Chastity Pratt Dawsey, Diana Preciado, Lamont D. Satchel, and Tawana Petty aka Honeycomb discuss the unexamined realities and untold triumphs of leading, educating, organizing, and reporting from within the Detroit education system. March, 2014.
>> So, hello, good afternoon. My name is Brian Jacob. I'm co-director of the Education Policy Initiative at the Ford School of Public Policy here and a faculty member here as well as kind of affiliated at the School of Education and the Department of Economics. So, the mission of the Education Policy Initiative is to engage in applied policy relevant education research to help improve overall student outcomes. This takes the form of training graduate students, disseminating best practices, and facilitating discussions, like this one, about education within the university and the larger education community. So, I'm very pleased to cohost the event today with the School of Education. Elizabeth Moje, the Associate Dean for Research and Community Engagement at the school, is joining me here today. And, she'll be facilitating the Q and A in the second half of the panel. So, on behalf of both of our schools, we welcome you to the Ford School. And, thank you for joining us today. We'd also like to welcome the audience viewing this even online or via simulcast at the University Of Michigan Detroit Center and thank Addell Anderson, Director of the U.M. Detroit Center for sponsoring this portion of the event. I'd like to thank all the great staff who made this possible, especially Mahima Mahadevan, Julie Monteiro de Castro, and Angie Underhold. And finally, we'd like to thank Charles H and Susan Gessner for their generous support of the, this education policy seminar series. So, I'm pleased to welcome you to today's event, The Future of Education in Detroit. This is a continuation of a talk we hosted last October. The first panel sparked a vigorous debate about the impact and success of educational reforms in Michigan and generated interest in hearing additional viewpoints on the reform efforts in Detroit. And so, we're honored here today to have four distinguished speakers. These individuals bring an intimate knowledge of the Detroit Public School System along with considerable experience and insight regarding the city more generally. Before I introduce each speaker, I'd like to let you know the format of today's program. Each speaker will present for ten minutes. After the speakers are presented, we'll open up to questions from the audience moderated by Elizabeth Moje. For our local audience you can, please, use the notecard to write down your question. We'll have staff members who'll be circulating to collect the questions. And just, who, people collecting questions raise their hands, just. Okay. So, Mahima in the back will be running around, Robbie here in the front. For our online audience, we welcome your comments and questions via twitter, the hashtag DETedu, DETedu. And so, now, let me just briefly introduce each of our speakers and then we'll let them take it away. We're just going to, starting to my immediate left, Chastity Pratt Dawsey is the Urban Affairs reporter for Bridge Magazine, a publication dedicated to inform Michigan citizens about critical issues in the state. Prior to Bridge, she provided authoritative coverage of Detroit Schools for the Detroit Free Press. Her work has also appeared in U.S.A. Today, Essence Magazine, and the Investigative reporters and Editor's Journal. She's an alum of the University of Michigan and she has the highest hopes for Jim Harbaugh. And, we can tell she's wearing the colors today. So, to Chastity's left, there's Tawana Petty. She's a mother award winning activist, social justice organizer, poet, and author. She's the past recipient of the Spirit of Detroit Award, Woman of Substance Award, Women Creating Caring Communities Award, and was recognized as one of Who's Who Black Detroit in 2013. Tawana is committed to youth advocacy and is heavily engaged in the transformative work on the ground in Detroit. She's a board member of the James and Grace Lee Bogs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, and member of Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management. Next Diana Preciado is the World Language Instructional Specialist for Detroit Public Schools. She's taught in Detroit 16 years including teaching all levels of Spanish language and literature and courses for English language learners. She has a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Eastern Michigan University and a Master's of Education from Wayne State University with a major in bilingual and bicultural education. And, last but not least Lamont Satchel is the Chief Innovation Officer for the Detroit public schools. He oversees a number of key units within DPS including but not limited to the Community School's Program, the Office of Charter Schools, the Office of, and the Office of School Turnaround which is responsible for the district's lowest performing priority schools. His previous positions with the district include Deputy General Counsel, General Counsel, Chief of Labor Relations, and Interim General Superintendent. So, I think we have a great set of speakers representing a very nice diverse perspectives on education in Detroit. So, I'd like to just start off with our first speaker Chastity Pratt Dawsey. Thank you.
>> It's good to be home. I haven't been here for 20 years and I do not recognize the place, let me tell you. But, that's a good thing, I guess. So, I am going to try and squeeze in a lot of slides in 10 minutes. All right. We'll try. So, first slide here, we're going to just jump right into it. Detroit School Children Excel. If you've read anything I've written in the Free Press or Bridge in the last 12 years, you might be wondering, really did Chastity write that? I mean, Detroit School Children Excel, because I've spend a lot of time writing about the troubles and the ills and the problems and things of that nature. But, I was always taught you want to start with the end in mind. And, if school reform is about children doing well in school, then, let's talk about Detroit School children excelling. Right? What is happening right now in the poorest communities of American which are largely black communities is the worst situation black America has faced since slavery. We need look no further than our schools. And, that's a quote from Congressman John Lewis in his memoirs Walking With the Wind. And, you might recognize his name because he was, at the time, a student walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma 50 years ago with Martin Luther King. And, he said that in his memoirs. And, I think that is, it's really poignant now. We talk about school reform, we talk about these key elements. And, please correct me if you think I am wrong. But, we talk about government. Right? We talk about the elected school board, the state school board, the mayor control, the emergency managers. We talk about money, taxes, whether we're paying enough, whether it's adequate, deficits, class sizes, enrolment, and in Detroit, we talk about school closure. I know we're supposed to be talking about the future of Detroit Schools. But we have to set a baseline. And, I might be speaking to the choir, but, just indulge me here. When we talk about school reform, we talk about test scores, the MEEP and the ACT. Right? Those are going away but that's what we talk about when we talk about school reform. We talk about graduation rates, no child left behind. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Common Core Teacher Evaluations, we talk about school choice. Right? Charter Schools and other state vouchers, we gently talk about segregation and gingerly talk about racism and classism. We talk about safety, sometimes, depending on if you're in a place like Detroit, you'll talk about security, bullying, social media. And, we talk about parental involvement, whatever that means, it depends on who you ask. These are the things we talk about when we talk about school reform. These are the things that we have spoken about over the last generation when we talk about Detroit Schools. So, let's talk about governance. The elected board in Detroit. In the 1940s, and I know this because I read Jeffery Morales' book, right. 1940's DPS was removed from the city control. Then, in 1999 John Engler and the Legislature Path Reform Law, which as actually called the Michigan Education Reform Law, but only referred to Detroit Schools. He removed the elected board. This action arguably spurred by the elected board's failure to spend $1.5 construction bond that voters approved in 1994. DPS had no deficit at that point. And, you can't talk about the elected board and governance without talking about the Milliken versus Bradley decision that the Supreme Court of the United States decided. Detroit and the segregated schools here were very key in the discussion about integration and segregation of schools. We talk about governance, you have to understand that Detroit Public Schools have been under state control for most of the past 16 years. We had a time where we talked about the mayor running the schools. Remember that? In 2004 rejected, voters rejected that. No, no, no, no, Kwame Kilpatrick we do not want you to run the schools. And then, in 2010, the City Council, I mean, these were when, this was the time when the City Council meeting were on fire. Should the schools be run by the mayor? The City Council said nope, leave us out of it. It's not going on the ballad. So, we've had bursts of conversations about mayor control. We have had state control for most of the past 16 years. And, since 2009, the Emergency managers have run the schools which is a form of state control. And then, in 2011 you might all remember that the Education Achievement Authority was created. It's a reformed district. I'm just laying the ground work here people. You might know this all, all this stuff. But, to talk about the future you got to know where we came from. Right? Money, we talk about money when we talk about reform. Detroit is always approve militate. Am I lying Lamont?
