NBC coming to Metro Detroit Thursday for education event

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Dearborn — A national network is coming to Metro Detroit on Thursday for a live event examining education issues in Detroit and the region.

The event will gather school administrators, teachers, parents, students, policymakers and community members for a discussion about challenges and potential solutions in K-12 education.

Detroit is ready for an in-depth discussion on education, from the quality of its schools, to its absenteeism rates to the large number of students who leave the city to attend schools in the suburbs, says NBC News chief education correspondent Rehema Ellis. Here, Detroit Public Schools Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti addresses attendees at 'District Snapshot" in April.

Panelists will examine what schools are doing to reduce chronic absenteeism and student mobility, why schools need to address student trauma and its effect on learning, and how exposure and access to opportunities can help students.

The forum, hosted by NBC News Learn, the education division of NBC News, runs from 5:50-8 p.m. and will be moderated by NBC News chief education correspondent Rehema Ellis with WDIV (Local 4) anchor Kimberly Gill.

The event, at the Henry Ford in Dearborn, includes a live audience question-and-answer session. 

The broadcast will be live-streamed on and Facebook, and the second hour will be broadcast live on WDIV from 7-8 p.m.

Ellis said Detroit is ready for an in-depth conversation on education, from the quality of its schools, to its absenteeism rates to the large number of students who leave the city — around 26,000 to 32,000  — to attend schools in the suburbs.

"One of the reason we are coming to Detroit is we think this is tremendous opportunity to bring all stakeholders together who care about kids," Ellis said. "They have an opportunity to be together for two hours ... When we bring people together, there is an opportunity to talk and hopefully to listen to one another and benefit the kids of Detroit."

Ellis said Detroit is like many other urban cities, where teachers tend to be first responders and are asked to do more than teach the basics such as tending to children's emotional needs.

A 2016 Brookings Institution study found that Metro Detroit has the highest rate of concentrated poverty among the top 25 metro areas in the United States by population, NBC officials said.

Poverty, among other issues challenging young children, can lead to significant trauma, research has shown.

"There is the whole idea of using brain research to understand trauma," Ellis said. "Why is this child doing what they are doing? If they don’t understand, they will say (the) child is a difficult child. Maybe there is more to it."

Terry Dangerfield, superintendent of Lincoln Park School District and a panelist at the event, said the district's "Resilient Schools Project" was created to support the whole child and help students learn the social and emotional skills to overcome the effects of trauma.

"The negative impact trauma can have on a child is proven and evident in children all around us," Dangerfield said. "We have worked diligently to ensure our teachers and support staff have the training and resources to help our students receive the high-quality education they deserve."

Other panelists include leaders from the Detroit Public Schools Community District, Starfish Family Services, Wayne State University, Brightmoor Alliance, Academy of the Americas High School and the Skillman Foundation. 

A full list of panelists and topics can be found here. The event is supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

 The Detroit Youth Choir will perform at the close of the event.