Education, schools, and learning

If we want better school outcomes let's pay attention to Iowa

Mar 27, 2015
Yoga Foster / flickr

One kid’s trauma can be a lot to handle. Managing a whole school of kids who have been traumatized  can seem insurmountable. These kids are more likely to act out in class, have attendance problems, and get lower grades than their peers.

courtesy of The Diatribe

"Can you read right now at least please?"

Fable is harassing one of his students.

"Can you at least read in front of us?" he asks.

The student, Jocelyn, already said she doesn’t want to read her poem. She hardly ever speaks at all in this class.

But Fable, whose given name is Marcel Price, will not let up.

"I won't ask you for anything ever again," he says earnestly.

Fable is one of the teachers of this class, one out of four members of a poetry collective known as The Diatribe. The other poets are Rachel Gleason, G Foster II and Shawn Moore. They all pile on Jocelyn, the only student here today who hasn’t yet read a poem out loud.

The four poets plead, each in turn.





user Frank Juarez / Flikr

I've been spending a lot of time at Cody's Medicine and Community Health Academy in Detroit for our next State of Opportunity documentary, and I thought I'd use today's blog post to highlight a few observations. But before I do, there are a few things you need to know about Cody: 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

College students in Michigan, and around the country, have been organizing and protesting over the past year for more racial inclusion on college campuses.

It’s been a little over a year since the Black Student Union at the University of Michigan issued a list of seven demands to university administrators. Some, but not all of those demands have been met.

The latest action comes not in Ann Arbor, but on the campus of Kalamazoo College. 

Kalamazoo College has about 1,500 hundred students. About 100 of them marched Saturday morning, carrying signs, being loud. At two different times, they marched in and interrupted the college’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The action was not exactly polite. But student Rian Brown spoke about why it was necessary.

Caden Crawford / flickr

Michigan Radio social media guru Kimberly Springer sent me a write-up about a new data system being sold to school systems as a way to identify potential drop-outs. I was interested. She was suspicious. 

free parking / flickr

 Late last summer I came up almost empty while trying to find out more about how racial differences between students and teachers affect student achievement

In Michigan  about 97% of teachers are white, while more than a quarter of all students are not. We need to understand whether this matters for student achievement, and how it plays out in a classroom more generally.

The school bus drivers in Hartsville, South Carolina used to do two things: pick up kids and drop them off. But now they do a whole lot more and are an integral part of the school community. In this New York Times piece, we learn about how this S.C. district utilizes school bus drivers to help identify students at risk. "As the literal transition guides between home and school life — and the first and last adults with whom children interact before and after school each day — bus drivers can help recognize how children are faring emotionally, respond to behavior problems in thoughtful ways and set a welcoming tone for the day."


If you want to make it in America, the standard advice is, go to college. People who get at least a bachelor's degree are more likely to be employed, they have higher wages on average, and they're more likely to make it out of poverty. 

But the benefit of a college degree may be reaching a plateau. 

Last week, The Hamilton Project (part of the Brookings Institution) held a conference on the future of work. The conference was meant to be about how technology may change employment opportunities in the years to come. But along the way, education came up again and again. 

Renato Genoza

Michigan is on yet another list of dubious distinction. This time, the state has some of the highest rates of school suspensions in the country.  

A recently released report by UCLA's Center for Civil Rights Remedies looks at state and even district-level data to see where kids are most likely to get suspended. It also takes a look at which kids are suspended most often. Michigan doesn't suspend the most kids overall (that's Florida's achievement), but the state does have the fourth-largest gap in the nation between the number of black kids suspended and the number of white kids disciplined in the same way. 

Michigan districts also have among the highest rates of suspension in the entire country.

Brittany Bartkowiak / Michigan Radio

Earlier this week – mid-polar vortex, of course – more than 2,200 people filled Saginaw Valley State University’s stadium to hear transgender activist and Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox talk about her life.

She came to Michigan with an important message for everyone: “Trans lives matter." Then she said, “black trans lives matter,” too. The entire arena exploded with cheers and applause.