>> They will always say yes if you ask them for money for schools. This has always been the case. 2005, state is controlling school district, $200 million short fall. This is where things start to get really dicey because this is when we start, in Detroit, to build a huge long term debt. In our bottom line, we talk about money in our schools, this is something we talk about deficit, we talk about emergency management, we talk about bonds. The biggest number that people need to understand, really come to grips with when you talk about the schools in the State of Detroit is the $1,100 plus per student that is spent on long term deficit, I mean debt. 20, 30 years they have left to pay on the bonds, in excess of 300 million. For every $7,600 that they get for a student, 1,100 goes to paying off debt. When you lose a kid, for every kid you lose, that number goes up. That is the number that everyone needs to get their heads around. That is the number that is strangling the Detroit School's budget. The financial pressures have reached the point of desperation. That was from 1991. That might as well have been yesterday. Right? This is where we need to center all of our conversations. 81% of DPS students are from low income families. 73% of VAA students are from low income families. Income is the determinate of academic success in America. We can talk about governance. We can talk about money. This is the number that determines academic success, whether your kid goes to school with mine in Birmingham or where my son used to go to school in Detroit. This is the number people. Poverty, your poverty rate is going to determine your success. How do we know that? On the first try, Detroit schools scored last on the nation's report card in 2009. It was, it was bad. 5% of students were [inaudible] reading. Why are we here today? Why do we talk about the future of schools? Because there's been inconstancy across all platforms from governance to finances. The inconsistency in Detroit schools has led us to where we are. And, yes, charter schools had a lot to do with it. Yes competition with entering suburbs had a lot to do with it. But, when you talk about a school district that has had governance structure changes 3 times in 16 years, had 10 leaders since 1999, what do you expect? DPS has had 4 emergency managers since 2009. The State of Detroit had one who, with state support, revolutionized the city's budget and left town in 18 months. And DPS has had emergency managers since 2009. This school can go a long way toward helping children achieve better. But, the fact remains that education and equity is rooted in economic problems and social pathologies too deep to be overcome by schools alone. Our biggest hope is to break the cycle of disadvantage that lies outside the influence of the school day. We remember Susan Newman. Don't we? She used to be here. That was from her book Changing the Odds for Children at Risk. So, a few weeks ago, I wrote a story called It Doesn't Matter Who's in Charge because, when you look at 10 urban districts that have had governance changes, deficits, charter schools, no governance structure is attached to any improvement in academic outcomes. How do we know? Because Detroit still rates last after taking the NAPE 3 times and changing governance 3 times. What works? We know what works. High standards, early childhood, coordinated services that include families, well trained staff accountability, and equitable and adequate funding. We know what works people. So, what's next? March 31st the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children is going to come up with recommendations. There's going to be another change in Detroit School Systems. We know it. It's been announced. It's been in the news so it must be true. Right? By March 31st, this coalition is going to make recommendations to the government, the mayor, the legislature as to what the stakeholders, the investors, the foundations, muckity mucks, the big people, the important folk, the parents, the teachers, everyone. What they really think should happen next with schools. Those recommendations are going to come out on the 31st. Why are they so important? Well, when I called the city and when I call the governor and say what's going to happen, we hear the governor's going to change structure again? They say well we're going to wait to see what the coalition comes with. There's a lot of power being invested in this coalition. So, sometime this month, we're going to see, again, some changes in Detroit schools. So, I'm ending that. Starting where we began, Detroit School Children Excel. If it's really what, if school's really about school, then we have to believe this. We have to believe that Detroit school children can excel. I went to Detroit Public Schools. Detroit children can excel. We know this. Right? When I, when I do these kinds of speeches, I try to tell people something they don't know because all this stuff is, if you've been paying attention, you know this stuff. A couple of stories I never told, there was a security guard who helped a child give birth in a high school in 2007. That same year, there was a teacher who gave a student's father a kidney. There are people in these schools who care about the children who are there. We know it works. And, the Detroit, the future of Detroit school children depends on whether we just put it into play. That's all.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you Chastity. I'm just going to have a heart to heart with you all. This is the first time I've ever written what I was going to say at a presentation. So, I wanted to make sure I said what was on my heart, if that's okay with you. Dear Detroit watching online and Metro Detroit. When I was a child, we moved around a few times. My mother was always seeking what she thought was best for us. Because of these moves, I attended quite a few elementary schools most of which no longer exist because they've been demolished or closed. When you are only 38 years old and you can barely retrace your primary education, it does something to you. You resort to Facebook groups attempting to dredge up old memories hoping somebody will hold that missing link to your identity. It's like most of your educational past, outside of a limited transcript and maybe a few photos, has been erased. Because of realities like this, many of our young people and young adults are suffering an identity crisis. You don't have to go back to slavery or Jim Crow south to find that folks are having a difficult time relating to their cultural identities. When you don't feel like you belong anywhere, you function as one who's been displaced. These are only a small few examples of why I feel compelled to do my part. Why I feel it is my responsibility to help fill in the gaps where a systems continues to fail our children. I thank God for the many teachers, parents, nontraditional educators, mentors, coaches, and organizers who get it, who recognize there are too many who have been left behind, stuck between finger pointing and accusations, those who have remained committed to going above and beyond their calls to duty in order to vision a way forward for our young people. The ones who recognize there is enough blame to go around and that they cannot exhaust their energy in a tug of war. Right now, we are all failing our children. No particular entity or person can claim less fault than any other. I grew up in Detroit public schools. I educated my child through Detroit public schools. I've been a football team mom, a basketball team mom, a debate team mom. I do not have the luxury to drag parents through the mud for failing to attend meetings, games, and practices, many of which I spent many of years unable to attend for my own son until I was somewhat liberated from the binds of a particular profession. Unfortunately, we live in a job culture that forces us to commit our lives to investing in the businesses and the pockets of the wealthy while neglecting our family's needs as well as our