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three girls on stage in flapper costumes
Courtesy of 4th Wall Theatre Company

Michigan theater company gives kids with disabilities a chance to shine on stage

Did you ever dream of seeing your name on a Broadway marquee as a kid? If so, you probably have some fond memories of memorizing lines and making costumes for school plays. But for kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities, finding a spotlight isn’t always easy.

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Kid hanging upside down at playground
Virginia State Parks / Flickr CC / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The benefits and necessity of school recess have been widely debated over the past decade. But growing research shows recess helps improve academic achievement, prevents bullying, and develops emotional and communication skills.

For example, a 2009 study of more than 10,000 American kids found improved behavior when they got at least one recess period of 15 minutes or longer.

But how should effective recess be structured? How long should it be? What should children do during that time? There seems to be little guidance on what makes "good" recess.

Mike Blank / Michigan Radio

 

When we talk about segregated schools, we need to look no further than Detroit. Census figures from the Michigan Department of Education tell us Detroit is a city where more than 82% of its students are African-American, just 2% are white and only 0.24% are multi-racial.

A new charter school on Detroit's east side, in the Indian Village neighborhood, is working hard to change that.

Detroit Prep is a free public charter school authorized by Grand Valley State University. Right now, it's got kindergarten and first grade students. 

Its founders were determined that Detroit Prep would be the city's first intentionally diverse charter school. So they set out by casting a wide net in recruiting students and in offering strong academics.

Students from Fordson High School in Dearborn (above) and students from Hamilton High School near Holland.
Courtesy of Zeinab Chami and Lauren Robinson

As neighborhoods and thus schools become more segregated, there are teachers who have decided to confront that head-on. They're not waiting for a grand solution from our leaders to appear.

They know it's easy to get along with people who look like you, and think like you, but they want to prepare their students for a world that is increasingly diverse.

students on stage
April Van Buren / Michigan Radio

Education in America remains deeply segregated.

But at the same time, there are more students of color than ever before. In 2014, for the first time, minority students made up over 50% of public school enrollment.

One district that’s seen those shifting demographics first-hand is Plymouth-Canton Community Schools.

And it's been intentional about creating an environment where students and families from all backgrounds feel welcome.

Clipping courtesy of Ray Litt / via Detroit Free Press

Sixty-two years after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, many school districts in Michigan and throughout the country remain deeply segregated.

In the Detroit City School District, for example, just 2.18% of students are white, while more than 80% are black. In many of the city’s suburbs, the numbers are reversed. In Utica Community Schools (which includes Sterling Heights), about 86% of students are white, while fewer than 5% are black.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

For the past several days, there have been many, many stories about President Trump’s actions on refugee policy, and his administration’s travel ban for people from 7 Muslim-majority nations.

But last week, the President also signed one other executive action that could have a big impact on immigrants in Michigan.

The action spelled out how Trump’s administration would prioritize its deportations for undocumented immigrants. The plan Trump announced means lawmakers in Lansing could have a huge say in who will be targeted in Michigan.

Young boy doing homework
Eric Cuthbert / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

It seemed like skipping students ahead a grade level or putting them in split-grade classes were common strategies to keep advanced students engaged when I was in elementary school.

students next to lockers in a line
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The fates of neighborhoods and schools are intimately intertwined. That's especially true in high-poverty areas like Detroit. 

You can see those fates playing out in tandem across the city in part one and two of this documentary. 

So how do we make sense of what is happening, not just in Detroit, but in cities all across the country?

And why, despite wave after wave of reforms, do America’s inner city schools continue to struggle?

Nadia at the book club at the Brightmoor Artisans Community building
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

In part one of our State of Opportunity documentary, We Live Here, we spent time in Littlefield — a Detroit neighborhood right on the edge. It’s trying for a comeback, but so much depends upon whether the elementary school there stays open. 

Now let’s visit a neighborhood that’s past that point. A place where most of the DPS schools are long gone - abandoned, torn down or replaced by charters.

courtesy of Jewellynne Richardson

Our State of Opportunity team has been looking all year at the connection between neighborhoods and opportunity for children and families. We've been hearing a lot of concerns in the neighborhoods of Grand Rapids about how new development is making life harder for long time residents. 

Down Eastern Avenue in Grand Rapids, just before the railroad tracks, there’s a little building. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside Jewellynne Richardson has built a rich world of culture.

“I consider myself to be the one-stop culture shop,” she says.

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