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November 19, 2014

Detroit public schools and ingredients for success

Detroit Public Schools (DPS) needs a plan that has an objective of being one of the best public school systems in southeast Michigan within 10 years. I am not an educator and do not pretend to be an expert on the subject. I hope this essay gets a lot of input and feedback from educators. Failing to do this should not be an option.

Management/Administrators and teachers need to be on the same page. A prime ingredient to build a school system where students excel and outperform other districts in southeast Michigan is good teachers who are supported by top quality administrators. Administrators must recognize that if the district is to recruit and retain top teaching professionals they must treat them as professionals.

Professionals are proud of their craft and must set high standards for themselves and fellow teachers so as to assure their industry is looked upon in high regard. The teacher unions, as an organization looking out for the interests of its members must also support high standards. The unions role is much more than maximizing its members compensation and optimizing its working conditions. The school board, management, teachers and teacher unions must recognize that not all teachers and administrators will excel at their trade.
All new teachers fresh out of college need a mentor who is experienced and highly regarded. These mentors should have a reduced teaching role to allow them time to coach and counsel the teachers coming straight from college graduation. A bonus should be given to the teacher who is the mentor for doing a good job with this function. The schools administrators and board should work out the details.

Some teachers will need additional training and mentoring in order to bring them up to the level expected by the other teachers and administrators. Some will not meet the expectations and standards set by all parties and will need to be fired. It is in no ones interest to keep under performing teachers or administrators. If a district makes room for under performing teachers or administrators, the district will not perform at a high level. It is the responsibility of the school board to make sure this does not happen.

Smaller class sizes are needed. If smaller class sizes are used in wealthier districts to improve performance certainly Detroit needs to do the same to compete and excel. I have talked to three private schools in the metro area, Roper, Grosse Pointe Academy and Detroit Country Day, that are considered to be top performers. The targeted class size at these schools range from 8 to 15 students per teacher. Remember the objective is to be one of the best.

Surroundings matter. When I was in school I was not able to study at home. We lived in a small 600 square foot house and my brother and I shared a bedroom. It was much easier to focus at the library. To be honest I did not study through high school. It was only after two semesters at Flint Junior College did I realize that I needed to put forth some effort to succeed. The physical facilities at DPS must be conducive to learning and perhaps they already are.

What Next! The devil is always in the details and I am sure experienced educators can improve on the above thoughts. The big question is where is the money going to come to make it happen It was stored at the DIA but that changed with the Grand Bargain. More

7 comments:

  1. Students tend to think of the value of their education when they are at the end of it: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is just not a significant thought.


    Motivation has to be other than intrinsic. Reward and punishment seems shallow, but it may need re-thinking. Some parents pay for good grades in cold cash, or the whip if you don't. I don't recommend it. What do you think?

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  2. High school student athletes somehow get the message that hard work and effort are requires to succeed.

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  3. "Detroit Public Schools (DPS) needs a plan that has an objective of being one of the best public school systems in southeast Michigan within 10 years."

    --This is impossible when there are emergency managers at the helm with different goals.

    --Robert Bobb was paid for by groups interested in promoting charter schools and his plan stated that the district would go from around 150,000 students to 43,000 students in 5 years. This makes it impossible for DPS to get out from under the deficit in a reasonable way, and why class sizes have ballooned in many schools.

    --Roy Roberts created the EAA (a competing school district)

    --Jack Martin broke the existing contracts with teachers (and other employees) for the sole purpose of restricting health care options to HAP. It did not save any money for DPS. Of course, Jack Martin sits on the board for HAP.

    "Management/Administrators and teachers need to be on the same page."
    -Impossible when the emergency dictators have different agendas that have nothing to do with students.

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  4. "Parents pay for grades in cold cash." I never heard of this; surely there would have been a leak over time.

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  5. Tutorial programs seem to be effective in coffee shops -- expand the concept.

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  6. Ann Marie O'ConnellMarch 13, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    My parents did exactly that. 4 out of 5 of us finished at least a bachelors' degree. The one who didn't finish her degree actually makes the most money, as a consultant for Lucent.

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