Archives for category: Detroit

This is an extraordinary story, which I hope you will read to the end. It was published by Chalkbeat.

A group of concerned leaders in Detroit, including some retired educators, decided to open a charter school.  They won the endorsement of the city’s leading philanthropies. They won a federal grant from the Charter Schools Program.

The school struggled from the beginning. It struggled initially to attract students, because it was competing with so many other charters for the same students. It took in students from a closing charter, who were far behind. It searched for an educational management company, which drew off a large share of its income.

It housed its students in a closed elementary school, where there was far more space than the charter could use.

There was no shortage of potential authorizers. The sponsors were turned down by one, then found another.

Efforts to regulate charter schools in Michigan have run into fierce political headwinds, in large part because of DeVos and her family, who have used their considerable fortune to support a free market education system that allows charter schools to open wherever they believe they’ll succeed.

DeVos and her allies have been so successful in blocking efforts to regulate charter schools in Michigan that when the founders of Delta Prep began looking for permission to open back in 2012, they had no shortage of options. They could pick from roughly eight colleges and school districts that were empowered to authorize charter schools, some of which would provide more oversight than others. When it finally opened in 2014, Delta Prep was one of more than a dozen schools that opened in Detroit and began competing for the same students.

The problems multiplied. Low enrollment. Discipline problems. A rotating cast of principals, year after year.

Delta officials had promised that “90 percent of students will attend every class, on time, every day.” But in the school’s third year, just 20 percent of students came to class with any regularity.

Officials said they would boost student achievement by borrowing from the playbook of a New York-based education nonprofit. Their goal: “85% of students will demonstrate competency in all core subjects via exit tests.”

But within three years, not a single Delta Prep 11th-grader was deemed proficient in math, compared with 13.2 percent in Detroit’s troubled main district. Just 10 percent of 11th-graders posted passing scores in SAT English, compared with 37 percent in the district.

Delta Prep had promised that “100% of graduates will be accepted to college.” But in 2016, the only year the state recorded graduate data for Delta Prep, just over half of the school’s graduates enrolled in college. Just six students — 10 percent of that first graduating class — went on to complete a year’s worth of college credits within a year of graduating.

If the data was concerning, the situation inside the school was even more dire. When Brandi North was hired as principal in 2017, the first thing she did was hire security. The sprawling school was built during an era when Detroit couldn’t find enough classroom space for all of its students, but now it sat mostly unused, and students tended to disappear into vacant classrooms. Teacher-student relations were antagonistic. North said her assistant principal’s hand was broken during an encounter with a student, and that she regularly contacted the police about student behavior.

The year before she arrived — and the year after the influx of students from recently closed schools — Delta Prep had slapped more than half of its students with out-of-school suspensions, resulting in nearly 1,000 missed days of school.

“In 15 years of education, it was the most stressful position I’ve ever had,” North said. “I worked in south central Los Angeles, and Delta was still my most stressful situation.”

North started at the school in March 2017, after the previous principal resigned and an interim principal decided not to take the job. She says she found tutors for students, brought consistency to a patchwork curriculum, even drove to students’ houses on test day to make sure they took Michigan’s standardized exam. But she left that June following disagreement with the management company that she declined to discuss.

She was not the only administrator unable to cut it at the school. Within a few years of its hopeful start, Delta Prep had become another Detroit school desperate to find the rare principal capable of quarterbacking a long-shot school turnaround. It had five principals in less than five years of operation…

In Detroit’s crowded education landscape, Delta Prep kept falling short of its 400-student target, creating a financial situation so bleak that students lacked textbooks and other basic supplies.

When officials from Ferris State came to check in on the school, they noted that only one-third of its budget was spent on instruction, while far too much went to the management company and other operating costs. Delta Prep’s reserve fund, set aside to protect the school against unforeseen problems, dipped to $217 in 2017-18.

Twenty-two days after the start of school in the fall of 2018, Delta Prep closed its doors, to the shock of students and parents, who suddenly had to find a new school.

In the business world, closings are not uncommon. In the charter world, school closings are not uncommon. Anyone who thinks it is easy to run and manage a school should read this story and think again.

