Education and the ‘New Day’ in Detroit

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

In a spirited community meeting at a high-performing public school in Detroit, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reminded the audience that the city’s economic renaissance is inextricably linked to the reform of its schools.

“I couldn’t be more hopeful about Detroit,” Duncan told more than 200 parents, community leaders, and Mayor Dave Bing and other political leaders. “There’s an alignment of leadership and an alignment of commitment and courage here.”

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

“My challenge to Detroit is to become the fastest improving district in the country. I can’t see any reason why that can’t happen.”

The forum at the Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Sciences was the first stop on the second day of the “Education and the Economy: Investing in our Future” bus tour.

Duncan appeared on the panel with Governor Rick Snyder; state Superintendent Mick Flanagan; Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts; Keith Johnson, the president of the Detroit Teachers Union; Sharlonda Buckman, executive director of the Detroit Parent Network; and Dan Varner, the executive director of Excellent Schools Detroit.

“One of the things that’s happening in Detroit is that a coalition of community organizations, philanthropies, and businesses have come together and said we’re no longer going to accept mediocrity for our children,” said Varner.


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Varner added that there’s a commitment in the city to begin anew with an intense focus on improving the results for students.

“We have to think as if we were starting from scratch and ask: What do we want to create to ensure we get great educational outcomes for our children,” he said.

But the commitment goes beyond fixing the K-12 schools.  It extends to ensuring students have the opportunity to go to college. Through the Detroit Promise, the public-private partnership guarantees that high school graduates from the city will receive free tuition for at least two years of college.

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

“The Detroit Promise is such an important piece of the puzzle,” Duncan said. “It might be about the best economic development tool the city can have.

In addition, the state is committed to turning around the city’s lowest performing schools and engaging its parents in the education of their children.

With all of these commitments in place, Duncan challenged Detroit to be a national leader for reform in urban areas.

“Detroit has the opportunity to leap-frog other urban districts,” Duncan said. “I want to do everything I can to be helpful.”

3 Comments

  1. First and foremost, Detroit, MI is a second home to me. Growing up, I would take summer trips to the east side to visit family and I attended school there for my 7th grade year at Winterhalter Middle School. My father felt I was not getting a quality education at the school, so I moved back to Atlanta. Today, the city of Detroit and its school system is taking a huge step in the right direction. The “Detroit College Promise” is a great incentive for those who attend a school in the Detroit Public School system. The promise can provide a path for a student to a college or university simply by going to school everyday. So, if one were to compare the “promise” to the current state of education in the Detroit Public School system, one say it’s a small step, but definitely in the right direction.

  2. sect’y – I cannot beleive you would come to Michigan and give praise to a governor and executive mgr when these two are stripping teachers rights and laying off teachers in this state. The executive mgr has no experience in the teaching profession or school system…why would you praise a person like this? It was Gov Granholm who instituted Dr Robert Bob the last two years who helped reconstruct the Detroit Public Schools. Instead of giving praise to who deserve it…Dr Bob and our last Gov worked hard to clean up many schools in the area – it has been a work in process…this didn’t start w/ this Gov or executive mgr. I wish when Obama’s people come into this state they are informed and do their homework rather than being snowed by the media or people who are running this state on political lines.

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