Week In Review

The week in review: Goodbye, EAA and master teachers. Hello, Alycia Meriweather and Big Sean

Detroit superintendent Nikolai Vitti named his first deputy, former Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather, center. She introduced Vitti in May as he met with principals and applicants at a job fair.

Today marks the last day in Michigan’s six-year-old experiment in school turnaround. Long-struggling schools in a special turnaround district are returning to Detroit’s district — just as new schools chief Nikolai Vitti shakes up the central administration to get more educators into the classroom. Check out that news and more below and have a great holiday weekend!

— Philissa Cramer, Chalkbeat managing editor

VITTI WATCH: During his fifth week on the job as Detroit’s new schools chief, Nikolai Vitti geared up for a firing spree. To get more educators into the classroom (and save money), he’s cutting 70 administrative positions, including roles that support principals, and ending the district’s year-old “master teacher” program. The 140 teachers who had been helping their colleagues through the program will spend the time with students instead.

Vitti also made one big hire: Alycia Meriweather, who was widely beloved as interim superintendent, is his first deputy pick. “Some people are afraid to have talented people around them because somehow that person might outshine you,” he said. “But the strongest leaders are comfortable with who they are and recognize that strong people make them look better.”

Oh, and he rubbed elbows with a rap star:

END OF AN EAA: Today is the last day for the Education Achievement Authority, Michigan’s six-year-old turnaround district. Its 15 schools are returning to the Detroit district. One researcher’s take: “The EAA could fairly be regarded as a train wreck of educational policy.” A principal’s: “There was a lot of good … that could be lost.” What’s clear: The change comes with uncertainty and risk.

HELP WANTED: Detroit is still looking for 100 more teachers. One potential source: Michigan’s second-largest school district, which just laid off 47. But does the state really have a teacher shortage? Depends on the job.

ARTS AND CRAFTS: The district is looking to add music and art teachers to make a dent in a dispiriting statistic: Half of schools offered no arts instruction at all last year.

Meanwhile, local CEOs are paying to update Randolph Tech, which has few students but potential to add skilled labor to the city. Bonus: Here’s some more stuff CEOs are saying about the city’s schools.

LANSING REPORT: Gov. Rick Snyder is gearing up for another round on education, according to Ingrid Jacques: In his remaining 18 months in office, he wants to get himself more power, figure out how to improve or close low-performing schools, and advance “competency-based education,” a model for measuring learning that’s gaining traction nationally. He also wants to change graduation requirements to include career training.

IN OTHER NEWS: Michigan is increasingly scrutinizing whether principals are certified. The state’s new accountability plan got criticism from advocates of high stakes. Advocates explain why a new analysis of the state’s funding system is needed. Michigan’s highest court ruled that private religious schools’ admissions decisions can be reviewed to make sure they follow laws protecting people with disabilities.

AND VIEWS: The Detroit News reminds us that last year’s Detroit schools bailout package came with strings — and says they should be followed.

MORE FROM CHALKBEAT: New research about school vouchers finds short-term negative effects. Middle-class districts in Memphis are getting more money for poor students, even though they don’t have more of them. Yearlong teacher residencies are in vogue, but research suggests they might not benefit students.

Detroit week in review

Week in review: Young children in the spotlight

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Evangelina De La Fuente, worries that the Head Start her 3-year-old twin grandsons attend could close or change. "The babies are secure and they’re happy and they’re well fed and they’re well taken cared for. It’s scary to think it could change," she said.

Hundreds of vulnerable Detroit families are bracing for change in the wake of the announcement last week from a prominent social service organization that it can no longer operate Head Start centers. Other social service providers are stepping up take over the 11 Head Starts that have been run by Southwest Solutions but their ability to smoothly pick up the 420 children who are affected and find classroom space for them is uncertain. That’s added stress to lives of families already in crisis.

“The babies are secure and they’re happy and they’re well fed and they’re well cared for. It’s scary to think it could change.”

—  Evangelina De La Fuente, grandmother of twin three-year-olds who attend a Southwest Solutions Head Start

Given the impact that quality early childhood programs can have on preparing children for kindergarten, advocates are calling for a better support system. That’s one of the missions of the new Hope Starts Here initiative, which was rolled out this morning. The coalition of parents, educators and community groups, led by two major foundations, spent the last year assessing the needs of Detroit children before unveiling a ten-year plan for how Detroit can improve the lives of young children.

– Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

Birth to eight

Students, teachers, learning

In Lansing

Across the state

In other news

Detroit week in review

Detroit week in review: Payrolls and proficiency

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit supertintendent Nikolai Vitti talks with students at Durfee Elementary/Middle School on the first day of school, September 5, 2017.

This week, we used district salaries to see how the central office has changed since Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti started in the spring: It turns out there are fewer people in the central office but more highly paid administrators. We sorted through the data and created several searchable databases. Click on any of them to learn more, including full district payrolls as of June 1 and Oct. 1.

The city district got more bad news when 24 more of its schools were added to the partnership program, which requires them to improve or face possible consequences. Nine other district schools can choose whether to participate in the program, which comes with additional support and resources. (Two city charter schools were also added to the list.)

And just in time to welcome those schools, a new state reform officer was appointed this week to lead the partnership program.

Hope you have a good week!

– Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

PARTNERSHIPS: Nobody is scheduled for closing yet, but the state added three school districts and four charter schools statewide to the partnership list this week. Potentially, almost half of Detroit’s district schools could be participants. Statewide, almost forty schools were added. (See the complete list here.) The state also named a superintendent to lead the newly formed partnership office and become the state school reform officer.

GET IT DONE: A columnist writes that impressive economic gains will be hampered by the state’s poor quality of education. While one editorial page writer urges the state to decide on a course of action for improving schools and do it, business leaders say a piecemeal approach won’t work. This columnist thinks what’s needed is political will at the top.

ALL OVER THE BOARD: A state house committee barely approved a proposal to eliminate the state board of education. Two insiders explore the issue. For the proposal to become law, both houses must approve the resolution by a two-thirds majority and then it must be approved by voters in the next general election because it would amend the state constitution.

CHARTER WARS: An editorial in a major newspaper says it’s a myth that charter schools are performing more poorly than city district schools. Another editorial supports allowing all public schools — charter and traditional — to benefit from property tax hikes.

KEEPING TEACHERS: One columnist blames state lawmakers for the teacher shortage. But a recent study shows you can keep teachers longer with bonuses and loan forgiveness. An advocate wants to encourage efforts to recruit more black male teachers.

YOUR INPUT: Fill out this survey to help shape the state’s new school transparency tool.

CAREER BOOSTS: Several districts will share a $1 million grant to boost career counseling. And the governor invested almost $3 million to support career tech education.

VOICES: How this group of Detroit parents was called to action in the state capitol.

POPULATION SHIFT:  At least one suburban district is hiring staff after the number of students who are learning English nearly doubled.

FOR A SONG: This Detroit teacher produces hip-hop videos to teach his students to read.

THE UNEXPECTED: In an unusual twist, the Hamtramck district reclaimed a charter school building.

DISAPPOINTMENT: A high school student in a special education program was denied an academic achievement award.

RESTRAINTS: A lawsuit alleges a Washtenaw County teacher taped shut the mouth of disabled student. District leaders say the parents waited a year to respond.

BOOK REVIEW: A teacher from a Detroit nonprofit wrote a book about his year-long experience teaching poetry to children in Detroit.