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Education

Education, schools, and learning

Betsy Devos was confirmed as U.S. Education Secretary on Feb. 7, 2017.
BetsyDeVos.com

Michigan's own Betsy DeVos is now the most powerful education official in the nation. So what does that mean for Michigan? Let's start our story in Detroit, where DeVos played a big role in pushing for more school choice in the district.

Girl eating peach
Bruce Tuten / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

If you follow State of Opportunity regularly, then you know we've talked quite a bit about food deserts – places where fresh fruits and vegetables are in short supply.

baby laying down reading
Donnie Ray Jones / Flickr CC / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

As the week winds down, many of us are looking forward to a little rest and relaxation. I thought I'd share some recommended reading – and listening – for you to check out if you have some free time this weekend:

1. How Segregated Schools Built Segregated Cities

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.

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.

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.

map of Detroit with possible closures marked
April Van Buren / Michigan Radio

There are 25 schools in Detroit waiting to hear whether they’ll be closing their doors at the end of the school year.

So, where would all those students end up if those schools did close?

Click on the map below to see the nearby options for each possible closure and how they stack up academically.

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