By Christopher Raab
A few weeks back, I attended a meeting at the Fox Theatre with about 4000 Diffs, a number big enough to take on a problem caused by generations of In-Diffs—the people who have looked the other way at the terrible expense of Detroit’s school kids.
Today, Christmas Eve, I read in the Free Press about an over crowding problem in the public school system brought about by budget-driven school closings and the loss of over 800 retiring teachers last year that has led to class rooms sizes of 50 or more students per instructor in some cases.
K-12 age kids who have to stand all the way out the door and into the hall or who have to sit on the floor if they lost the scramble just to get a seat; teachers who can’t begin to get the throng of students quiet enough to effectively follow their lesson plans and get their points across. Kids who have been shuffled about so often by class consolidations that they are being assigned a blanket “P” for pass on report cards because no one in charge has enough records on them or can build enough rapport to measure what they have learned. A “P”, by the way, that is a meaningless grade for admission to college.
This on top of year-ago news that most Detroit Public Schools’ fourth- and eighth-graders were unable to score at a basic math level on a national test this year — turning in the lowest performance in the history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the testing body. The examples cited in the Freep pointed out that just one of three of DPS fourth-graders, could correctly subtract 75 from 301, given a choice of three answers; and that only one in three DPS students tested could figure out the likelihood of pulling a green pencil without looking if 4 of 15 pencils are green.
And, this on top of a national report released last year by Editorial Projects in Education, a nonprofit that publishes the journal Education Week which projected the DPS high school graduation rate to be around 26 percent—the worst of the nation’s top 50 cities.
OMG what do we do about this?! Does everybody see the crisis at hand? The crazy-wonderful idea of Webward, only a decade away, will need the people living just east and west of the avenue to flourish. It will need to develop the potential of all those smart city kids to be fully realized.
2020, the way we talked about it at the Fox, will take 20/20—the clear vision that can not only spot opportunity, but see how others can be made to see as well.
So, OMG what do we do about this?! Get involved. The Detroit Free Press, at the behest of emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, has put together a Reading Corps initiative that provides instruction on tutoring Detroit school children and hooks you up with books, kids and a classroom. You can also donate to the project. Check it out at http://detroitk12.org/readingcorps .
If you have a four year degree (you don’t need a teaching certificate) you can substitute teach. Go to http://detroitk12.org/ for info. Do the “write” thing”. Tell Lansing about your concern and support people who share them.
Finally, get your prepositions right. Start seeing yourself as from Detroit and of Detroit and not just in Detroit. I think the 2020 Dan Gilbert was talking about calls for a mindset change. Webward will come about when we stop saying to people we meet in other airports that we are from Greater Detroit and start saying we are from great Detroit.