Educators Strive For Improvement In Detroit Schools

Founded in 1842, the Detroit Schools are one of the nation’s largest public school systems. The Detroit Schools’ system is a district of choice, and is open to children who live outside the city. The district offers numerous academic and career/ technical programs. Among these programs are: the Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School (the only one of its kind in Michigan), Davis Aerospace (one of only a handful of schools in the country where students can obtain a pilot’s license), multiple award winning performing arts high schools, Detroit School of the Arts, and Crockett Technical High School (is a digital technology school).

The Detroit Schools consist of 232 schools; 147 elementary schools, 31 middle schools, 28 high schools, 12 special education schools, 10 adult education schools, and 4 vocational education schools. Approximately 143,490 students attend Detroit Schools. Student/teacher ratio in grades K-3 is 17:1. Detroit Schools have a “minority-majority” population; 91% of students are African American, 5% are Hispanic, 3% are White, 0.8% are Asian, and 0.3% are Native American. The Detroit Schools cover a geographical area that is 138.8 square miles and serves a city population of 951,270 people.

Several issues are currently being debated in the Detroit Schools. Among them are student achievement, as measured by the Michigan Educations Assessment Program, or MEAP, debate over lifting the Charter School cap, and shrinking student populations.

A recent study on how the Detroit Schools’ students are doing show that students have improved their reading and math scores since a federal program (No Child Left Behind) began pushing for academic progress. The report found that students’ performance in Detroit Schools increased in reading and math at both the elementary and middle school levels. More students showed a higher proficiency in reading than in math. The study examined 5 years of test, race, poverty and other student data.

Debate over charter schools is hot. Proponents of the schools, such as Daniel L. Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, said that “students make significant progress academically once they enroll in a charter school.” Detroit Schools’ District Interim Superintendent Lamont Satchel recently issued the following statement regarding a proposal to bring 25 new charter schools to Detroit: “The Detroit Public Schools system remains the best educational option for children in this city. We offer a richer variety of academic and extra-curricular options than both charter schools and neighboring public school systems. Above all, we vastly outperform charter schools in the city on standardized examinations.” The rich variety of Detroit Schools includes many different programs, ranging from performing arts, technology, media arts, commerce, finance, and, aviation.

Another issue that Detroit Schools are facing is a shrinking student population. Over the past 10 years, the district has lost more than 60,000 students. Much of this loss is due to the city’s declining population and shrinking birth rates, but a lot has been attributed to “poaching” from charter schools and neighboring public school systems. “This is a critical year for the [Detroit School] District,” said Lamont Satchel, Esq. “While we continue to face declining enrollment we must also confront the possibility of cuts in per pupil funding. …But we know that these problems are not insurmountable. We can overcome these challenges. And we shall overcome.”

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