Customers can find another place to shop when a store goes out of business. When a school closes, children, parents, teachers, and families are disrupted.

 

Nancy Bailey explains here that if you are dissatisfied with your public school, blame the Disruption Machine, the ones who call themselves “reformers,” like Betsy DeVos.

They have run public schools into the ground for the decades.

They have imposed their malevolent ideas and policies on public schools, with no accountability for their mistakes.

She writes:

Frustrated by public schools? Look no further than the corporate education reformers and what they have done to public education.

Education Secretary DeVos and her corporate billionaire friends have been chipping away at the fabric of democratic public schools for over thirty years!

The problems we see in public schools today are largely a result of what they did to schools, the high-stakes testing and school closures, intentional defunding, ugly treatment of teachers, lack of support staff, segregated charter schools, vouchers that benefit the wealthy, Common Core State Standards, intrusive online data collection, and diminishing special education services.

Big business waged a battle on teachers and their schools years ago. The drive was to create a business model to profit from tax dollars. Now they want to blame teachers for their corporate-misguided blunders! It’s part of their plan to make schools so unpleasant, parents will have no choice but to leave….

I student taught in an elementary school in Detroit, in 1973. Schools were certainly not perfect, but my modest school did a good job.

The third-grade teachers were excellent reading teachers. They organized rotating small groups of students based on their skill needs decoding letters and words. There were no data walls. No child appeared to compare themselves unfavorably to other children.

Students were encouraged to read, did free reading, lots of writing, and had access to plenty of books. The school had a nice library with a librarian who often read beautiful and funny stories to the class. They spent time studying social studies, science, and art and music. Teachers worked closely with the PTA and reached out to parents.

There was no testing obsession. Students didn’t fear failing third grade. They were continually learning, and most liked school. There were twenty-two students in the class.

Teachers did their own assessment, and they discussed the results with each other at their grade level meetings. The school had a counselor and I believe a nurse stationed at the school. We worried about the students and addressed concerns about issues like why some showed up without mittens in the cold weather.

Students did class projects to help remember what they learned in their subjects. For science, we created a rocket out of a huge cardboard box. We painted it and spent time studying the solar system. Children took turns sitting in the rocket pretending they were astronauts.

This school had an excellent Learning Center where teachers could share materials to cut down on costs. They had a nice collection of resources for every subject.

My supervising teacher was kind, well-prepared, and tough. She expected daily written lesson plans which she reviewed with me before I taught. She was an excellent mentor!

Where’s that school today? I wish I could go back and visit, but it closed years ago, razed and turned into a housing development. It was shuttered like 225 other public schools in Detroit!

Many school districts have had unfortunate experiences with “Broadies,” the graduates of Eli Broad’s management program for future school leaders. The Broad Leadership Academy has sent forth hundreds of would-be superintendents to impose Broad’s top-down management style, his faith in data, and his belief that the best way to reform a public school is to close it and replace it with a privately managed charter school. Broad is one of the major funders of charter schools in the nation. Although he graduated from the public schools of Detroit, he has zero interest in public schools other than as objects for privatization. In my 2010 book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, I referred to the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the Walton Foundation as the Billionaire Boys Club. Since then, I have discovered that the club has dozens of billionaire members, and a few (think Alice Walton) are Girls, not Boys. All, however, share an animus toward public schools and a passion for privatization of what belongs to the public.

The big news is that Eli Broad has given $100 million to Yale University to administer his efforts to train future leaders of schools. It is not clear where the faculty will come from, since the Broad training program is unaccredited and is led by Broad allies, not academicians or scholars.

Now the graduates will be accredited, but their degree won’t mean much unless the philosophy of the program  changes from its current emphasis on DPE (“Destroy Public Education”) to SPE (“Support Public Education”). That change is hard to imagine. If you want to see the fruits of Broad’s distorted thinking, look no farther than Detroit and Oakland, where Broad-trained leaders encouraged (or imposed in the case of Oakland) massive charter expansion, a goal shared with Betsy DeVos. Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority, whose leadership he selected, collapsed in failure.  Oakland continues to suffer from the disruptive actions of Broadie leaders. His efforts to hand half of the students in Los Angeles over to charter schools have thus far been foiled.

