and over again until it becomes second nature. Life is full of pain, struggles and hurts but life goes on regardless. Explaining the importance of being knowledgeable and doing their job correctly so they can help others obtain their goals. Explaining that this is reality and if they don’t do these things, they will start continually break the law and commit crimes. And also they should develop a habit of praying to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking him for help, strength and forgiveness.

    Kids absolutely need English skills to do anything in life. A person can’t accomplish anything in life without having the skills to read, write, listen, speak and communicate effectively.

    For instance students need Algebra (basic math) to get a job as a marketing manager, business manager, chemist, biologist, middle school or high school math teacher, drafter, engineer, carpenter, some plumbing jobs, architect, dentist, doctor, pharmacist, nurse, geologist, financial planner, civil engineer, artillery gunner, and geographic information systems technician, mechanics, tile layers, business executives, etc.

    Calculus (higher math) they can get a jobs in Management occupations, etc.

    1 Praise the LORD.Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise? 3 Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right. 4 Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, 5 that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise. (Psalm 106:1-5)

    June 21, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  7. Riff*Raff

    They didn't even mention the drop out rate. A study was conducted a few years ago using Detroit public schools as the primary focus. It found 75% of blacks and 50% of whites drop out before graduation-usually by the 10th grade. That's a 66% dropout avg. That is a sad statistic, especially given Detroit has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Foreclosures are through the roof and you can buy a house in Detroit proper for $7k. These numbers are horrific. The scariest part is these kids are the future of this country. 80% that do graduate couldn't even get into college if they wanted to. Where are these kids going to work or live with that type of education?
    A year to fix their school's issues doesn't seem plausible, but I'm glad there seems to be a plan in place to address the issues.

    June 21, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • bobcat2u

      After I graduated from the Detroit school system in the sixties, which by the way at that time was an excellent educational system, even in the inner city areas where I attended, I did an eight year stint in the army. This was an excellent opportunity for me to see other areas and explore new options. After my service, I went back to Detroit for one last try. Big mistake. The deterioration of the city was saddening. I moved my family to the deep south after a year of fruitless toiling. The education my children received in Mississippi, was excellent. That sounds surprising doesn't it? But contrary to popular belief, Mississippi does have a good system. All my children are now very successful. This would not have happened if we remained in Detroit. It took a lot of years to tear the school system down, and will take many years to rebuild it. Good Luck Detroit !!!!!!!!!

      June 21, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. Stephan wagner

    I just keep on wondering when Washington will concrentrate on the problems within the US.
    It is disgustribg to see how big cities are in decay, Detroit is just one o them.
    How can you americans live with that?
    How can you tolerate that?
    How can you watch cnn news about drugaddicts in L.A, in every major city, the crimerate etc etc?
    What is wrong with you?
    Why are you supporting another war you already have lost, Afghanistan?
    When will you ever learn that nobody, nobody, will thank you for all your effors and dyibg abroad. the russians?
    Forget it.
    Get your tibg together and make USA a great nation again.
    Many regards,
    Stephan w

    June 23, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Stephan wagner

    Sorry for missprint, tough to write on new ipad?..

    June 23, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
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