own needs. We're suffering abuse and allow our children to be abused because we've accepted the notion that schooling and education are synonymous and that we do not have what it takes to stand in the gap for our children. Detroit has suffered over half a century of propaganda assault. And, at the forefront of that has been criminalization of black bodies and we have absorbed that as a culture. The same media that has been telling black children that they are insignificant, that they are thugs that they are illiterate and menaces to society are the same media reporting on their confusion about the epidemic they helped to foster. Young people need to feel valuable just as adults do. And, when we hang our heads low in despair and constantly call ourselves and our children failures, product of failing schools, students at risk, families in poverty, we weaken their spirits and resolve. Young people have begun to believe the propaganda assault and identities we have used to dictate their existence. And, because of that, many have given up hope. We have people advocating for public education and pointing fingers at everyone but themselves when they don't even consider DPS good enough for their own children. There are plenty of fingers to go around. But, I'm not here to point fingers. I'm not here to talk about taking power. I'm not here to talk about creating power. I'm here to talk about creating power, creating solutions, visioning a way for re-spiriting young people, nurturing their inherent talents and gifts and reimagining what education can look like. We must stop teaching our children to be robots. We must stop making unrealistic economic decisions for our children and squashing their imaginations based on our corrupted dreams of success and prosperity. We must nurture and celebrate the imaginations and collective visioning and co-creating that comes naturally to children. Don't steer them away from their creativity. Celebrate it. Don't tell your children they can't be poets. Buy them notepads. Don't tell your children they have too much vigor, put them in plays. Encourage the singers to join choirs, the kids with extra energy to join the marching band. In the words of my mentor Grace Lee Bogs, Children are not a school of fish and it is child abuse to treat them that way. I could sit here and say that the conditions that our young people face is not my fault because I faced many of these challenges as both a former DPS student and a parent of a DPS graduate. The principle of my former high school, Harry Ford, was indicted in 2000. I could shrug my shoulders and say that the future of our children is out of my control because I did not lute money from the school system and I have never been on a school board. I could turn my back to this crisis because I did not advocate for the School to Work Opportunities Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the School to work, the No Child Left Behind, Common Core, or the ACT Work Keys test. I could say that I've done enough because I've actively resisted emergency managers and many capacities as an organizer and activist. I've already nurtured my son through graduation and into a 4 year university. So, I could stop advocating for young people. But, that would be cowardly and irresponsible. This is my fight. Much like the water struggle, the land grabs, the poverty and propaganda driven crime rates, and the police brutality in my city. They're all connected. These programs did not wage war on poverty, they waged war on people, most of all children. I say all that to say that there are solutions, some of which that happen in schools and many which need to happen outside of schools. Invest in debate programs. They have proven to nurture critical thinkers and improve graduation rates in the 90 percentile. There are too many teachers exhausting their resources and energy volunteering long hours after school and on weekends to support debate programs because they recognize the value of debaters. We need community funded and supported debate programs. Donate food and resources to the Detroit Urban Debate League. Offer to sponsor tournaments. Show the children, who come from all different schools, economic and cultural background across Detroit that they are worth the time and effort and that you recognize their 60 plus week commitment, 60 hour a week commitment. Children excel and invest in what they enjoy. And, that is okay. Reinvest in programs like home economics, woodshop, robotics, music and other skill building programs. Teach poetry in the classroom, not just a blurb during English class but as an actual lesson on culture and skill. Connect young people to true grassroots organizations doing amazing work in their city. Send them on a tour in political discussion with Bog's Center. Take them by Conscious Corner CafÈ for poetry and to support the ownership of a cooperatively owned run business by folks who look at like them. Connect them with We the People of Detroit so that they may contribute through sweat, equity, and volunteerism to the needs of their neighborhood currently facing massive water shut off and tax foreclosures. Show them they have a role in the true revitalization of their city from the ground up and through their own actions. We must stop trying to educate and prepare our children for jobs we know won't exist for many of them when they leave school, jobs that, for most black and brown students will steer a clear path away from their identities and passions and into a dead end road of TGIF Facebook and Twitter posts and Instagram means articulating their daily despair. Even as we watch the crumbling of capitalism and its desperate attempts to cling on for dear life, we remain conditioned to pursue the American dream by any means necessary. We have spent significantly less time thinking about whether our children could even ever obtain that dream or whether it is even right for them. We have become desensitized to our children's needs of human beings in programs that prep them for their rightful place in the economy. All they have to do is go into debt looking like they want it, looking like they're in pursuit of a good job whether or not they even get that job or whether they are ever able to dig themselves out of debt is of little concern to many. It's not part of some post adult debrief. Even though, even those of us that have been unhappy and victimized by this pursuit still push our young people towards it much like frequently running to the lottery store hoping for a big win only to be left questioning why we spent our limited dollars in such a frivolous way. We much nurture the inherent talents, skills, and gifts in our young people. Every school can have a motto that builds the moral of this young people. Every school, every day, should be telling its children they are number one. Children mimic what they see in adults. If we do not believe that we are number one then children won't believe it either. We cannot afford to sit by while the children are in exile. We must stop producing test takers and funneling those who fail tests into prison. If you don't have a dog in the fight for our children, please do not interfere with their education. I took my first breath in Detroit. And it's my responsibility to love her back to life as a resident, an organizer, a neighbor to many children and a parent who knows that children are seeds that we must insure are rooted in firm foundation, educational and otherwise, in order for this city to grow from the inside out. Restoring the village mentality and becoming a beloved community are not just notions. They must be the roadmap we follow as residents of Detroit, as parents, as teachers, as organizers, as youth leaders, as pastors. Our young people deserve our encouragement and support so they can be visionary leaders of the future that they know they can be. We're not victims. We're more than survivors. It is our time to become solutionaries just as the kids at the Bogs school believe themselves to be. Thank you.