Read Mercedes Schneider’s account of the multiple failures associated with Eli Broad’s agenda. 

Eli Broad is aggressive in using his money and policy agenda to destabilize and disrupt public education.

Here is the press release from the Broad Foundation/Broad Center, with the usual puffery and zero admission of the failed policies (privatization, school closings, high-stakes testing, VAM) that Broad and the graduates of his program have inflicted on American schools over most of the past two decades.

 

The Broad Center Will Become Part of Yale University to Train Future Generations of Public School Leaders

$100 Million Donation from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation will Fund The Broad Center at the Yale School of Management to Offer Tuition-Free Master’s Degree to Emerging Education Leaders and Advanced Management Training to Superintendents and Senior Leaders in Public School Systems

 

Los Angeles, CA – With a gift of $100 million to Yale University, The Broad Foundation today reaffirms its commitment to public K-12 education and makes possible the launch of a major new initiative of the Yale School of Management focused on strengthening leadership in public education. Building on transformative work by The Broad Center in Los Angeles, the initiative will ensure in perpetuity high-impact programs to advance excellence and equity in education.

 

The Broad Center at Yale SOM will develop research, teaching, and policy initiatives devoted to improving the effectiveness of top leaders in America’s public school systems. The ambitious initiative will leverage Yale SOM’s expertise in delivering rigorous management education to talented professionals in fields that have broad societal impact, while furthering and amplifying the previously independent Broad Center’s mission of ensuring high-quality leadership in public education.

 

“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished in the last 20 years and I can think of no better future for The Broad Center than Yale University,” said Eli Broad.

 

The gift is the largest ever received by the Yale School of Management and will enable the creation of a master’s degree program for emerging public education leaders and advanced leadership training for top school system executives—successors to The Broad Residency in Urban Education and The Broad Academy, respectively. The Broad Center at Yale SOM will also develop extensive research endeavors aimed at assembling the premier collection of data on public education leadership.

 

“With its mission to educate leaders for business and society, Yale SOM is a natural home for The Broad Center,” said Yale SOM Dean Kerwin Charles. “We have long recognized public education as critical to the health of our communities, and we believe that our distinctive approach to management education and research can have tremendous impact. Our efforts will build on the extraordinary work of The Broad Center team over the past two decades. Indeed, we are impressed by and grateful for what they have done to advance excellence and equity in public education.”

 

The Broad Foundation has learned through its 20 years of investing in public education that schools alone can’t solve for the inequities, indignities, and challenges facing students from underserved communities: Having The Broad Center housed at Yale SOM means all of its programs can be enhanced with input from Yale University’s leading thinkers in management, public health, law, child development, policy, criminal justice and economic development. The center will draw on the experiences and insights of practitioners, including Broad Center alumni and Yale SOM graduates, to help guide and inform its efforts in both teaching and research.

 

“I am honored that The Broad Foundation is entrusting Yale to carry out this important part of Eli and Edye’s philanthropic legacy. Educating leaders who will serve all sectors of society is part of Yale’s mission, so it is fitting that the Yale School of Management is creating a master’s degree program tailored to delivering management and leadership training that meets the unique needs of public education,” said Yale President Peter Salovey. “The school’s dedication to leadership education and cultivation is unmatched. Its track record of producing transformational leaders across a range of fields speaks to the tremendous promise of the new Broad Center at Yale SOM.”

 

The two programs of The Broad Center, The Broad Academy (founded in 2002) and The Broad Residency in Urban Education (founded in 2003), have trained more than 850 education leaders working in over 150 urban school districts, public charter school networks and state education agencies nationwide. More than 150 Broad Center leaders have served as superintendents or chief executives of local and state systems, and over 70 are currently in these roles. Each program has made great strides in building a diverse network of leaders that better represent the students and families they serve.

 

“The Broad Center has been committed to evaluating and evolving its work since it was founded – continuous improvement is in our DNA,” said Becca Bracy Knight, Executive Director of The Broad Center. “Organizational leadership has a direct effect on school quality, which is why The Broad Center has worked for two decades to elevate the field of public education management. We look forward to new opportunities to increase our impact by combining each organization’s unique and complementary strengths in service of our shared mission to improve public education.”

