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Statement from The Education Trust-Midwest on the U.S. Dept. of Education´┐Żs Teacher Equity Strategy

Today U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced his intention to focus new energy on the problem of unequal access to quality teachers. Congress first outlawed this practice in 2002.  But that provision of federal law has mostly been ignored. 
“We hope today’s action provides Michigan a fresh opportunity to do better on this issue at the state and district level,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest.  “For too long, our tendency to assign the strongest teachers disproportionately to our most advantaged students has compromised the futures of millions of low-income students and students of color.”
Research tells us why this issue is so important to students of color and low-income children:
      *According to a national survey of teachers, core classes in our nation’s high-poverty schools are twice as likely to be taught by out-of-field teachers as are classes in low-poverty schools.  ? 
      *Researchers found that in Washington State, disadvantaged students get less than their fair share of the strongest teachers, regardless of the measure used.? 
      *An Ed Trust—West analysis shows that in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Latino and African-American students are two to three times more likely to have low-performing teachers than their white and Asian peers.
“As long as these teacher quality gaps persist, we will never achieve our national values of equity and opportunity for all Americans,” Arellano said. “Thankfully, these gaps are not inevitable. Michigan leaders and school districts can take steps to get strong teachers to the low-income students and students of color who need and deserve them.”
Arellano added: “It’s important to note Michigan’s on-going work to improve teacher evaluation practices, teacher preparation, and licensure.  They are necessary and important, though it is not enough.  They are first steps toward raising the quality of the teaching profession, but they will not ensure that students of color and low-income students get more of the strongest teachers. That will only happen with targeted action that expects, prioritizes, and removes barriers to equitable access.”
Some states and districts are already leading the way and can serve as exemplars.
      *Through their Strategic Staffing Initiative, the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School District has been working for years to get especially strong principals and teachers to its highest poverty schools. ? 
      *In partnership with Teach Plus, Boston Public Schools and the District of Columbia Public Schools are working to attract and retain strong teachers to the lowest performing schools by providing opportunities for shared decision-making and career growth through formal teacher leadership roles.? 
      * Florida prohibits districts from disproportionately assigning poorly performing and out-of-field teachers to the lowest performing schools. 

Deborah Veney Robinson, vice president for government affairs at The Education Trust, said:
“These states and districts haven’t yet solved the problem of equitable access – but they’ve moved in the right direction by asserting responsibility and taking action. Done well, the Department’s teacher equity strategy can make this kind of leadership the rule rather than the exception. The nation’s low-income students and students of color have already waited far too long for action.”  
 “To be sure, there are outstanding teachers in every community and every school,” Robinson added. “But the evidence is clear: any way the data are analyzed — by teacher experience, content knowledge, churn, absenteeism, or effectiveness at growing student learning — low-income students and students of color get less than their white, more affluent peers.”
The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan's only state-wide, non-partisan education research, information and advocacy organization focused on what is best for Michigan students. Our mission is to work for the high achievement of all students, particularly low-income, African-American, Latino and American-Indian students in Michigan, and to provide honest, reliable education information and expertise to our state's families and policymakers.

Editorial: Lawmakers need to finish work on grading teachers

Three years after the Legislature called for the creation of a statewide model for evaluating teachers and administrators, lawmakers are still a ways from realizing that goal. Crafting such a blueprint takes significant effort, but this is something the state needs to finish soon.

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YOUTH VOICE members leave Harriet Tubman Center after 80-mile walk for education to start YouthVoice

The youth members who were involved with the program YOUTH VOICE, a project of the Harriet Tubman Center, have started a new organization. Over 30 youth, with the support of adults, created YouthVoice AdultAllies (YVAA), an organization for young people fighting for educational justice and supported by adult allies. The organization will be a first of its kind with an infrastructure where only youth are paid staff in the organization.

“Now that we have our own organization,” said Trevon Stapleton, junior at Cody High School, recent President of YOUTH VOICE and a founder of YVAA. “we have 100% control over what we do and the ability to partner with all organizations we want. I think we are at our greatest potential because we decide how we address the School to Prison Pipeline and luckily we have adults supporting us.”

The founding members of YouthVoice AdultAllies recently organized and participated in an 80-mile walk from Detroit to Lansing to advocate for a modification of zero tolerance policies and alternatives to suspensions. Members in YVAA received national attention and through a partnership with the Director for the Department of Human Services Maura Corrigan and the Michigan Board of Education, YVAA leadership believes legislation will be introduced to modify zero tolerance and stop suspensions for minor offenses like truancy in the upcoming months.

