STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Hear how two 5th grade classrooms can be so different

School X, on the left, is overcrowded while students at Novi Meadows have plenty of room to stretch out while they read independently.
Jennifer Guerra

A high poverty school in Wayne County is so afraid of the repercussions of speaking honestly about their challenges with staffing, student achievement and discipline it is only willing to go by the moniker "School X." Classrooms are overcrowded, and students have to witness fights in the hallways.

Not many miles away, at Novi Meadows middle school, students begins fifth grade math with number theory, and then have plenty of room to stretch out on small rugs while they read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or similar books, for independent reading.

How is it that only a few miles away, children can be getting such different educational experiences from the public schools? 

Jennifer Guerra treats us to part one of a special program following two fifth grade classes separated by socio-economics. 

A recap, now that you're done listening: School X has a high poverty population with chronically low test scores, a high teacher turnover rate, and a new 5th grade teacher in an overcrowded classroom.

In Novi, the student population is solidly middle class or higher, test scores are among the highest in the state, the teachers have taught 5th grade for pretty much their entire careers, and the classrooms are well-stocked and spacious. Now guess which school gets about $750 less per pupil? 

Tomorrow's post will explore how much each school spends on educating their students, and how far those dollars go in closing the education gap.

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