Michigan's Education Issues Will Be Resolved in Michigan. Not Washington, DC.

By Brian L. Love

We all have spent alot of time observing Betsy Devos's nomination hearings for Secretary of Education. And we should. But, we must remember that most of the political weight and power that will affect change (whether good or bad) in Michigan is at the state level. Right here at home. 

With a Republican governor in his final term of office and the state House and Senate are strongly controlled by Republicans, there is a chance for them to complete their education agendas before the next gubernatorial campaign kicks in. Conservative analysts have mentioned that this legislature will be more conservative than last year's legislative term. 

The MI State Superintendent of Education, Brian Whiston. Is working with various education, business and community groups who are focused on accountability and assessments for Michigan schools that everyone feels good will fit our diverse state. 

Please read Edtrust Midwest's CEO, Amber Arellano's article in Bridge Magazine. She discusses what to look for In Michigan. While we are all focused on the transitions in DC. Links: http://www.bridgemi.com/guest-commentary/education-proposals-year-could-further-harm-michigan-students

#EdtrustMidwest #MIEducation #NAACP #DetChamber

Michigan Should Do Better by Students and Families Or Let Someone Do the Work to Support Families During These Closings

By Bernita Bradley

Another week, and another blow dealt to Michigan’s students and families as a list of 38 possible school closures was released by the School Reform Office (SRO). Recent legislation charges this state agency with releasing a list of persistently failing schools recommended for closure (although there’s some debate about when that should start here). And over the next 30 to 45 days, the SRO will decide which of the 38 schools will close as well as which won’t because no better options are available to families.

The SRO put out a list of schools--with no information for students, families, school staff or community members as to the next steps, how to define hardship, and didn’t offer transparency around how exactly hardships will be determined.

However, the SRO did speak of a vision for "every kid in Michigan to have access to a globally competitive education."

Access? Globally competitive education? And better options? That all sounds nice. And who would disagree? But a closure list with no community input and no resources for families upends the school community and undermines the ability of every kid to have access to this vision.

As someone with experience in applying to schools in and around Detroit the last 20 years I can say with certainty that 30 to 45 days from now, many higher performing schools will have completed their first application window and parents from closing schools will be on waiting lists.

It is sad that parents have to play such a waiting game. When will they know? It takes time for families to find another school. And even if a family finds a school they would like to attend, will there be seats available, will they be accepted?

All of this takes support, too. Parents need to visit schools, make sure they have all the appropriate documents to apply, meet all necessary deadlines and ensure they are enrolled and not on a waitlist by the end of the school year. While this may sound simple, many families in Detroit struggle to understand the overly complicated school system, and the many different school processes.

Without certainty about their school status, and without resources to access quality schools--practically and theoretically--we set our parents up to be in schools no better than now. Have we not learned from past school closings that our families deserve to be treated better than this?

I wonder how many families who saw the possible school closure list are right now planning to flee their current school. Many will run to schools that in the coming days that try to recruit students before the February count day, to boost their budgets. Families unsure of where their school will stand come June will move their children, not even knowing if the school is a right fit for them or their family--or if their current school is actually going to close.

If these schools are going to close, we need to know now so that families can make better choices. 

I think of Kenya Tubbs whose daughter attends one of the schools on the list. Kenya fought for years to make sure her daughter, who has a cognitive impairment, has a stable, loving, caring and suitable school that provides the service required by her IEP. Driving across town into a neighborhood where she doesn't live to assure her child is happy. And, she is.

Now, where does she go? How does long will it take for her to find the same supports, or for her daughter to adjust? Not Fair! Not Fair at all!

I know families who go to most of these schools on the list, and they will struggle to leave those schools and will scramble for a seat somewhere else. Or cross city borders to schools that may not even be a better choice.  

What is the plan for these families? What supports are in place for the ELL, overage youth, homeless and foster children? Who will ensure that they, along with the other estimated 9,000-plus students affected, are supported?

For the last year I have worked as the Outreach Manager for Enroll Detroit, a free service for families that offers enrollment support from birth to college. Since last May, our trained team worked with students and families at Phoenix Multicultural Academy, Experiencia, Allen Academy and University Yes Academy, when they were closed last year.  

From those experiences, we know there is a better way to announce such closures and account for the enrollment needs of the families who will be impacted by these decisions. Parents deserve more than generic press releases and announcements sent home in their children’s book bags letting them know whether their school will close this year.

Those in authority should get familiar with the impact of such decisions and the fallout they will have on families. Maybe they should have spoken to some of the thousands of students and families who over the last 25 years have been impacted by schools opening and closing overnight. If they are truly concerned about wanting “all kids to have a good life after high school” then perhaps they should do better by them now.  

To do better after high school, you first have to know if you will be able to attend high school. Right now, our students and families should be focused on doing well academically. Yet too many children and their parents are now sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to see what will become of the school, teachers and academic communities that has been identified as a failing school.

Detroit definitely has work to do on improving school quality for kids. When the School Reform Office announces a list of school closures with the intention of closing persistently failing schools, we acknowledge that some turnaround plans and closures may be necessary. However, when that office offers a list with no plan to transition families to higher performing schools, it’s the state that has failed.

