The Detroit exodus

“Charter schools mean suicide for public schools,” said Detroit’s new superintendent, Connie Calloway, at her first board meeting.

Calloway said Detroit Public Schools must get to the root of the persistent enrollment loss plaguing the 116,000-student district.

The district is losing about 10,000 students a year with many going to charters. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick wants to open 25 new charter schools in unused school sites.

She identified two immediate reasons: ongoing disputes the district faces and the desire of parents to have safe, clean and orderly schools.

“We have to think about the presence that we put forth to the media, to the state department, to the rest of the United States as a Detroit Public Schools community,” she said. “What is it that we are doing that causes us to drive families away?”

It might be running unsafe, dirty, disorderly schools in which few students excel academically.

Because of drop-outs and transfers to charter and suburban schools, only 25 percent of students who start ninth grade at a district-run Detroit high school will graduate from a district school four years later, estimates an Education Week survey. The state estimates that Detroit Public Schools’ graduation rate is 61 percent.

Via Edspresso.

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  1. “Charter schools mean suicide for public schools”…huh? Charter schools *are* public schools, albeit ones operating under a different managerial framework.

    Seems to me that it is highly inappropriate for a government employee to make public statements undercutting another part of the same government (or maybe even the same part–not sure how the charters are organized in that state)

    Rough analogy: the executive in charge of one GE business, pissed off about the investment and glory going to another GE business, says something like:

    “GE Healthcare means suicide for General Electric”

    I’d wager that the remainder of his career would be nasty, brutish, and very short.

  2. There needs to be a discussion about what the term “public education” means and how that might be different than “public schools”

  3. It’s *her* career and for such piercing insights Detroit Public Schools is paying $200,000+/year plus bennies.

    And if it’s *inappropriate* you’re interested in, DPS has got you covered.

    Whether it’s a school board composed of such infantile and self-involved bums that they managed to deal themselves out of a job despite the best efforts of the race-lobby or a district administration that never fails to see to its own needs, whether those needs are a couple of hundred thousand dollars worth of dubious art or $70+/yard carpet, while schools shut down because funding can’t be found to repair decrepit heating plants, the DPS is second to all in its dedication to educating Detroit’s youth.

    “Why do 25% of school-age kids in the Detroit Public School district go to charters?”

    “Because there isn’t room for 30%”.

  4. This may be a solid example of support for charter schools to the ignorant eye. A bigger problem that isn’t outlined here is the inexperienced zealots who run these schools.

    Some cursory research will show anyone interested how many of these schools are crooked and completely ill-equipped to educate anyone — even these castoffs from detroit.

  5. Ragnarok says:

    Quoth Calloway:

    “We have to think about the presence that we put forth to the media, to the state department, to the rest of the United States as a Detroit Public Schools community…”

    Amazing! Not a word about improving the schools, only about PR. She should fit right in.

  6. Alex Bensky says:

    I don’t have a solution and Alien can’t cover everything but it is worth noting that not too long ago the Detroit board turned down $200 million a philanthropist offered for charter school development because it would set up units not directly susceptible to the influence of the Board or, I regret to say, the union.

    But here’s an idea of the problem–the local paper had a listing of the various Detroit high school valedictorians and in many cases the valedictorians’ ACT scores.

    Of nineteen schools, five had valedictorians with ACT scores of over 21. At one school the valedictorian, presumably the school’s top student, had a GPA of 4.06 and an ACT score of 17.

    By the way, I know a couple of people who teach in charter schools and my unemployment law practice has put me in touch with several charter school teachers and staff as clients. Based on this cursory and anecdotal evidence, charter schools aren’t necessarily going to solve all the problems.

  7. Charters won’t solve all the problems? Hell, I think it’d be cause for hysterical merry-making if charters solved *any* of the problems.

    But if it’s a trip down memory lane, touring the DPS’ low points, let’s not forget the $1.5 billion bond issue, passed in 1994, that was supposed to renovate many of the district’s buildings. Five years after the money was available only about 10% had been spent and even that was contentious due to the utter lack of planning and preparation.

    A bigger problem that isn’t outlined here is the inexperienced zealots who run these schools.

    Har! Whatever shortcomings these mythical “inexperienced zealots” might have hardly seems worth discussing compared to the incredible mess the highly-experienced professionals have made of the district. But thanks for playing spin-the-excuse!

  8. Ragnarok says:

    Bell Work Online Staff said:

    “This may be a solid example of support for charter schools to the ignorant eye.”

    Translated: We’re iggerant a’cause we care about our kids’ education. Have to admit that’s a strong argument. Puts us in our place, it do.

    In the meantime, Bell Strike Online Staff is singing:

    “Oh We Have Slipped
    The Surly Bonds of Math…
    Put Out Our Hands
    And Touched the Face of God”

    Modesty, too!

  9. Independent George says:

    BSOS is actually bringing up a valid point which should be addressed – by their very nature, a lot of charter schools will be no more effective than the current public schools, and many may well be worse. In fact, I’ll even concede that up to half may be worse than the current detroit public schools. The point is that they won’t stay worse.

    Charter schools (and vouchers, for that matter) are a dynamic solution, rather than a static one. Charters aren’t about replacing one massive public school bureacracy with another one, but experimenting & innovating according to local needs. Over time, the best charters multiply, the worst ones get shut down, and everybody learns from their examples.

  10. I don’t see the validity of conceding that charters are no better and may be worse then district schools.

    Being unencumbered by the district administration charters start out without the safety brake being set so enjoy the advantage of the absence of the district administration on the day they open. Without a district administration you have fewer people in a position to do harm to the school that can’t contribute to the success of the school. You have less budget claimed for tasks unnecessary for education and less authority spread among people whose contribution to education is undefined. Fewer people mean less time to waste on nonsense and self-gratification. Fewer people means authority is more difficult to displace from responsibility.

    Burt Rutan, an airplane designer of astonishing productivity and creativity put it this way, “To improve performance, add lightness.”

    Charters are lighter then districts.

  11. Catch Thirty Thr33 says:

    Let me guess, Independent George…you’ve been reading some of Virginia Postrel’s works, huh? 🙂

    Why do I think charter schools are a good idea? They are a new, novel approach, which is EXACTLY what is needed. To just cruise right along doing things the same old way is not a good idea. When the system isn’t working, you may need to change it. The charter schools could well show you HOW via trial and error…s other posters have said, some will close because they fail, while the successful ones will continue to educate students.