[ Applause ]
>> Good evening everyone. I'm very honored to be here in this panel. And, I'm very grateful for the opportunity that I was given to talk about that is, that I feel very passionately about which is the future of education in Detroit. My preparing for this talk was a rollercoaster of emotions. I was thinking back of all the experiences that I've had that were rewarding but equally challenging. The best part of my job would definitely had to be having encountered or having met so many wonderful individuals who were deeply committed and who were so hard, working so hard so that students could have a better future. These people have been wonderful role models for me and I'm still very passionate and I still believe in my students because they believe in me. The most disappointing part of my job, on the other hand, is when I see some of t these hard working committed individuals when they start feeling like their efforts alone are simply not enough to make noteworthy change. This feeling of disillusionment and isolation ultimately causes many to give up or leave our school system. So then, what can we do to prevent our teachers, administrators, parents, and students in our current system from becoming discouraged or like they're being set up for failure? How do we empower each of these groups and increase their sense of value, purpose, and commitment to the future of Detroit's children? Think of the daunting task of moving a 1,200 pound piano. You will probably, you will probably know that the chances of moving it properly without damage to yourself or the piano are highly unlikely because the odds are against you. However, when many people collaborate to help you lift and carry their part of the piano in unison, the chances for success are much greater. The piano is lifted. I suggest that we continue developing a culture of individual responsibility and collaboration in which each group and individual involved has a clear understanding of what is expected of them, assumes full responsibility for their own actions, and is willing to support others so that they can also perform to the best of their ability. In achieving this goal, not one person is more important or responsible for lifting and carrying the piano's weight than another. Likewise, in our efforts for improving Detroit's academic system, none of these groups is more important than another. We all need each other to equally, equally to succeed. Although there are many groups that are equally important in this cause, for this collaborative system to succeed, I chose to focus my attention on the four that can start putting this practice in place immediately. These groups are the teachers, the administrators, the students, and the parents in every school of Detroit. The first group I would like to focus my attention on is the teachers. In order for our teachers to be highly effective, they need to provide our students with quality instruction. Teachers must know which skills, content, technology, and assessment tools to include as they create engaging lesson plans that will keep their student's interest. All their responsibilities include communicating classroom expectations, procedures, grading policies, academic goals, students' progress, and meaningful feedback in a timely manner. It is important to realize that, even the most effective and hardworking teachers need the proper setting, resources, and support and support of others to succeed. As a teacher, for example, I provided my students with a list of expected behaviors and procedures. I explained how I would reward them individually and as a group for their cooperation. I also gave them many tools in order for them to moderate and correct their own behavior by choosing their own consequences from a selected list. Whenever a student decided not to cooperate with me, I felt very comfortable involving a parent and administrator because I could explain the many ways I had tried to work with this student before requesting their help. Classroom management is one of those daunting tasks that teachers cannot do on their own. We need all the student's collaboration, parents support, and reinforcement from an administrator in order to actually be successful. When they call it classroom management, classroom management does not work. When we actually ask for others, for other people's help and they don't come to our rescue or they don't support us, it doesn't work that way. But, we're still the ones who are blamed for it. Undermining student's behavior or teachers concerns will only make matters worse. The second group I would like to focus is the administrators, the administrators. Highly effective administrators are responsible for schools that promote academic excellence. Highly effective administrators actively support their teacher's instructional best practices by providing the training, resources, textbooks, and technology they request when the budget is actually available. They are equally responsible for communicating their expectations to the teachers, evaluating and providing valuable feedback promptly allowing them to make the necessary adjustments to their instruction or classroom management. Administrators can also support their staff by providing professional development in the form of workshops, webinars, coaching, or other from instructions specialists or other master teachers. They are also responsible for tracking their teacher's progress in specific areas where they think they need to improve. Although we did lack many valuable resources in my class, I was very fortunate to have administrators who saw the value in continuous professional development. They encouraged me to attend workshops because they saw the time and money spent in training was an actual rewarding investment. Moreover, I had additional support from wonderful coworkers and coaches as well as administrators who gave me ideas on how I could continue to improve. I began to see the positive impact of these other factors and how they effected my performance and my confidence in the classroom. I was able to create more engaging lesson plans which in turn motivated my students to learn. The third equally important group whose support we cannot thrive without is that of the parents. Many parent still rely on their children to provide them with all the information about grades, attendance, standardized tests, requirements for graduations, and college as well as tuition assistance. Many parents do not realize how involved they can actually be. Our parents should see themselves as equal partners in their children's academic success. A greater effort from teachers and administrators is necessary to inform our parents on the resources and services they can use the help their children. Once the parents get all the information they need, they are equally responsible as well as empowered to be involved in their children's academic progress in a more proactive manner. It is devastating to see the parent's reactions when their children do not get the opportunities they had hoped for them. Lastly, I have the pleasure to work with some extraordinary students, who happen to be here. Some of them are here. These students understood the value of hard work and determination. These students were the source of inspiration to many of the administrators and teachers. These students motivated me so much that I even decided to request my administrators to open a new events placement class that had never been offered in the district before because they didn't think any kids would actually want to do it. I was willing to teach four different classes a day because I knew this class would give them or help them develop many important skills they will need in college. And, now that I talk to them, when they text me or email me four pages telling me what we need to do differently in Detroit, they tell me that those skills did help. And, that is how I get my motivation. But, we know there is a broken system if that's how teachers get motivated every day. And, we need to change that. Even though we could not get the books to arrive on time or have the access to the technology we needed, my administrators made the necessary arrangements in order for us to have that class available. Although the work was excessive and then later I found out that I wasn't as cool as I thought I was and that they actually kind of dreaded the amount of work we did. And, I'm over it. It was very gratifying to see how, when everyone is doing their part, the challenges can become more easily attainable. Most of them are currently attending the University of Michigan. And, they are very grateful for having accepted the challenge in the class many of those still remember as one of the most rewarding academic experience of our lives. The piano was lifted. Moving forward, the strategy to deal with our current challenges is to unite and conquer. Unite in efforts, unite in purpose, unite in voice. Once we start implementing this sense of community internally, we can then communicate with the rest of our partners at the local, state and national level letting them know in which ways they can support our endeavors. Dividing our efforts now will not bring about any positive change. Listening to others perspectives and helping them with their needs is a step in the right directions, direction. And, I am very proud to be part of that type of movement. Thank you.