Kyle Guerrant from The Michigan Department of Education says an over-reliance to suspend and expel students for non-violent behavior creates significant barriers to learning, and increases the likelihood of academic failure, and students dropping out of the educational system all together.

“The youth in YVAA have support from many community allies and we know legislation will be introduced soon so our plan is to continue working with Michigan leaders to ensure we reserve the 180-day expulsion for only the most serious offenses, support schools to create alternatives to suspensions like restorative practices, and stop suspensions for truancy and uniform violations,” says Kayla Mason, YVAA adult member.

To learn about upcoming meetings and how you can get involved, visit Facebook.com/YVxAA.

YouthVoice AdultAllies is an organization for young people fighting for educational justice and supported by adult allies. Visit www.YouthVoiceAdultAllies.org for more information. 

Every school deserves a high-quality literacy program


A new study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation reports the very disturbing information that only 31 percent of all Michigan students and only 19 percent of low-income students are reading proficiently in fourth grade in 2013.

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GreatSchoolsDetroit.org serves as a resource to help Detroit parents make school choices

Navigating the education landscape in Detroit is a complex endeavor as parents and caregivers have hundreds of school options to consider in trying to find the best fit for their child’s education needs. GreatSchoolsDetroit.org, produced by Excellent Schools Detroit in partnership with GreatSchools, gives Detroit families the tools they need to make a quality school choice.
GreatSchools is the leading national source of school performance information for parents, reaching 52 million unique visitors and 50 percent of American families with children.
“The GreatSchoolsDetroit.org website is a collaboration of Excellent Schools Detroit’s localized Scorecard data and GreatSchools national ratings,” said Dan Varner, chief executive officer, Excellent Schools Detroit. “Not only will parents have the apples-to-apples comparison across a multitude of measures in our Scorecard, but they’ll also see how the local schools rate on a national scale through GreatSchools’ score.”
When visiting GreatSchoolsDetroit.org, users can view in-depth school profiles, read and write reviews of schools, compare schools across a multitude of measures and criteria and find schools near their community. The innovative site contains data from hundreds of Detroit schools, ranging from early childhood learning centers to public, charter, and private elementary and high schools.
“Excellent Schools Detroit’s in-depth knowledge of and data on Detroit education environments and their deep connections with schools, community groups and parent organizations provides the localized insights that parents need,” said Bill Jackson, chief executive officer, GreatSchools. “Excellent Schools Detroit is the ideal partner for GreatSchools, because both organizations are committed to bringing parents the robust information they need to make great school choices.”
GreatSchoolsDetroit.org is designed as a mobile-friendly site, for easy access from smartphones and tablets as well as computers.
Excellent Schools Detroit re-launched its Scorecard in August 2013 with in-depth, side-by-side comparison of Detroit schools along a multitude of measures, including academic performance, academic progress and school climate. The organization recommends parents and students select schools graded C+ or better because these schools will generally prepare students for success in college, career and community.
In 2013, GreatSchools began building partnerships with local community organizations and city groups to bring the best school information and tools to families. These partnerships combine the local knowledge and relationships of community partners with the national media and technology platform of GreatSchools. GreatSchools Detroit is the first new partnership to launch. 
About Excellent Schools Detroit
Excellent Schools Detroit was formed in 2010 by a coalition of philanthropic, education, community and civic leaders with an important mission: an excellent education for every Detroit child, from cradle to career, by 2020. To that end, Excellent Schools Detroit produces an annual Scorecard, which grades schools across a multitude of excellence measures, to help Detroit parents and community make an informed school choice. The organization convenes individuals and organizations across multiple sectors as the Detroit community collectively works to achieve excellence in education.
About GreatSchools
Founded in 1998, GreatSchools is a national nonpartisan nonprofit that helps millions of parents find great schools, support great learning, and guide their kids to great futures. The Webby award-winning website, GreatSchools.org, is the nation’s leading guide to preK-12 schools, with profiles of about 200,000 public, public charter, and private schools and more than one million ratings and reviews by parents, teachers, and students. In addition, GreatSchools offers thousands of articles, videos, and worksheets to help parents support their children’s learning. Last year, GreatSchools had 52 million unique visitors, including more than half of all U.S. families with school-age children. Headquartered in Oakland, California, GreatSchools has local programs and offices in Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Washington, DC.

