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Series & Documentaries

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

    

What does it feel like to be removed from you parents’ home? From the ones who were supposed to protect you and keep you safe?

PART ONE

I want to introduce you to a set of siblings. Let’s start with the oldest one Andrew. He’s an intense little guy who’s 9 years old and very much into superheroes.

ANDREW: My favorite Marvel superhero is Spiderman.

AUDREY: Want to see my best friend?

That’s Audrey, his little sister, she is <<FIVE!>> and adorably shy.

And finally, there’s Braden, the ham of the family.

BRADY: Let it Go! Let it Go! Can’t hold it back anymore

Christian Guthier / Flickr

State of Opportunity will air a documentary on foster care on Thursday, October 30. In the lead-up to Thursday we're publishing a series of articles that explore specific aspects of the foster care system or challenges kids within that system face.

Andrew, a superhero-loving nine-year-old boy you’ll soon meet in our newest documentary Finding Home, told us regretfully that his Paper Jamz – a toy guitar he loved – didn't make it into the bag he used for his belongings as he bounced from place to place.

Jenny Downing / Flickr

State of Opportunity will air a documentary on foster care on Thursday, October 30. In the lead-up to Thursday, we're publishing a series of articles that explore specific aspects of the foster care system, and some of the challenges kids within that system face.

For many young adults who have aged out of the foster care system, myself included, the hardest part isn’t actually being in care.

The hardest part is leaving care.

Nadine Burke Harris

State of Opportunity will air a documentary on foster care on Thursday, October 30th. In the lead up to Thursday we're publishing a series of articles that explore specific aspects of the foster care system or challenges kids within that system face.

America is in the middle of a collective, and scientifically supported, epiphany about just how much early childhood experiences matter to outcomes later in life.

David Machiavello / Flickr

State of Opportunity will air a documentary on foster care on Thursday, October 30th. In the lead up to Thursday, we're publishing a series of articles that explore specific aspects of the foster care system or challenges kids within that system face.

KT KING (flickr.com/xtrah)

What will it take to fix Michigan's charter school laws?   

The rules governing charter schools in Michigan were first put into place a little over two decades ago. Since then, there have been revisions – the biggest of which happened a few years ago when the state lifted the cap on the number of charter schools that can open in Michigan

But after the Detroit Free Press published a blistering investigation into the state's charter schools, the law may be headed for more revisions. 

And some are starting to make the case for a complete overhaul – not just of charters, but of Michigan's entire education system. 

"Let's start over," says Dan Varner, head of Excellent Schools Detroit, and a member of the state Board of Education. "I think it’s time for a complete reset of the way we deliver public education in Michigan."

Why even the biggest charter school supporters don't love Michigan's charter school laws

Jul 25, 2014
Chuck Grimmett/wikimedia commons

This text is adapted from a segment of a State of Opportunity radio documentary produced by Lindsey Smith and Dustin Dwyer. To hear the full documentary, click the player above. To read more about how Muskegon Heights schools made history by converting to a charter district, go here

 Let's talk about one statewide trend that’s played a significant role in the events of Muskegon Heights schools: private companies that run public charter schools. 

A recent Detroit Free Press investigation sparked a statewide conversation about why these management companies don’t have to disclose their finances to their charter school boards. The Freep found numerous examples where that lack of disclosure and oversight led to some shady deals.

Gary Miron from Western Michigan University studies charter schools, and has a reputation as a critic of Michigan’s current charter school laws. 

Miron says that original idea for charter schools was to have small, locally controlled, locally operated schools that would be free to pursue new ways of educating kids.

But that didn’t happen in Michigan.

Today, Michigan has more public charter schools being operated by for-profit companies than any other state in the country. Miron published a study last year, which found that for-profit companies run 79% of Michigan’s charters, twice the share of the next closest state. At least a half-dozen states ban for-profit charter management all together.

Muskegon Heights schools were in trouble. Then the district made history. Twice.

Jul 24, 2014
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

There are a lot of school districts in trouble in Michigan. 

Forty-five districts are in a deficit. Five districts are currently subject to state oversight under Michigan's emergency manager law. Two school districts completely ran out of money last year, and dissolved. 

Today, in a State of Opportunity documentary, we bring you the story of how one troubled school district survived. 

Two years ago Muskegon Heights made history by becoming the first school district in Michigan to convert entirely to a charter district and turn the operation of its schools over to a for-profit company. It had never happened before in Michigan, or, as far as we've been able to determine, anywhere else in America. 

But this spring, Muskegon Heights schools were in trouble again. Just two years into a five-year contract, its management company walked away from the district. And, once again, leaders in the community had to work with the state to find a plan to keep the district's doors open. 

This, ultimately, is the story of how they succeeded, at least for now. And what lessons we might take for the other school districts in Michigan that are facing financial problems. 

Andrea Claire Maio

Over the last year, Zak Rosen and Andrea Claire Maio have been following students and educators at the James and Grace Lee Boggs School. 

Maio and Rosen have done pieces in the series about control in the classroom, two young students at the Boggs School who are best friends, and about making school more human

For the series' last piece, Maio focused on the Principal of the Boggs School, Julia Putnam -- a cornerstone of the school.

Julia from andrea claire maio on Vimeo.

Putnam met Grace Lee Boggs, the school's namesake, when Putnam was 16 years old.

Making an education vision real in Detroit

Jun 18, 2014
The James and Grace Lee Boggs School

The James and Grace Lee Boggs School just wrapped up its first year. It’s a K-4 charter on Detroit's eastside that hopes to grow to a K-12.  The school had an ambitious, community-based vision, that’s being tempered by the day-to-day reality of running a school.  

A few weeks ago, the students and staff at the Boggs School took a walk.

They ended up at the corner of Heidelberg and Ellery Streets, just about a mile from school. When they got there, they saw that polka-dots and naked dolls and charred houses had taken over the block.

Here's a video of their trip to The Heidelberg Project:

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