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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Filed under: Michigan
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    It's never a school system that is broken.
    It is the mentality of the pupils and those who sent them to the school.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    TEACHER: if you don't learn this material, you will not graduate, and then you will end up digging ditches or living in the poor house.
    * * *
    (Twenty years later)
    STUDENT: I'm glad I studied; I enjoy being rich.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jazzzzzzzz

    While you're at it Roy Roberts, tell Obama to fix the mess GW Bush left behind in education-No child left behind. What a joke.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. L. Ron Howard

    Where is FEMA when you need them?

    June 20, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    You're right about that, Jazzzzzzzz.
    "No Child Left Behind" is the opposite of our once functional concept of teaching.
    The current problem is largely based on a per-
    version of a William James concept that if the pupil hasn't learned, then the teacher hasn't taught.
    One of my finest teachers taught me that Henry James concept when I was about fifteen, but she did it with an explanation that the dynamic of teaching was complex.
    It IS the pupil's responsibility to learn. I learned in elementary school that a pupil who learns deserves to be called a student. Don't come at me with any "Webster tells us..." bulls-

    June 20, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy

    I concur.


    I disrespectfully disagree with your first post.

    There are many school districts that ARE broken, where it is indeed not always the mentality of parent and pupil who are at fault.

    I am a parent of one who keeps slipping through the cracks; whether it is administration apathy, lack of resources, or teacher apathy: I can assure you, though, it is neither my mentality or my daughter's that is at fault.

    Sometimes the school systems ARE broke, and I am living in one.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy


    Of course, I meant 'respectfully disagree'.
    I am a product of a public school.
    Forgive me.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Hi banasy:
    I respectfully and fondly continue to have a different POV from yours on this subject.
    Our discussion of it, in person, would take a long time.
    There are colleges and universities that cannot teach effectively in my field because their currently "received wisdom" is wrong. Aware students who challenge such teaching sometimes drop out of school, or study secretly outside the school (sometimes with me) while getting their degrees. Sometimes they graduate and then go elsewhere to learn.
    Never mind their burden of student loans.
    I maintain that I often learned in spite of bad teachers.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I didn't mind the "dis," banasy.
    I also graduated from a public high school.
    The mentality fostered in students was very different then, from all sources.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy


    I am not going to go into an explanation of what is wrong with my school system for reasons of brevity.
    Suffice it to say, there are some very, very fine teachers in our system.
    It is the system itself that's broken, not the teachers, and certainly not the students who have the sincere desire to learn, as my daughter does.
    It is the administration that's at fault in my system.
    Therefore, I took umbrage at your statement that

    "It’s NEVER a school system that is broken.It is the mentality of the pupils and those who sent them to the school."

    That is blanket statement that is rather offensive to me, and it is patently untrue in many situations.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ banasy:
    I retract the word "never," and I'll never say it again.
    I should have been more careful, and I'm not being sarcastic.

    June 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy


    You're a very decent person, Joey, and I respect you tremendously.
    Thank you.

    June 20, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. fernace

    Most of our public school districts are suffering funding cuts, laid off teachers & school closings. Alot of these actions have taken place this year, as too many GOP governors seem to feel education isn't a necessity! It seems this is a precursor to privatizing all schools, the way the Repubs want to do with everything that benefits middle class citizens! The problem with that is clear, those with $ get schooling & the rest are left without. A really bad move when we're already behind most industrialized nations in education (& various other areas, left for another discussion). I think it's up to citizens to change this backwards mindset of politicians, or vote them out!!

    June 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jim Davis

    @furnace. Throwing money at a broken system is what got us in this mess. The level of achievement is proportional to the PARENTAL effort invested in each of their Childrens education. Once again, losers blame others for their own failure to succeed.
    As long as Parents are willing to let their Child's education solely in the hands of others, they are also responsible for their Child's failure.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Debra

    DPS has been this way for years and it will take years to clean it up. I thank God my kids don't have to go there and if we did live in the Detriot area they would be going somewhere else.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
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