Opting Out of Testing: A Rising Tide for States and Districts?


As states grapple with the huge task of building new testing regimens to reflect the common core, they are having to turn some of their attention to fending off a growing number of parents who want their children to skip the tests.

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Lake County's "promise" to make college affordable for low-income families


College is expensive. For some families, it’s prohibitively expensive. Several school districts are trying to follow the Kalamazoo Promise model by offering students money to help cover tuition costs, including one such "promise" in rural northern Michigan's Lake County.

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Go Here: Excellent Schools Detroit Releases Citywide List of Top 20 K-12 Schools

Excellent Schools Detroit today released its list of the top-performing kindergarten through eighth-grade schools, recommending parents send their children to these schools this coming school year. Excellent Schools Detroit also released the eight schools at the bottom of the barrel that parents should avoid. These rankings are based only on this year’s and year- over-year performance on the Michigan standardized test, the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP).

School leaders from 181 Detroit schools opted into Excellent Schools Detroit’s school quality review this year, including all of Detroit Public Schools, all Education Achievement Authority schools, 56 charters and 15 private and parochial schools. As that additional data is gathered from the school quality review, both the top and bottom lists will be updated.

To determine these rankings, Excellent Schools Detroit reviewed this year’s MEAP performance and year over year MEAP performance of 126 kindergarten through eighth-grade schools. The 31 new or turnaround kindergarten through eighth-grade schools in Detroit were not included in the analysis, as the study considered performance changes over time. Excellent Schools Detroit will release similar results for high school performance later this spring.

“In order for the education of our children to move forward in Detroit, we need to leave some schools behind. If your child is in one of these bottom eight schools, you should move them to one of the top 20,” said Dan Varner, CEO of Excellent Schools Detroit. “Excellent Schools Detroit is committed to keeping our community informed about the quality of Detroit’s schools so that more kids go to better schools.”

Detroiters should note that this year 88% of Detroit’s kindergarten through eighth-grade schools schools showed improvement from last year. Twelve of the top performers are operated by DPS, seven are charter schools and one private school are amongst the top performers. Thirkell Elementary School, a general admission DPS school, was the top performer, citywide. All of these schools also participated in Excellent Schools Detroit’s school quality review process.

"Our young people are the future and we want them to attend the highest quality schools," said Tonya Allen, COO of The Skillman Foundation. "Central to this is making sure that our neighborhoods are thriving and full of great educational opportunities like those found in the top 20 list for kindergarten-through-eighth-grades released by Excellent Schools Detroit." Allen will become CEO of The Skillman Foundation in July.

Sharlonda Buckman, CEO of Detroit Parent Network agrees, stating “parents deserve transparency in the great or poor performance of schools as they make one of the most important decisions they are faced with each year: "where do I send my kids to school"? The Excellent Schools Detroit scorecard provides a tool to help parents in the process; however, as we lift up the best performing schools, we recognize that for some parents, these high- performing schools are a distant dream because transportation and safety issues remain a barrier.”

Buckman also states “The scorecard is a great start and simultaneous to this, we must ask more of the collective community to continue the fight for more high quality schools and eliminate the barriers that cripple real choice.”

Go here: Top 20 best-performing K-8 schools in Detroit

Central Detroit
-  Thirkell Elementary School
-  Davison Elementary School

-  Detroit Edison Public School Academy
-  University Prep Academy Middle School
-  University Prep Academy Elementary Mark Murray
-  University Prep Science and Math
-  Burton International School
-  Chrysler Elementary School
-  Detroit Merit Charter Academy

East Detroit
- Garvey Academy

Northeast Detroit
-  Oakland International Academy K-8
-  Cornerstone Nevada Primary and Middle School

Northwest Detroit
-  Pasteur Elementary School
-  Vernor Elementary School
-  Bates Academy

Southwest Detroit
-  Clippert Academy
-  Maybury Elementary School

West Detroit
-  Detroit Premier Academy
-  Charles Wright School
-  Dixon Elementary School

“The Detroit community needs to know which schools are not delivering good results for our children,” said Varner. “Parents and guardians with children in any of the bottom schools should plan to send their kids somewhere else next school year.” Varner recommends those parents consider any of the schools on the top 20 list.

