Wednesday, August 13, 2008
IN OUR OPINION
DPS board, superintendent need to make their peace
August 13, 2008
The parallels are growing between the current Detroit Board of Education and some of the legendarily backward school boards of old.
This embarrassing situation will be made only worse if a board cabal follows through on a rumored plan to topple Superintendent Connie Calloway, who is to receive her one-year evaluation in a closed-door session tonight.
No one would speak Tuesday for the record, so maybe this is just another urban legend. City parents and taxpayers should hope so. And the board should publicly lay it to rest.
Already on economic and academic life support, the school district needs to move into its new academic year focused on students and finances, not consumed by the consequences of an ill-timed power play.
It would be foolish and fiscally irresponsible to dump Calloway now. At $280,000 a year, she earns more than Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and has a contract that could ensure, depending on terms of dismissal, compensation through June 30, 2010.
Of course, the board, as Calloway's employer, has a right and, indeed, a duty to evaluate her performance. It's spelled out in a contract that also calls for an annual meeting with the board, "prior to May 1," to develop a list of academic, budget and financial priorities, including "the development of a five- and ten- year master plan."
In fact, there is little public evidence that this board and Calloway have worked together closely on any agenda and certainly not in a timely manner. That's a responsibility both sides share. In the same way that Calloway has been accountable to community stakeholders, she has to be more publicly savvy in communicating and partnering with the board and the Detroit Federation of Teachers. It would help to see her direct some of the candor she's shown about rampant fraud and mismanagement in the district toward her big-picture vision for DPS. It's well past time.
"She may have some academic prowess," said board member Tyrone Winfrey, an early Calloway supporter, who was also on the search committee that brought her to Detroit. "But her management and leadership style has rubbed against the board. I don't feel like going down the road of another superintendent search, but unless we can come together fast, the kids and these families in Detroit are more important to me than one person."
Calloway has to remember that she works for the board. The board has to remember that she was hired to do a job and needs to be empowered to get it done. The board also has to acknowledge that with all the district's problems, this is no time for a costly change in leadership based on personalities, not principles. This is about doing right by children and doing well by taxpayers. Calloway and the board have to be able to come together on that much; there are no sides to pick on those core issues.
Continuity in the superintendent's office sends an important message to the community. It starts with board members sticking to the call for reform and resisting the sad tradition of turning immediately on the leaders they themselves select. The last time the Detroit schools had a leadership crisis, the state abolished the elected school board for five-plus years. Is that what this board wants?
Put an end to feuding, just educate
BY ROCHELLE RILEY • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • August 13, 2008
Hell froze over.
Instead of a boxing match, some Detroit school board members hope to use tonight's evaluation of Superintendent Connie Calloway's first year on the job to improve a relationship that has been volatile at worst, contentious at best and a detriment to the district, at least.
Board member Tyrone Winfrey, who has had mixed feelings about the superintendent, said Tuesday that the board and Calloway must "chart a new path" to work together to put children first.
"I'm realistically trying to say, 'Let's work together,' " he said. "It's been tough. Her demeanor and character makes it seem like she wants to control the board. But we're trying to work together here."
Calloway declined to comment.
Evaluation on the heels of rumors
Calloway's evaluation comes two days before the board heads to Port Huron for a two-day retreat. There, they will set district goals the board can approve and Calloway can achieve. Calloway also will be expected to outline her reinvention of schools in the area of the city with the densest student populations.
The evaluation also comes as rumors spread about the board buying the superintendent out of her contract. Board members denied that Tuesday.
"She's only been here for a year, and I think that a year is not long enough," said board member Annie Carter. "And I can't see us going through superintendent after superintendent. ... There are some school districts that have gone through five superintendents in six years. We can't do that.
"I think Dr. Calloway needs help. She needs to ask for help," Carter said.
Carter could not have said it better. A failing district that has lost half -- and graduates a third -- of its students can't afford to throw away a person whose harshest critics concede is a good educator.
No plans to remove Calloway
So what should the board and superintendent do?