[ Applause ]
>> Good evening everyone. How are you? Let me first start by thanking the Ford School and the College of Education for convening this event. I think it's very important that you continue to do this. If we're going to see significant change in education here in Michigan, it's going to be because thinking folk like you have forums and talk about the issues, these pressing issues that many of us don't want to talk about because they're uncomfortable. But, as long as folks like you are talking about this, it keeps it out there and forces us to deal with these issues that are significant here in the State of Michigan. I'd also like to give a special shout out to the College of Education and in particularly Dean Moje. The University Of Michigan College Of Education has been in the district for about 8 years as a partner with us. And, one of the, I think the highlights of that relationship has been their participation in the Detroit School of Arts. We went to a very unique arrangement with some of our high school where we have, they're self-governing schools where we have a self-governing council that sort of assists and overseas the program at the school, works very closely with the district through a contract in terms of driving home the mission of that school. So, thank you Professor Moje, I appreciate that. I'd like to talk about several things. But, the first thing I'd like to talk about is sort of the context within which we're having this discussion because I know we're here to talk about the future of education here in Detroit. But, there's a larger context within which this education discussion is happening because it's not just a Detroit issue. It's a Michigan, a State of Michigan issue. If you look at the issues plaguing Detroit Public Schools, you see them in other communities. Grant it, I think there's, as Chastity pointed out, they're probably more pervasive or visible in predominately African American communities, but you see them in suburban communities also. And so, we ask ourselves, what is driving this need for reform in the State of Michigan, particularly down in Detroit? And, I think, the primary cause of this is funding. It's something that we have not grappled with. I remember I was back in the district, I was there from 97 to 2007 as General Counsel. And one of the issues that we were prepared to file a lawsuit on was adequate funding because it was clear, at that time, that we were not funding education the way that we should be particularly with respect to and in urban environments. It was clear that, if we were to achieve at the levels that the state wanted us to and that we should, that we had to seriously address that issue. I think this is an issue that plagues a number of communities and has caused us to engage in what I call a lot of maladaptive behaviors across the state. I think some of the other common issues that we share are, we see these decreases in the indicators and measures of academic success. Look at the state MEEP scores and the data. This is a, it's not just a Detroit problem now. Detroit, clearly is not achieving as high as other school districts. But, if you look across the state, what you see is the state is not performing at the levels that we all would expect with respect to education. Another issue is we've seen this precipitous increase in the number of charter schools. Now listen, if, whoever can do the job, let them do it. But, you reach a point where you have to ask yourself. Look, is this working. The idea behind charter schools, and quite frankly [inaudible] schools is, in Detroit, was probably one of the first to charter schools. And, I think we ended up moving away from what we intended because a lot of them were theme schools, all right. So, it's things that we couldn't do wholesale across the district but if there was a significant number of parent's interested in that, we'd do it. We had a lot of African themed schools, charter schools at the time in the district. But, what you seen is this increase in the number of charter schools to the detriment of public institutions that are required to provide education. It's not like the Detroit public schools can say you know, I'm through with this, wash our hands of it, we're out of this. You're required to provide education to the students in the city of Detroit. It's not the case for a charter school. If they decide that hey, I want to give this I'm finished with this, you know, I want to give it up, they can go away. And so, what's happened, what you've seen is, as this funding issue has exacerbated issues within the district, it's complicated because now you have this proliferation of charter schools, 100 students here, 200 there, 300 there. And, it's primarily where? At the K-8 level. And, as many of you may know, that's where we make our money. That's where school districts make their money is the K-8 level. So, what we've done, we've created a system and put a system in place that hampers the ability of the entity that's required, constitutionally, to provide education to kids to do so. How has this impacted the DPS? As some of you may know, as early as 2003, 2004, and I know this because I was there, we predicted, we knew we were going to lose 10,000 kids a year. Our demographers told us that. And, that's why I talk about our maladaptive response to the financial issue. What we decided to do was fix the problem through closures and consolidations. That's not to say that we should not have done that. But, that became our means of dealing with the issue. Instead of asking ourselves, why, if I'm losing 10,000 kids a year, why? Why am I losing them? Where are they going? And grated, there was a decline in population of the city that was expected that was factored in. But, what you saw was a lot of kids were leaving the district to charter schools. And so, we should've asked ourselves why are they leaving us? Why are they doing this? And, I think, what happened is what we primarily see is it's an academic issue that we have to confront. It's an academic issue that we have to confront. But, what has happened is, we've now treated this as a financial problem. And so, now, we have to try to cut cost, cut concession our way out of this. Now, that's not to stay that you don't have to fix the financial problems. But, you see what happens when you do that. Academics, right, take second seat to that. Right? And, to me, that is what is primarily driving it. Right? The district is healthy is surviving financially because of the number of students that you have. If the number of students is decreasing significantly, and you know that, then, you have to ask yourself intelligent, have an intelligent discussion about why is that happening and what do I need to do to save that, to fix that? So, we were losing 10,000 kids at the time, $76 million a year. I don't know any company that can adapt to the loss of $76 million a year. And so, what does it force you to do? It forces you into that maladaptive mode. Right? What are we going to do? You have, okay, there's a 10% cut, concessions, right, because it's easy, it's something you can do right away. You outsource. Right? You engage in all of these other behaviors that have a direct or indirect impact on your ability to drive academic achievement. I'll give you an example. We used to have one of the, one of the best principal academies, right, right here in the state. We trained for, before you became a principal, you went to this principal's academy. You were ready to assume the helm. Well, what happens when you get in a financial fix? That's, we cu that, right cut salaries. When I last left in 2007, we were on our third round of salary cuts, as it happened, probably every year since then. And so, we're now in the situation where, how do you attract the best and the brightest when starting salary for teaching at DPS is $35,000, $36,000? Right? And, it's been frozen at that level for two or three years. Right? And, all the other incentives that we provided teachers and educators with respect to working in the district have been taken, taken away. The other issue, I think we