Don’t go here: Eight worst-performing K-8 schools in Detroit

Central Detroit
- Allen Academy

- Voyageur Academy

East Detroit
-  Detroit Enterprise Academy
-  Commonwealth Community Development Authority

Southwest Detroit
-  Universal Academy
-  Pierre Toussaint Academy

West Detroit
-  Center for Literacy and Creativity
-  Michigan Technical Academy Elementary

In July, Excellent Schools Detroit will release its 2013 scorecard, ranking all schools attended by Detroit children, including early learning and development programs, kindergarten through eighth-grades and high schools. All schools graded as an “A” will meet the Excellent Schools Detroit standard of an excellent school: one that has 90% of its students on track to graduate on time, 90% of those students attending a quality post-secondary program and 90% of those entering that program without any need for remediation.

Excellent Schools Detroit cultivates the conditions to ensure that every Detroit child, cradle to career, is in an excellent school by 2020. Excellent Schools Detroit was formed in 2010 by partners from philanthropic, civic, business, nonprofit and education organizations. More information can be found at excellentschoolsdetroit.org. Last year’s scorecard is available at scorecard.excellentschoolsdetroit.org

Michigan, DPS make gains in graduation rates


"Michigan and the state's largest school district, Detroit Public Schools, recorded gains last year in the percentage of students graduating within four years, according to data released Wednesday.

'Statewide, graduation rates rose nearly 2 percentage points last year to 76.2 percent in Michigan's four-year high schools in the numbers issued by the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information.

'DPS gained even more, hiking its graduation rate for 2012 to 64.7 percent from 59.7 percent in 2011."

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USDA grant to help ramp up local foods in school districts

The Michigan Land Use Institute has long been a big backer of the idea that local food should be served in local schools. It seems that the USDA agrees with the organization, as they just gave them a two-year, $100,000 grand to help expand the local Farm to School program.

The grant allows MLUI to partner with eight local districts and area farmers to invest in cold storage and processing equipment to scale up local food procurement by the schools. It also allows MLUI to expand the farm to school activities that it currently operates in six schools.

The grant is going to make it easier for local schools to serve fruits and vegetables that are produced by local farmer across northern Michigan. The result will help local agriculture while teaching kids the importance of local food and healthy eating habits.

Additionally, food service directors have identified a need for washed, dried and bagged salad greens and cut vegetables, but the many farms in the region that typically grow vegetables don’t have the capacity or infrastructure to meet the needs of the region’s schools. The grant will help secure new, centrally located equipment for commercial-scale preparation, making it possible and more cost-effective for growers to scale up vegetable production to benefit schools.

The MLUI grant is one of 68 awarded by the USDA to organizations in 37 states and Washington, D.C., to connect schools with local agricultural producers. These are the first USDA Farm to School grants.

Writer: Sam Eggleston
Source: Michigan Land Use Institute

ACLU attorneys, state agree to Dec. 5. hearing in Right to Read lawsuit

"The ACLU of Michigan has until Dec. 5 to investigate whether the Highland Park School District is complying with a state law that requires individual intervention for students who aren’t reading at grade level.

'It’s part of a groundbreaking, class action “Right to Read” lawsuit the ACLU of Michigan has filed against the district and state."

Read more.

YMCA charter school stresses leadership and innovation

"Jataya is among the first students at a new K-5 charter school, Detroit Innovation Academy, opened last month by the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit through its Y Education Services charter management organization.

'Acclimating kindergarteners to technology is part of the curriculum, along with the expectation that each of the 153 students will graduate and attend college."

Read more.

Death To Education Reform

"Everyone loves education reform. President Obama loves it. Governor Romney loves it.

'The problem is that education reform as we currently understand it is, well, terrible.

'The debate is basically structured around how to structure teacher incentives so that they will get better results. Ten years ago, this was about linking pay to test scores, it was the era of No Child Left Behind, now remembered as insidious right-wing skullduggery even though the law was co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy. Now it appears that if you pay teachers to teach to the test they will do that, and further that this is too crude a metric because pupil progress is also affected by his environment, and how do you even define 'results', and so on. So now we’re talking about how to build a better model to get teachers to do their work better."

Read more.

Bright spots on the educational landscape

Michael Khoury, President of Detroit Cristo Rey High School, discusses the state of education in the city of Detroit and the role schools like Detroit Cristo Rey will play in the city's academic future.

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A Right to Read

The ACLU of Michigan has filed a "right to read" lawsuit on behalf of the over 970 students in the Hazel Park school district, a district in which 90 percent of the students, by eleventh grade, are not reading proficient and 100 percent are failing science and social studies. Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan, explains the lawsuit.

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