Focus on the children. Communicate better, on both sides. Spend, as I've said before, less time on the business of educating children and more time educating children.
This city's schools are on the front lines of saving urban children before they are lost.
We are losing the war.
"We need to talk about her first year where we can improve our relations ... and come up with some strong things to spend our energy and very limited resources on," board president Carla Scott said.
Critics on the board said they have no plans to try to remove Calloway. Even Jimmy Womack, her harshest critic, said Tuesday: "I did not vote for Dr. Calloway to come, and I will not vote for her to leave. I need Dr. Calloway to do her job and the board to do its job."
Scott said she hopes board members are sincere about changing and working better with the super.
"I don't think people understand that when bad things are said about the superintendent, it reflects poorly on the board. And when bad things are said about the board, it reflects badly on the district."
Yes, it does.
Join the conversation about this column at www/freep.com/rochelleriley.
FROM OUR READERS
Students leaving elementary, middle schools need exit tests
August 13, 2008
If Michigan is really serious about installing one of the nation's toughest high school curriculums, here is a good place to start ("Test scores show need to get more help to students," Aug. 11). We absolutely need some kind of an exit exam before a student leaves elementary school and middle school. Or at the very least require mandatory summer school before promotion.
The present practice of "social promotions," where a student is promoted to the next grade, even when he/she flunks practically every subject, must be addressed. In many cases the students actually refuse to learn the subject matter. There are known strategies to deal with this effectively.
As a retired high school teacher, I've seen the total shock on many ninth-graders' faces when they get to high school and realize they actually have to do the work and pass the subject.
Why do we have to wait until high school to discover that a student is not worthy of a diploma? Shouldn't this be caught earlier? If a student doesn't understand math fundamentals, can't write a coherent sentence, or understand a short written paragraph, it is a recipe for failure in high school.
More problems to consider
Your editorial on failing test scores and possible solutions does not even mention two serious problems in Michigan today.
The first problem can be fixed with money. In an attempt to get "more bang for their buck," even remedial classes are now at maximum capacity with 30 to 35 students. In large, crowded classes, teachers find it impossible to give struggling students the individualized help they need.
Furthermore, in large, crowded classrooms students feel ignored. They don't feel the teacher cares about them or knows them. Large classes lead to high dropout rates.
Consider that a high school teacher is expected to teach 30 students an hour for five hours a day -- perhaps 150 students. How does a teacher possibly individualize? How does a teacher read and evaluate all that writing? No wonder the writing scores are 40% in the state!
The second problem, however, cannot be fixed with money. Unfortunately, we have become a nation that expects learning to be fun. But like Olympic athletes, successful students learn at an early age that success in academics is no different than success in the sports world. They both require discipline, practice, and self- sacrifice. These are attitudes that must be developed in the home from an early age.
Exams don't tell all
Singular reliance on Merit exams and other mass produced testing instruments is the true disappointment in education. It is alleged that the teens have failed and are struggling to meet expectations. How do you know this is true? A number produced and compared year over year demonstrates absolutely nothing except the blind ignorance of all those highly intelligent individuals who profess to be experts in educational assessment.
These are no doubt the same individuals who expect that all students will perform above average, all the time, and achieve 100% proficiency by 2014. Not!
Look around and observe what is working: small schools, integrated curriculums, performance of mastery, assessment over time using multiple methods, teachers and school buildings with local autonomy, variable school hours at the secondary level -- methods that provide opportunities for success and a desire for lifelong learning.
Monday, August 11, 2008
ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW
Switch to smarter higher ed funding
BY STATE SEN. WAYNE KUIPERS • August 11, 2008
The Kalamazoo Promise launched a nationwide discussion of private funding for public higher education and efforts in Michigan to take the concept statewide. And while the unknown benefactor of the Kalamazoo Promise deserves praise for doing what many only talk about -- providing financial incentives for children to pursue higher education -- larger problems still must be addressed at the state level.