need to deal with, we need to talk about is, and have an open an honest discussion about this is at risk students. The district, the city of Detroit has a significant number of at risk students. And so, the question becomes, knowing that, how do you respond to that? How do you deal with that? Does that require you to fund that at a different level because they have needs that other communities may not have? But, it needs to be addressed none the less. Okay, I'm getting the one minute, one minute flag here. Let me move on to the fix. All right. So, as you know, there are a number of folks out here looking at plans, solutions to fix the problem here in the Detroit Public Schools which would likely have ramifications throughout the state. You have the governor and legislative solutions that ware being looked at, the Coalition for the Future of Education in Detroit is taking a look at that. In fact, I serve on one of the committees. We have other actors out here, charter school, and others who are developing plans to, I think, to provide to the governor with respect their take on what needs to be, to be done. Here's my belief on this, I think what's required is for us to view education as a meaningful critical investment. With clear, with a clear understanding as to the return on that investment which has economic, social, and other measures. Then, what we have to do is make the appropriate and sustained investments necessary to achieve our educational goals. This must be literally viewed as, viewed and approached, in my estimation, as the greatest experiment in collaboration across silos with a no failure policy that removes every opportunity for failure. I have, I have a favorite saying, kids are not cars, you can't recall a kid. And, my concern is, our approach to education has been to treat it as if it's, you know, a widget company. You know what I mean? If everyone understands about you can't name anything that is not in some way touched by education by some individual, right, who is educated who has an aptitude to do something. And so, if that's the case, how do we then say look, let's elevate the discussion, let's elevate the paradigm and treat this as an investment. What are we willing to invest in our future, in our kids so that we can have the type of future, the type of financial, social, economic society that we want? And, it's going to take some sacrifices. Right? Some folks are going to have to sacrifice and be willing to say I can sacrifice in the short term and be willing to give someone else across eight mile, if you will, the resources that they need because I know, in the end, it will renew to the benefit of not only myself, but my children and their prosperity. So, I think, those are the types of approach, that's the type of approach and the way I view and I think we should view education and deal with the issues that plague us because, listen, governance is important, you know that. It's very important. But, at the end of the day, we know what drives academic achievement. And, if you don't have the money to invest in that, it's for not. We know, we know that three key components, one you have to have high performing leaders, principals, right. How do you do that? Right? That should be our focus. How do you do that? How do you measure that? How do you support them? High performing teachers, what does that look like? How do you do it? How do you support it? And, lastly, students which is lost in our discussion. The last thing I want to say with respect to students, it's amazing to me how we treat students. Often we plan for students and not with them. And, I think it requires us to have some open honest discussions with students with respect to their needs, their desires, and what is important to them. What we, traditionally do as adults, I'm a parent, I know, I do it. I decide what's best for you. But, I think, if we're going to do this, it has to be very collaborative and we need to be able to reach out to kids to understand the issues that are affecting them, that are plaguing them that we can address them. It's time out for fixing assumptions. It's time for us to fix problems. And, to fix problems means you have to put down, go across the aisle, walk out of your silo, and listen, listen, listen. Thank you.
[ Applause ]
>> Wow, well thank you, thank you very much. Can we get another round of applause for these amazing speakers? Four really inspiring speakers and four speakers who have raised a lot of questions for us. While questions are being collected, oh it looks like we might even, oh no, we're going to collect questions now. I have a question to launch the discussion. And, I'd actually like to hear from each of you, if you would, and then we're going to collect questions from the audience. And, I'll be reading those from index cards. And, we'll also be collecting questions from Twitter, people will be tweeting, that's what I'm told is the proper lexicon. So, we heard from Diana about the moves and practices of the four key participants in educational success and really how to really support the education of Detroit children and youth. And, Diana is an amazing teacher and I'm a firsthand witness to her teaching. We heard from Tawana about being solutionaries. What a great word, Tawana, I love that. And, you gave great examples of some of the solutions we can pursue. We heard from Lamont that it's all about funding. And so, you know, those solutions may depend on an investment that we want to make. And, we heard from Chastity that, we know what to do, so, you know, just do it. Right? Let's do it. So, why don't we? Why aren't we making progress? And so, I'd like to hear from each of you what your perspective on why we're not stepping forward, why we can't do it. Is it money? Is it will? Is it racism? Is it struggles for power? Thought I'd just, you know, open it up and try and create some havoc here. What's going on?
>> It's all of the above. I would hope that people would look at a story that appeared last fall in Bridge Magazine where Ron French and I went to four different states to find out what other states are doing. Why are they passing us up? Why is Michigan in the bottom third of states when it comes to achievement? And, what we found is all of the above. We, at Michigan, have not done what Lamont said which is create a priority around schools that everyone agrees to and sticks to. I went to Massachusetts. I mean they're the golden child of school reform these days. And, what I saw there was a state where they said, 20 years ago, we are going to come up with a plan. The business community pushed the plan, researched the plan for a year, not 90 days, but an entire year to come up with some recommendations, put them forth to the legislature. They came up with the Massachusetts Reform Plan and they stuck to it through democratic governors, through republican governors, it was, it was, you know, it was like this holy thing. Don't mess with it. School reform is going to work. Children there failed miserably for the first few years of reform there. But, they stuck to their plan. And now, they, in Massachusetts are far, far, far, far and above everyone else in the United States. And, I think that's it. We just haven't come up with a plan and everyone agree to it to stick to it, a plan that says school is about school. Let's talk about school, really what happens in the school first with our expectations. What is Johnny going to learn? What is he going to read? What is he going to do? Let's talk about how we fund that secondarily after we've decided what they should all be able to do and make sure that we give the students who need the most, the most money. Ah oh, that's political. We don't like to talk about that in Michigan, giving poor kids more money than we give rich kids. So, they did all that. And they're far and above us. And, Mike Flanagan, our state superintendent, in an interview with Bridge Magazine, said that we've not done those things, we're ten years behind them. Ten years behind the people who leap frogged over us because we didn't do what they did. We know it works. We know it works.