Everyone involved and who will be affected by such decisions deserves more respect, transparency and accountability from those who are pulling the strings in our state’s capitol. It is the least they could do.

Signed "Doing the Work"   #Voices4Ed #Schoolclosures #Education

While You View Betsy Devos's Confirmation Hearing......Check These Michigan Education Points

By Brian L. Love

Now that the Trump inauguration follies are over. I hope you have been following the new set of follies. The confirmation hearings for President Trump's nominees. So far, the most divisive hearing has been Betsy Devos's Senate committee hearing. 

Bellwether Education Partners has pulled together a report on Michigan's current education climate. Take a look and you decide if these facts effect your thoughts on the Secretary of Education nominee or are they "alternate facts." Bellwether put together some very good information on Michigan's education climate for you to look at and discuss with family and friends as we wonder where education is going in our nation 

Please read and tell us what you think @DSchoolsRock. Or on Facebook at Detroit Schools Rock. Here is the link: http://bellwethereducation.org/publication/Michigan-Education-Policy-Fact-Base

#Voices4Ed #Education

Saying Goodbye to Larry Patrick, Jr. A True Education Reformer

By Brian L. Love

This has been a somber week for me. Not because President Obama is in his final days as president. Not because Donald Trump will be sworn in as our next president. And not because of this week’s Senate confirmation hearings. All of that is weighing on me, but it’s not what’s heaviest at this very moment.

This week, family and friends celebrated the life and work of Lawrence C. Patrick, Jr. He passed away last week.

Larry was a unique person. A man among men. He was born and raised in Detroit. A graduate of Detroit Public Schools. He went on to graduate from Wayne State University and Harvard Law School. With these accomplishments you would think he would take his resume and go to Washington, D.C., New York or Los Angeles. But he came back home to start his career and improve his community.

Larry Patrick believed in education for everyone and empowering Detroit youth to succeed. Although he was a successful and passionate attorney, his true passion was working to improve educational opportunities for Detroit’s children. In 1989, Larry formed the HOPE campaign slate and ran for the Detroit School Board. And won!

With Larry leading the way as board president, these school board members went on to implement some of Detroit Public Schools’ most significant reforms. After his time with the DPS board, he continued to work to improve education opportunities for Detroit’s youth.

As a president of the board of a traditional public school district, he was passionate about school choice. During his time on the board and for the rest of his life he supported parents having the right to choose the school their children attended. He supported local control and empowering principals to manage their schools. Instead of school administrators from their ivory towers.

Larry spent much of his time developing relationships and forming teams to work together. He believed in the concept of bringing people together to work to secure an ideal. His power was as a consensus-broker, a person who brought people of diverse and opposing positions together to solve a problem.

Who else could accomplish this, but a Black man who was a card-carrying Republican--who would become an elected official in a Democratic city. He was the type of Republican who received endorsements from Democratic organizations when he ran for office. Who else can you say that about?

Larry Patrick mentored and empowered Black youth to grow and succeed. And when they did succeed, he showed them how to empower others to grow and continue the work of improving our community and Detroit’s schools.

The Larry “effect” hit home for me last year as we worked together on the 2016 DPS board elections. He was available day or night to discuss and work through any problem. While he helped me solve issues, he would continually be planting the seeds of what was next.

And “next” was always developing a plan to empower me to focus on improving education in Detroit. And to do it by bringing people with diverse views to the table to develop a consensus to solve the problem. That is harder than it sounds.

I can tell you now from experience, this task starts off very difficult. But Larry showed me the importance of working the plan to get to the end goal. Whether it was working on last year’s crucial DPS legislation at the state Capitol or the DPS board elections--and whether he agreed with me or not--I could always sit with him, have an honest conversation and talk it through.

Larry would help me focus on working the problem, not fighting the problem. He taught me you get more with honey then vinegar. Anybody who knows me, knows that I’m good with the vinegar. But Larry believed that relationships and trust are important. He believed in the power of a committee or group to work together to reach a goal or an ideal.

This week at his memorial service at Perfecting Church in Detroit, two former Michigan governors lauded his work. Former Governors John Engler and Jennifer Granholm. One a Republican. The other a Democrat. Ironically, they both shared the same praise for this man. A man who brought people with opposing views together to solve a common problem.

We need that institutional knowledge today as we fight to bring people together to improve Detroit’s schools, so our children can grow and succeed. To teach the next generation the importance of community and the pride we have as Detroiters. That is what Larry fought and worked for everyday. 

That is how is how we fight to improve education in Detroit. That is how we support the legacy of Lawrence C. Patrick, Jr. #Voices4Ed #Schoolchoice #Education


I Guess If You Are Going To Be Education Secretary......You May Want To Know The Law

By Brian L. Love

How big a problem is it that at a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday night Michigan’s Betsy DeVos, who is President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. education secretary, did not seem to know that federal law protects students with disabilities? 

This column is reprinted with permission from Laura Waters, who writes about education policy in New York and New Jersey at New York School Talk and New Jersey Left Behind


How big a problem is it that at a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday night Michigan’s Betsy DeVos, who is President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. education secretary, did not seem to know that federal law protects students with disabilities? 

Take a read. Let us know what you think on Twitter @DSchoolsRock. Or sound off on our FB page at Detroit Schools Rock.