The legislation that has reached the Michigan Senate would create "Promise Zones" in poor areas of the state where all or some of the cost of college would be covered with state and local dollars. The problem, as I see it, is that the dollars are not directed to the students, but to the Michigan higher education system.
Right now, the state spends $1.6 billion to help students take advantage of higher education opportunities in Michigan. However, because this money goes directly to the schools, not the students, it limits their opportunity to use it for the university that best meets their needs and chosen course discipline. The Promise Zone legislation also provides no incentive for students to stay in school beyond their "experimental" freshmen year.
Given the condition of Michigan's economy, we need a bold plan that makes higher education more affordable and rewards students for completing their degrees.
I propose that we establish a system by which we put the money in the hands of the students and let them use our state's tax dollars to attend the university that best meets their needs. Each Michigan university would be compensated based on the number of students it attracts and graduates. This would represent a huge improvement on the current system, in which the presidents of our 15 state universities come to Lansing every year and lobby for a raise in funding.
In the system I am proposing, the onus would be on the universities and their ability to provide curriculum and training programs that will allow our students to meet the demands of the marketplace and successfully find careers. Those schools that continually meet the needs of and attract more students will get a higher level of funding.
Under the New University Funding Plan, freshmen attending a public university in Michigan would receive $5,000 to $6,000. The amount would increase each year they continue in school until the student graduates.
The plan also addresses the huge brain drain of students leaving the state immediately after graduation. Companies now in the state and those looking to move here are complaining there are not enough qualified employees in Michigan to fill their available and future positions. Under the new funding plan, students who continue to work in Michigan after they graduate, would also have access to more than $150 million in low or interest-free loans to help make college more affordable. The primary overall goal of the plan, obviously, is to encourage more Michigan students to go to college by making it more affordable.
I recently presented this plan to Lou Glazier, president of Michigan Future, and members of his board of directors. They, too, share my belief that getting more kids in our universities is tantamount to the future economic recovery of Michigan.
"The most prosperous places in the country are those with the highest proportion of adults with a four-year degree or more. Unfortunately, Michigan ranks 34th in college attainment. So finding better ways of encouraging far more of our kids to graduate from college and stay here after college is economic growth priority No. 1," Glazer said.
Of course, there are many details still to be hashed out; including the possibility of providing tax incentives for Michigan-based companies to hire Michigan graduates. But embarking now on a market-based system that gives high school graduates more options in higher education is not only good for our educational system, but the Michigan economy.
WAYNE KUIPERS, R-Holland, 47, represents the 30th state Senate district, encompassing Ottawa County plus Grandville and Sparta Township in Kent County. He chairs the Senate Education Committee. Contact him at SenWKuipers@senate.michigan.gov.
IN OUR OPINION
United Way takes lead in preventing dropouts
August 11, 2008
Leadership requires more than just talking about a problem. It takes commitment and action.
The United Way for Southeastern Michigan is truly taking a leadership role in attacking the issue of high school dropouts, a critical challenge for the economy and well-being of this region.
For the second time this year, the United Way is putting action behind its expressed concern for improving the educational outcomes of students in high poverty districts. The first step was to host a first-of-its-kind regional summit, to expose the painful societal costs of having 30 of the nation's so-called dropout factories right here in metro Detroit.
The event was an eye-opening success for participants who realized the dropout problem is not confined to Detroit.
Last week came the United Way's tangible long-term commitment to solutions, with the creation of the $10-million Greater Detroit Education Venture Fund to help high schools with dropout rates of 40% or more. The money will be disbursed in competitive grants of up to $80,000 per year over five years and paid to well-vetted third-party educational companies that the United Way will designate to partner with schools.
Ideally, the United Way is looking to align troubled schools with companies nationally recognized for turning them around in cities such as Chicago, Miami, New York and Cleveland. The goal is for the companies to help schools identify their students' challenges and then customize a learning environment that could involve breaking a large school into smaller ones within it.