>> Well, I'm going to say first and foremost that finances can't be an excuse to miseducate children. We've been in poverty in Detroit for a very long time. So, if we're going to stick to that paradigm then we're never going to educate our children. So, I can't, I can't support that, that theory. And, I'll also say that, I mean, right now our children are in the hands of people who consider them at risk. I mean, that very narrative is destructive to their humanity. And so, I don't care if you dump millions of dollars into a classroom, if the students in the classroom feel like they're at risk, then, they're going to function like they're at risk. There's a difference between a school that, you know, you walk into the building and you hear you're number one second to none, nobody's better than you, you're great, you're incredible and then a school where you walk into a school and an educator says to them I'm going to get paid whether you learn or not, so. And, I've experienced both. So, I just, I really want us to, you know I need, you know, Lamont, thank you for your work. But, when our administrator of DPS doesn't focus his response on DPS, in find that difficult to deal with. This is not a Michigan discussion. This is a Detroit discussion. And, we need to be focused on talking about the education of Detroit children. And, that's one of our downfalls is we don't like to have the difficult conversations and we like to talk about well it's not just the Detroit thing it's. No, 45% of the students in Detroit are not grad, more than 45% of the students in Detroit are not graduating high school. We need to talk about that. And, it's not about money. It's about the fact that we have gotten so hung up on the propaganda of what our young people are supposed to be considering themselves that we get lost in what we're, we're supposed to be educating them. We're not supposed to be telling them that we can't educate them until we get some more money. I have an issue with that.
>> Thank you.
>> For me, for me, of course, I have to speak as a teacher. And, I think that, as a teacher, you get a lot of mixed messages. You need to be, you need to plan a rigorous lesson but it also has to be very fun and it also has to be creative but it also has to be something that's going to help the kids so they can prepare for the test. And then, you want to be strict in the class and you have to make sure that the kids feel safe but you also have to be cool and likeable because if the kids don't like you, they're not going to want to have your class. And then, they're going to go to the other cool teacher and you become a problem to the administrator if you're not likeable, if you're, you know, pushing the kids a little bit more than another teacher. And then, that becomes a fear of losing your job thinking that if the kids are saying you're asking for too much. So, I'm going to drop your class. And, other adults listen to the kids. They listen to the kids a lot more than the adults who are in charge. They take their word for it. They don't believe us. And, we say well no we're doing everything in our power to help your child. The parents think we're victimizing sometimes when we're really trying to prepare them in giving them the skills. But, when we see that it's, that we're upsetting everybody by actually giving the skills that they need, then, we don't know who to please anymore or what to do. Another issue that I see is that a lot of times, from the beginning, we do feel like sometimes we're set up for failure. And there are many reasons why. It could be because somebody retired or quit at the last minute, they got sick. Now we have vacancies. Now we have teachers who are put in a classroom where they were not really prepared to teach. And, that was not the teacher's choice. It was something that had to happen. I am not blaming anybody. I'm just saying that as a reality. So, you're, there was a time when I was teaching five different class, five different classes, because I'm certified in different things, in four different classrooms. And, I mean, I was completely abandoning my family and working overtime. But still, I did not feel like I was a great teacher because there was no way. So, a lot of teachers feel like there's no way they can do it. I use the analogy of the piano. And, I was thinking, you know, I'm thinking of the piano. But, I think, if I give that analogy to another teacher or another group of people outside Detroit, they would say well just, why are you pushing this piano? Why are you lifting it? Just buy wheels and put them underneath it and just roll it down, it'll. But, we don't think like that. We don't think, because, a lot of times we have to do what we have to do with what we're given because we know there's no budget form something that's going to simplify a task.
>> And Lamont.
>> You got it started didn't you Dr. Moje? Now you've got me on the defensive. Let me see if I can answer this question with respect to why, why it doesn't happen. I can answer it from the perspective of the Detroit Public Schools. In order for a problem to be addressed, in order to see sustained growth, academic or otherwise, whether it's in an academic setting or company or whatever, there's some key things that you need. One of which is a vision and stability to carry it out and resources. Right? From 99 until the present, and I calculated it today in a meeting, I think we've had, including myself, so long term and short term assistant superintendents, maybe about I think it was like 13, or 14. And now, we're in emergency manager model where every 18 months you've seen someone come in. I think there's been, don't get me wrong. I think there's been progress, particularly in the emergency manager model in terms of moving the district in the right direction. But, you have to, you have to grapple with that and understand it. When the district got into the financial fix that it did, look at what it did. It put academics on the backburner. And, we now became an institution that had to fix a financial problem. Right? And the focus was on fix the deficit, fix the deficit, balance the budget, make payroll. Right? And, if, it's not like you have a long, you can prepare a long term or long term strategy or plan to deal with that 10,000 student loss. Right? What folk did was, every year, they're figuring what to cut. I need another 10% I need another 10%. We can outsource this. Right? We can cut that. And, what you ended up doing is you crippled the organization. You crippled the organization in a way that you cannot provide the level and quality of education that you needed to, to the students in the district. I think the other factors that Chastity touched on and, I think, Moje mentioned that exacerbated this, but one of the issues I wanted to talk about, the sister brought up with respect to at risk. See, I don't use that as an excuse. But see, I'm to the point now where I have to deal with reality. And, if the reality is that we have a population of kids, a significant population of kids that have a different set of circumstances that bring you to school, I need to know that so that I can deal with it, right, in terms of wrap around services. Right? So, it's hard for some folks to conceive what a kid is coming to school dealing with. I know, edition in 2007, it occurred to me, I said I bet you a lot of these kids are under a level of chronic stress that we as adults are missing. Right? Because, I know what you probably do when you're under stress. Some of you play basketball, you got sports, you go. Right? We have developed healthy responses to our stress. Right? What does a 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, what do they do? What do they do? Mom, I'm going to go down to Bimini now. I'm a little stressed out. See what I'm saying? Right? They bring that to school, they act it out. It impacts them and effects them. And, you want to sit them down and say Johnny, listen. And you can speak here. Listen, focus, you know, we need to get to this lesson today. All I'm saying with respect to that is, you have to realize and treat folk where they're at. Where they're at is not where they can ultimately, where they' stay. It's not where they'll be in the future. But, I need to understand how you go there, why you're here so that I can give you the level of support that you need to be successful. And, with respect to my trying to frame the debate in respect to a Michigan problem as opposed to a Detroit problem, it's for this reason. Because, what happens every time the issue is Detroit? Right? Silos go up, the racism come in, the prejudice come in. But, when you elevate the discussion and say hey look, let us get outside of those boxes and let's look at this holistically as a state issue and where does the state need to be from an education perspective, understanding that different communities will have different needs. But, I'm willing to make the investment in that because it inures to the benefit of the state and everyone in the state. I'm not using this as a copout to say let's not deal with Detroit. We're going to deal with Detroit. Detroit is being dealt with and will be dealt with in a very responsible way. But, at the end of the day, you have to make sure that you have the level and the type of discussion that allows you to have long term sustained growth where you're breaking down these silos and you're removing all these barriers and, what I call, opportunities for failure. You got to get them out of the system.
