Letters: On Detroit test scores, Michigan's reading law

The Detroit News
Detroit Public Schools Community District student test scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress have improved, Martin writes.

Many to blame for low scores 

Re: The Detroit News’ Nov. 3 editorial, “Scary Detroit scores make case for charters”: 

Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) student test scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have improved. Yes, we have more work to do, but we are on our way.

The state of Michigan managed our school district for 16 out of the last 20 years. During many of those years, we had an imposed set of appointed emergency managers — none of whom had experience as a classroom educator or public school administrator.

People like Betsy DeVos, former Michigan GOP chair and current U.S. Department of Education secretary, and others have sought to destroy traditional public schools for more than 25 years. 

DeVos, who is neither a public schools educator nor public schools administrator, single-handedly has funneled tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions to state lawmakers past and present who want to destroy traditional public schools who employed professional educators and support staff.

But we continue to fight back. 

We are dedicated to our students and equally passionate about fighting for funding equity across our state. This past summer, the Detroit Federation of Teachers partnered with our sister DPSCD education locals, Detroit Federation of Paraprofessionals and Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees to advocate for a more equitable funding formula for our state’s school districts. We believe that an increase in investment throughout the state is an important way to realize more student achievement and performance.

On behalf of the 4,000 members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, we believe that our children will continue to learn and will continue to increase student achievement and performance. What we want is for state government to better invest in their future. When our students win, our state wins.

Terrence D. Martin, president​​

Detroit Federation of Teachers

Revise Michigan’s reading law

No one can argue against the importance of reading competency, but holding third graders back based on their M-step scores is a component of the current reading law that needs to be re-evaluated. Using the scores of a single test to determine a child’s success or failure doesn’t give teachers the information they need to effectively teach, nor does it turn children into lifelong readers.

To grow readers, we need universal preschool, smaller class sizes and useful staff development. Let’s give our teachers the freedom to teach and make decisions for remediation based on authentic ongoing classroom assessment.

In the short term we can omit the punitive aspects of the law by supporting the passage of Senate Bill 633. Sponsored by Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, the bill eliminates the retention requirement but keeps some of the more beneficial aspects of the current law, like early literacy coaches and K-3 reading professional development.

Sherri Masson, Milford