The project should be a good complement to Gov. Jennifer Granholm's smaller school initiative. And it's likely to have a faster impact, given the absence of partisan bickering and general government bureaucracy. In fact, United Way's fund is already approaching the halfway point toward its $10-million goal, with $4 million committed, including a generous $1-million pledge from AT&T of Michigan and investment from the Skillman Foundation.
AT&T Michigan president Gail Torreano said the company's commitment will come from $100 million that AT&T is donating nationwide to efforts to improve educational preparedness, a key workforce issue for employers.
"We ought to have the expectation as a region that we can create change, a better outcome for students," United Way CEO Mike Brennan said in an interview last week. "This is an urban and a suburban issue, one we are collectively accountable for."
Bravo to Brennan for speaking the truth and for being so committed to leading the region in a united way.
Test scores show need to get more help to students
August 11, 2008
The results from the latest Michigan Merit exam once again expose a gaping hole in the state's strategy to turn out a smarter class of high school graduates.
With more than half the high school juniors tested showing failing scores, the State Board of Education needs to take a closer look at whether school districts are identifying struggling students early enough and linking them with tutoring resources that are supposed to be available under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Michigan can't leave this question unanswered after finally installing one of the nation's toughest high school curriculums. The change remains a smart one for Michigan, but if it's going to pay off, the state has to be equally tough and insistent about aiding students who need help making the academic leap.
The dismal scores students are posting under the tougher exam are somewhat to be expected and will probably improve as school districts more closely align their lesson plans with the state objectives.
But the sea change Michigan is trying to lead in its schools also demands a level of coordination and strategic planning that frankly should include an examination of whether middle schools are adequately preparing students or simply passing future failures off to high school.
Paying more attention to what's happening in middle school strikes at the heart of the state's other academic high hurdle -- stemming the tide of high school dropouts. The decision to quit rarely comes suddenly in high school; it's a product of long academic frustration that can be spotted by looking at indicators much simpler than test scores, such as attendance.
The best way to prevent dropouts is to identify the potential failures early, well before they reach high school. That's also the smartest way for Michigan to protect its investment in the more rigorous curriculum and merit exam.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Aug 8, 2008 4:33 PM
Subject: T.A. Workshop for School Turnaround Proposals
Please join us this Tuesday, August 12, at 8:30 at the United Way for a technical assistance workshop if you are interested in completing an application for high school turnaround. This is a great opportunity to walk through the application process and proposal.
FREE PARKING is available at the parking structure located at 1001 Woodward (at State Street). You must enter the parking structure off of State, which is a one-way street. Please take a parking ticket and remember to bring it into the meeting with you. It must be validated before you leave the United Way building to ensure that the cashier does not charge you a parking fee when you exit the structure (please note that United Way can not cover parking expenses for any other parking lot other than the one located at 1001 Woodward.
A copy of the School Turnaround Proposal can be downloaded at www.oned.org, and more information about this grant is included in the Crain's article, below.
Please confirm your attendance by email email@example.com or by phone 313 226-9419 with your plans to attend the T.A. Workshop. I look forward to seeing you.
Michael F. Tenbusch
Vice President, Educational Preparedness
United Way for Southeastern Michigan
1212 Griswold Street
Detroit, Michigan 48226
w (313) 226-9437
f (313) 226-9324
3:01 am, August 3, 2008
Groups seek funds to raise high school grad rates
By Sherri Begin
United Way for Southeastern Michigan has launched an effort to raise $10 million to help low-performing high schools in the region improve their graduation rates.
The agency and the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation have contributed $1.5 million each.
The AT&T Foundation today is to announce another $1 million grant to the Greater Detroit Education Venture Fund, bringing the total investment to $4 million.
The three organizations plan jointly to pursue additional grants to reach the $10 million mark, said United Way CEO Michael Brennan.
“If we are going to compete as a country in this global society, we have to have a workforce that's ready,” said AT&T Michigan President Gail Torreano, a United Way board member and chair of its Educational Preparedness Council and of the Greater Detroit Education Venture Fund.