 

The current cohorts of fellows and residents will finish their programs through The Broad Center as currently structured; successor programs run by SOM will begin in 2020.

 

In its 20 years of investing in public education, The Broad Foundation has made grants to transform school governance, improve district operations, grow high-quality charter management organizations, engage in education policy and advocacy, and develop talented leaders, managers and teachers for public school systems.

 

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ProPublica, the invaluable investigative journalism website, tells a sorry story about how a billionaire developer who donated large sums to the Trump campaign and won a hugely profitable tax break for his properties in downtown Detroit.

Billionaire Dan Gilbert has spent the last decade buying up buildings in downtown Detroit, amassing nearly 100 properties and so completely dominating the area, it’s known as Gilbertville. In the last few years, Gilbert, the 57-year-old founder of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, has also grown close to the Trump family.

Quicken gave $750,000 to Trump’s inaugural fund. Gilbert has built a relationship with Ivanka Trump, who appeared at one of his Detroit buildings in 2017 for a panel discussion with him. And, last year, he watched the midterm election returns at the White House with President Donald Trump himself, who has called Gilbert “a great friend.”

Gilbert’s cultivation of the Trump family appears to have paid off: Three swaths of downtown Detroit were selected as opportunity zones under the Trump tax law, extending a valuable tax break to Gilbert’s real estate empire.

Does this qualify as “draining the swamp?”

Koby Levin of Chalkbeat reports that a study of the state takeover of Detroit’s public schools–which lasted for 15 years–was “a costly mistake.”

The state was supposed to solve intractable problems that elected school officials in Detroit could not.

It made things worse, according to a newly released report on the 15 years during which the Detroit school district was largely controlled by state-appointed officials.

The study, which was commissioned by the current school board, found a pattern of “startling mismanagement” in academic and financial matters whose consequences continue to weigh on the district’s future.

While some had hoped that the report would eventually lead to a lawsuit against the state, that seems unlikely. Instead, it provides a 172-page confirmation of what many Detroiters have argued for years: that installing state officials in place of the elected school board wasn’t enough to make the district’s problems disappear.

“The legacy of emergency management coupled with the continuing effect of inequitable school funding, will inevitably cause the District to hit a ceiling and impede its current progress toward a complete turnaround of traditional public education in Detroit,” the seven board members wrote in a statement in response to the report.

As state officials closed dozens of schools, they failed to adequately maintain the properties — “a costly mistake,” the report found, “as many of the vacant buildings have been stripped and/or vandalized.”

Tom Watkins, who was state superintendent from 2001 to 2005, said there was little hope of improving the district’s financial situation simply through effective management — not without solving underlying issues with declining enrollmentand Michigan’s school funding structure.

“It’s like trying to bail out a sinking yacht with a thimble,” he said.

The state threw everything it could think of at the struggling district–emergency management, charters galore–but not the funding needed.

 

Nancy Bailey writes here about the long-term damage that corporate reformers (the Disruption movement) have inflicted on two generations of students.

If only students could sue them for ruining their schools! If only teachers could sue them for ruining their profession! If only the public could sue them to disruption their schools and communities!

She begins:

Frustrated by public schools? Look no further than the corporate education reformers and what they have done to public education.

Education Secretary DeVos and her corporate billionaire friends have been chipping away at the fabric of democratic public schools for over thirty years!

The problems we see in public schools today are largely a result of what they did to schools, the high-stakes testing and school closures, intentional defunding, ugly treatment of teachers, lack of support staff, segregated charter schools, vouchers that benefit the wealthy, Common Core State Standards, intrusive online data collection, and diminishing special education services.

Big business waged a battle on teachers and their schools years ago. The drive was to create a business model to profit from tax dollars. Now they want to blame teachers for their corporate-misguided blunders! It’s part of their plan to make schools so unpleasant, parents will have no choice but to leave.

Jeff Bryant writes here about the billionaires who corrupted the school leadership pipeline. Chief among them, of course, is billionaire Eli Broad, who created an unaccredited training program as a fast track for urban superintendents.

