SEARCH BLOG: UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN and FREAKONOMICS
Detroit Mayor wants more charter schools for the city.
The problem is twofold:
- The State has a cap on the number of charter schools
- The Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) opposes changes related to charter schools
It's not that public schools are bad (which many in the city of Detroit are) or that charter schools are better (that may be the case for some). It is that the politics surrounding charter schools pits the old public schools against the new charter schools. It's an "all or nothing" proposition.
I have written several times about how the University of Michigan should put "its money where its mouth is." Charter schools are not what I meant since those enterprises are designed to "generate money where it mouth is."
Rather than competing with Detroit Public Schools, U of M... and all other area universities and colleges... should develop a voluntary, hands-on consulting relationship with individual Detroit schools... the key words here are "hands on" rather than "consulting". Simply "telling" the schools what the answers are is not the answer. Working with the schools is.
Detroit's teachers have it bad enough with a failing system. University charter schools will bury that system. Of course, the DFT needs to be visionary enough to accept a situation where it can adapt to working with outside agencies... and make appropriate changes to their political agenda.
But let's not blame it all on the schools that can only do so much with what they are given. Perhaps it is time to own up to what a massive study of Chicago's schools revealed. In the book Freakonomics by Dr. Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago, his analysis of this study revealed some interesting and sobering facts.
The short version is this: "bad" schools are not necessarily bad because of class size or teacher's education or computer-student ratio. Bad schools share common traits such as gang problems, non-student interferrence, and lack of PTA funding... symptoms or indicators of underlying social issues. And then there are the startling correlations between student performance and parents' backgrounds and actions. One hint: among the factors that didn't make a difference in the study were:
- the child's family being intact
- the child's parents moving to a better neighborhood
- the child attending "Head Start"
- the child's parents read to him nearly every day