What's largely missing in places like Detroit are parents engaged in the education process of their children.
Quality education is a three-legged stool. It consists of responsible parenting, money and teachers. The path of least resistance has always been to blame it all on the lack of money. We can now see how well throwing trillions of dollars into President Johnson's great society programs has worked to eliminate poverty in our cities. Test scores in school systems like the DPS will never improve as long as parents are left out of the equation.
As a past school board member of my local district, I was often perplexed at my administration’s continued excuses for consistently low test scores. Repeatedly, my home district would be below the state averages in the tested grade-subject areas no matter what the testing vehicle that was used.
The education apologists continued to make me nauseous with their constant whining about funding shortfalls and the inherent challenges of educating low-income students. If I challenged them on accountability the spin cycle was immediately deployed.
The socio-demographics of my area are minimal compared to the bigger populated urban areas statewide. There are a significant number of low-income students that qualify for free and reduced lunch, but at a much lower percentage than other areas of the state. One of the curious things to me was that my district is located in Shiawassee County, a central Michigan area statistically devoid of any meaningful amount of English language learners or minority populations. Our county is 98 percent white.
A local paper does an annual comparative analysis of all the area schools and how well they performed on state tests. There are 10 schools on this list that make up their coverage area: Eight in Shiawassee, and one each in Saginaw and Clinton Counties.
All the schools examined are located within a 30-mile geographical radius area. Historically, the schools that annually score the best on these tests are the ones that have the lowest free and reduced numbers, with one incredibly noteworthy exception: Chesaning Union School (Saginaw County) district.
Despite having an F&R rate that is one of the highest of all the 10 schools in the aforementioned coverage area, this district exceeded the state percentage proficient averages in all 18 tested grade-subject areas. Almost all of them higher by 10-20 percentage points. This makes the second consecutive year of doing so. They were the only district on the list to accomplish this.
What is Chesaning doing right that others are not? This is not a wealthy district by any means. Yet they consistently overcome the odds of educating a majority low-income student population. Perhaps others could learn from their strategies and commitments going forward.
Since the 1990s, when Gov. Engler pushed through Proposal A, school funding has been on a downward spiral. Throw in for profit and charter schools, and the funding has been siphoned off from “public schools” to the detriment of all.
The state has the responsibility, by constitution, to educate the students of this state. Providing adequate funding is their responsibility. I am not opposed to other avenues of providing that education, i.e. private or religious schools, as long as state tax dollars are not used. (I feel the same about prisons, private, for-profit institutions should be outlawed.)
There are sufficient resources in this state to provide a quality education to every child if the Legislature would just get out of the way.