Bryant has collected stories about how superintendents who passed through the Broad program hire other graduates of the program and do business with others who are part of their network. The ethical breaches are numerous. The self-dealing and the stench of corruption is powerful.

Bryant begins with the story of a phone call from Eli Broad to one of his graduates:

It’s rare when goings-on in Kansas City schools make national headlines, but in 2011 the New York Times reported on the sudden departure of the district’s superintendent John Covington, who resigned unexpectedly with only a 30-day notice. Covington, who had promised to “transform” the long-troubled district, “looked like a silver bullet” for all the district’s woes, according to the Los Angeles Times. He had, in a little more than two years, quickly set about remaking the district’s administrative staff, closing nearly half the schools, revamping curriculum, and firing teachers while hiring Teach for America recruits.

The story of Covington’s sudden departure caught the attention of coastal papers no doubt because it perpetuated a common media narrative about hard-charging school leaders becoming victims of school districts’ supposed resistance to change and the notoriously short tenures of superintendents.

Although there may be some truth to that narrative, the main reason Covington left Kansas City was not because he was pushed out by job stress or an obstinate resistance. He left because a rich man offered him a job.

Following the reporting by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times about Covington’s unexpected resignation, news emerged from the Kansas City Star that days after he resigned, he took a position as the first chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, a new state agency that, according to Michigan Radio, sought “radical” leadership to oversee low-performing schools in Detroit.

But at the time of Covington’s departure, it seemed no outlet could have described the exact circumstances under which he was lured away. That would come out years later in the Kansas City Star where reporter Joe Robertson described a conversation with Covington in which he admitted that squabbles with board members “had nothing to do” with his departure. What caused Covington’s exit, Robertson reported, was “a phone call from Spain.”

That call, Covington told Robertson, was what led to Covington’s departure from Kansas City—because it brought a message from billionaire philanthropist and major charter school booster Eli Broad. “John,” Broad reportedly said, “I need you to go to Detroit.”

It wasn’t the first time Covington, who was a 2008 graduate of a prestigious training academy funded through Broad’s foundation (the Broad Center), had come into contact with the billionaire’s name and clout. Broad was also the most significant private funder of the new Michigan program he summoned Covington to oversee, providing more than $6 million in funding from 2011 to 2013, according to the Detroit Free Press.

But Covington’s story is more than a single instance of a school leader doing a billionaire’s bidding. It sheds light on how decades of a school reform movement, financed by Broad and other philanthropists and embraced by politicians and policymakers of all political stripes, have shaped school leadership nationwide.

Charter advocates and funders—such as Broad, Bill Gates, some members of the Walton Family Foundation, John Chubb, and others who fought strongly for schools to adopt the management practices of private businesses—helped put into place a school leadership network whose members are very accomplished in advancing their own careers and the interests of private businesses while they rankle school boards, parents, and teachers.

Covington’s tenure at the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan was a disaster, and the EAA itself was a disaster that has been closed down.

Bryant compares the Broad superintendents to a cartel.

The actions of these leaders are often disruptive to communities, as school board members chafe at having their work undermined, teachers feel increasingly removed from decision making, and local citizens grow anxious at seeing their taxpayer dollars increasingly redirected out of schools and classrooms and into businesses whose products and services are of questionable value.

In fact, Broad superintendents have a very poor track record. They excel at disruption and alienating parents and teachers by their autocratic style. Despite their boasts, they don’t know how to improve education. They are not even skilled at management.

What they do best is advance themselves and make lucrative connections with related businesses owned by Broadie cronies.

 

At graduation, the top students at Universal Academy in Detroit spoke critically of the school, and now their diplomas arebeing withheld. 

The school might have been proud of their graduates for showing independence and critical thinking, but no.

A piece of certified mail arrived for Tuhfa Kasem this week. Kasem hoped the envelope contained her long-awaited high school diploma.

What she found instead seemed to her like a threat.

Kasem, one of the top students at Universal Academy, surprised school administrators by delivering a graduation speech in May that criticized the school. 