Given the needs of Southeast Michigan, AT&T's employment of 12,000 people in Michigan and the AT&T Foundation's launch last spring of a program aimed at strengthening student success and workforce readiness in the U.S., the investment made perfect sense, Torreano said.
“When you look at issues of current and lifetime income, health disparity, incarceration rates, literacy rates — all of that leads to the fundamental foundation that education is one of the key drivers of both economic and emotional and physical success,” said United Way CEO Michael Brennan.
The aim of the program is to turn around the 30 or so Southeast Michigan high schools labeled as “drop-out factories” in a 2007 Johns Hopkins University study because of their graduation rates of 60 percent or less.
The schools are in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
The goal is to increase graduation rates to 80 percent or more of entering students within five years of the program's launch in the 2009-2010 academic year, Brennan said.
“There's no question there's a crisis, particularly at the high school level in Detroit,” said William Hanson, director of communications and technology at Skillman.
The plan is to implement best practices that have worked in Boston and New York and other parts of the country by working with nationally known educational intermediaries to create smaller, more personalized learning environments.
United Way plans today and Tuesday to host a group of nationally recognized intermediary nonprofits at Lawrence Technological University so the target high schools can meet them and learn more about their work.
Many of the intermediaries, which include EdWorks, First Things First and the Institute for Student Achievement, have garnered past funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Brennan said.
Administered by United Way, the Greater Detroit Education Venture Fund will make annual grants of $320,000 directly to the intermediary partners of larger high schools and $80,000 to smaller high schools with 500 or fewer students.
The grants would be renewable for up to five years and are being made to intermediaries to keep them accountable, Brennan said.
The 30 or so “drop-out factories” in metro Detroit will compete for the dollars, he said, by demonstrating leadership support and readiness within the school and a partnership with a proven intermediary.
United Way has invited the schools to submit a turnaround proposal to qualify for funding, Brennan said.
With $10 million in hand, the fund expects to begin making grants for turnaround efforts at six large high schools of about 1,500 to 2,000 students or more in the 2009-2010 academic year, Brennan said.
The plan is to break those six schools into smaller schools of 500 students or fewer to give students a more targeted and personalized approach. The smaller schools could have an academic focus more geared to students' abilities, such as math and science or arts, he said.
The intermediaries also would help implement best practices such as site-based management of academic performance and instruction and stronger and more targeted relationships with the student population that would help those schools increase their graduation rates to 80 percent within five years, Brennan said.
The program will entail a year of preparation to get schools lined up for the turnaround work scheduled to begin the fall of 2009, he said.
“We certainly hope that with a clear demonstration of local private funding ... it will put us in a position to attract national foundation funds for the Venture Fund,” Brennan said.
Sherri Begin: (313) 4460-1694, firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2007 Crain Communications Inc.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Posted: 07 Aug 2008 11:14 AM CDT
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels? We make tools for these kinds of people. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Some of you may recognise that as the famous Apple ‘Think Different’ text, others may not, but I guess whether you’ve read it before or have read it for the first time there, we can pretty much all agree that it’s an inspiring piece of text. The thing that surprised me was that when reading through it I realised that all you need to do is change one tiny piece of the text to change the whole context of it.
make tools for educate these kinds of people”
In my mind, that’s now one hell of a motto for a better education system.
Let’s face it; the current education system just doesn’t know how to handle these kinds of people. “The round pegs in the square holes,” as Apple refers to them. The system doesn’t understand creativity. It robs all students of their creative consciousness and replaces it with structure, structure, and more structure, only to prepare them for a 9-to-5 job, Monday to Friday, every week of every year for the rest of their lives. Art, Music, Drama… you name it, the current system has a course for it. But that course doesn’t do any form of justice to the many greats that have over hundreds of years created amazing works and done incredible things, demonstrating how beautiful these arts can be. Students aren’t told to let passion drive them forward, or let their inspiration flow and their imagination stop at nothing. They are told to follow the rules, and do whatever it takes to get a ‘pass.’ Where would we be if Bach was told his Brandenburg concertos ‘didn’t quite meet the required standard’? What would have happened if Van Gogh was told his paintings just ‘didn’t make sense’?