>> So, let me, with that, let me turn to a question that will, you know, answer all of this and completely kill any controversy. So, what, this is from the audience. And, we actually have two questions that are somewhat related. So, I'm going to read one and then kind of play on the other one. What governance model do you recommend for all EAA, DPS, and charter schools, Detroit schools, so all the ones that exist right now, what is one governance model? Should there be an entity that oversees all three types of schools? And, the second question, let me put my glasses on, it's not because the person has bad handwriting. How do you find a balance between the traditional public and the public charter schools? So, who wants to take that? And, we probably, so we can get through a few questions because we're going to end in just a few minutes, let's hear from one person.
>> Well, let me, I'll quickly answer the first one. I'm on the governance committee with respect to the coalition. So, I'm not at liberty to talk about that. So, I'll let my colleagues.
>> It doesn't matter what governance model we choose. None of it has anything to do with academic achievement. And, when you say should there be one entity that controls the schools? There is one entity that controls all of these schools, it's the State of Michigan. The State of Michigan runs DPS, the State of Michigan runs the EAA, and the State of Michigan runs the charter schools. So, we already have one entity running all the schools in Detroit.
>> All right. Let's try another one. This is for Lamont. It says Mr. Satchel, this is also from the audience. So far I haven't gotten a Tweet and I'm very disappointed. It seems like your main recommendation is more money that is investment. How do you insure that the money is well spent, that it's used effectively. There's lots of examples of big funding increases with little return.
>> I agree with that. So, I could not in ten minute get out what the district is doing which I think is necessary to fix the problem. It's not just, it's not just the money. They money's a component too. But, there are other things that we're currently doing in the district that I think are very responsible that if, if sustained over period of time, you will see the type of academic achievement that we expect from a school district. Look, look. This isn't, this isn't rocket science. It's not as if no one else with the same issues and struggles as we have, have not done this. We can do it. It can be done. And, it will be done. But, with respect to the funding issue, listen, listen. If you're telling me 7,000, I'll be generous and say $7,300 is enough to educate a kid, I'm just talking about the foundation allowance and put aside the money we get from title money. If that can educate a kid, then I can save every school district in the State of Michigan money. Go to that model. Do it. We have to be honest with ourselves. If you're serious about education, then treat it seriously. If you can tell me $7,000, $7,300 is enough, prove it to me, show me, and then live by that. It's not. It's all, listen, it's all right to help someone else. It's all right to do that. It's the 21st century. It's all right to say I am willing to make a sacrifice, small or great, for you because I don't see you as any different from me. You have to do it. Listen. That's why the governance is, did you see legislation pass to do an equity study. It has to be done. It should be done. Nah, the issue is how, how do we make sure the money will be spent responsibly. Look guys, I think you put in place, make sure you put in place responsible people, leadership to make sure things get done. But, we should not say I'm not going to give you the money because there's a chance that you may misspend it. Listen, if that's the case, show me a company that doesn't have any efficiency, right, or any issues in that area, right. Show me that company. That should not be a reason for not providing the funding. What we have to do is think intelligently about how do you make sure that it's spent responsibly. I don't have a problem with that. I don't have a problem with that. But, we should not fund education appropriately because I'm afraid that, three years from now, you know, someone may have scanned with $20. I know I'm being facetious but.
>> So, I'm going to switch down to another question. Thank you. This is for Chastity. History reveals major media's role in dividing rather than uniting as Diana Preciado calls for, collective support towards schools. One motive behind manor news outlets reporting is being a force for accountability and transparency. But, where are the efforts to contribute to the solutionary work Bogs and Miss Petty, Tawana, calls for? Media on.
>> The media.
>> Yeah, you're on the hook now. Let's hear it.
>> I would say, in the past ten years, there was so many problems going on it's like low hanging fruit. You couldn't turn your face one way without saying 20 different problems. So, there was so much going on for the past generation we had to keep up with the problems and the issues. But, I would submit that, over the last couple of years, you've seen a lot of solutions based stories. The big huge charter school package that I was involved with at the Detroit Free Press, that was solutions based. Everything we try to do at Bridge is policy and solutions based. I think that we've come to a point in the media that, yeah, we wrote a lot about problems and a lot of he said she said and when it's every us versus them, I love my school district, I hate yours, all of those arguments in the legislature, that do continue today. We very much covered them probably to the detriment of the issue. But now, I think that we're seeing more solutions based reporting going on probably because we are at a very critical time as Michigan and as Detroit. And, if we don't do something quick, it's going to be bad, or worse I should say. The us versus them, the local control, I want my money, don't care what your school district gets kind of attitude that we've seen just get, just grow like a disease in Michigan is the basis of our academic problems in Michigan. I mean, it's just simple as that. If we know from other states and from research what works, we're not doing it here, you've got to wonder is it the hearts of man? Is it ignorance? What is it? We need to get through our issues as people to help our children. And, I think that the media is, online media, print media, all of us are starting to really get into solutions based projects.
>> Great. Thank you. Well, I got a one minute card. I think I'm going to call it and say that it's time to stop, to, again, thank our panelists for this really enriching and, you know, maybe even exciting conversation. We are going to have a chance to talk with all of the panelists, at least you will if you come to the reception that's in the lobby. So, join us out in the lobby and you can pepper them with questions. You can't pelt them, you can only pepper them with questions. Also, we wanted to let you know to watch for future events. The Ford School hosts a number of these events. And, hopefully, we've started a blissful partnership and the School of Education will work with the Ford School on these kinds of education events. So, thank you tall all of you for attending and please join us in the lobby for refreshments and further conversation. Thank you panelists.