Nearly two months after her speech went viral, an official from Hamadeh Educational Services, the company that manages the school, wrote to Kasem and Zainab Altalaqani, who delivered a similar speech, that they had committed acts “of dishonesty and deceit.” The letters ask the students to meet with administrators, noting that they “have every right to bring an attorney…”

The students say they’re being targeted for putting a spotlight on problems at their school, which sits on the western edge of Detroit. In their speeches they argued that the school employs too many long-term substitutes, and raised concerns that students face punishment or retaliation if they speak up.

The graduation ceremony at a charter school in Detroit was disrupted when the two top students in the school used their addresses to criticize the school for “an inferior education and a culture of secrecy.”

The school said the students being used by adults with an agenda, which is an odd and condescending thing to say about your best students.

The pair accused Universal Academy on Detroit’s west side of churning substitute teachers through their classrooms, backing out of promised benefits, firing teachers who advocated for kids and silencing students and parents who speak out.

CEO Nawal Hamadeh ordered the microphone silenced during the second speech but by then, the point had been made, said Tuhfa Kasem, 17, whose speech was cut short.

“She asked for me to be escorted out but the parents had my back,” Kasem said. “The cops came in. The parents were like ‘you’re not going to touch her….’ “

A YouTube video of the scene took the speech to a much larger crowd than the one that was packed into the school gymnasium earlier this month.

“I’m happy that it raised the awareness that it did,” Kasem said.

Kasem’s speech followed a shorter speech by Zainab Altalaqani, a co-salutatorian and friend. The girls accuse the school of using long-term substitute teachers and other means to save money at the expense of the education of the children…

One of the teachers, Phillip Leslie, heard about the girls’ criticisms of his former employer and later posted a video of the graduation ceremony online.

“The school had gotten what we perceived as progressively worse,” he said. “We had raised a number of concerns with the principal. When they lost teachers, they would use paraprofessionals as substitutes.”

Leslie and some of his colleagues were fired, they said, for attending a board meeting at the school to complain.

They filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and ultimately settled for lost wages and reversal of their firings, so they wouldn’t be hamstrung when they sought work at other schools. 

“They were the best teachers in the school,” said Sara Saleh, 18, who graduated last year and now attends Wayne State. “Most of the staff members that I’ve spoken with had complained about the same things.”

The school caters to a student population that includes many immigrant children, including those from Yemen and Iraq, who need additional help learning English. Saleh said her English teacher last year was a certified math teacher, who learned English as a second language herself and couldn’t help students.

See an interview with one of the students here.

 

 

Now, this gets interesting.

Two days ago, I posted about the battle in Michigan over who is responsible for the deplorable conditions in the public schools of Detroit. Critics claimed that Governor Whitmer was abandoning her campaign promises.

The new Democratic Governor Whitmer disappointed some supporters by asserting that the state was not responsible for the miseducation of the children of Detroit, although Detroit has been under state control for nearly 20 years.

The State Attorney General disagrees. 

Mackinac Island — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said she will file in opposition to the governor’s position in a lawsuit alleging that the state deprived Detroit students of their right to literacy due to deplorable conditions at the facilities and dwindling numbers of teachers and textbooks.

At the Mackinac Policy Conference Wednesday, Nessel told The Detroit News that while her office has a duty to represent the governor she also is an independently elected official with an obligation to represent the people of the state of Michigan.

She intends to file parens patriae, or on behalf of the residents of Michigan, “to do what I think is best for them personally.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday argued in a response to the lawsuit filed by the attorney general’s office that because Detroit schools have been returned to local control the state should not be subject to the lawsuit..

“Sometimes I’m not always going to be in lock step with the arguments that are set forth by our clients, our client agencies or the executives,” Nessel said. “When that happens sometimes I have to go my own way and make the arguments that I feel are just and that I feel are appropriate and that’s what’s happened in this case.”

At least one state board of education member named as a defendant in the lawsuit also has said she will not be taking or supporting the state’s position made Friday in a brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals that sought a dismissal of the 2016 lawsuit.

Compensation is needed to make amends for the state’s control of the district for almost 20 years, Michigan Board of Education Vice President Pamela Pugh said.

“Anything short of Governor Whitmer and state education officials completely separating from former Attorney General Bill Schuette’s arguments, and taking responsibility for our children of color being granted the equal right to critical learning conditions that are afforded to students in other school districts is simply unacceptable,” Pugh said.