It doesn’t stop at the arts. The suppression of creativity is seen in all fields of learning within the current system, giving no room for our real geniuses to shine. And why? Because the system has an obsession with testing, and at the end of the day you can’t test real genius, because you just can’t grade it. Who really has the right to say that a piece of music is an A or B or whatever else? Why should someone sitting in a fancy government office be able to sit there and write the rules that decide whether this piece of writing would make the grade or not? Why can’t the people deciding our futures for us be content with having some classes that have no exams? Classes that are solely there to help stimulate the different skills we all possess, without having to put us under the constant pressure of being bombarded with test after test and grade after grade. Do they see this as ‘non-educational’?
Think of the wealth of talent that is being and has been squandered due to this system. How many people would have become the next great composer if they had been given just that little bit more leeway? How many people would have had the courage to write their own novel, because they wouldn’t have been told they ‘weren’t good enough’? How many people failed to ever recognise their own potential because they were too busy striving for the best grades possible? Only so they could get a ‘good’ job in an office, with a ‘good’ salary.
Don’t get me wrong, we need the people in offices to do the things that keep our public services running and our economy going, but we also need the people who create, invent, and change things. We need the people who “sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written,” because Apple is right; they push the human race forward, and have done for as long as the human race has been around. But they can’t continue to do so if we don’t help them realise they are capable of doing so. They can’t invent the cure for cancer, or compose a great symphony, or write a magnificent piece of literature if our education system tells them exactly how everything should be, and what they should learn, and what they are aiming to do with their lives. Give them the opportunity. Let them decide.
We make the mistake of thinking that the people that do well in school are the ‘smart’ ones, but that isn’t always the case. These people may just be good at retaining information and reciting it back under pressure, or may just be good at problem solving. Our schools teach these kinds of people well, because they know how to deal with them. All you need to do with these people is throw facts and figures at them and tell them they need to know them to pass, and get become qualified to get a good job... which is not even proper learning. There is no regard there for our creative ones, or even the ‘smart’ ones who can probably do so much more given the opportunity. There is no other option, no fork in the road, not even a way to have the best of both worlds. Just one path for everyone to follow, with the same goal in mind—to fit in, and become another round peg in a round hole.
Let me make myself clear right now that this is not a dig at teachers, who do a superb job. What it is, however, is a cry out to the people in suits who decide what we learn and how we learn it to change their philosophy. To realise that some people can achieve more, and that the people who will eventually find the cure for cancer, or create the next breakthrough piece of technology, or discover new planets and galaxies are in our schools. These children/students or whatever you want to call them are waiting on these people to realise and do something to help them on their way to greatness. To give them the opportunity to shine, and achieve things that both us and them can’t even imagine yet.
It really is time for our education system to start ‘Thinking Differently.’
The Bass Player
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
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Raising Graduation Rates in an Era of High Standards
What States Must Do
By Cheryl Almeida & Adria Steinberg
In the waning months of the Bush administration, both public officials and private-sector leaders are demonstrating great interest in addressing the shockingly high dropout rate in many American high schools. In April, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that the U.S. Department of Education will begin requiring all states to calculate graduation rates the same way by the 2012-13 school year.
She made the announcement at the same time that former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was helping launch the America’s Promise Alliance’s nationwide campaign to combat the problem, an initiative that will convene dropout-prevention summits in 50 states and 50 cities by the end of 2010.
This is all good news. It is time that the simmering concern about the fate of those who never complete high school comes to a boil. It is also time that policies to prevent students from leaving school and to reduce dropout rates be made as high a priority as policies designed to raise overall academic performance to a college-ready standard.
The National Governors Association accelerated this effort three years ago when it pushed states to voluntarily agree to use common measures of dropping out. For years, states had routinely reported graduation rates of 90 percent or higher. We know that the real average for most states is closer to 70 percent. And as Secretary Spellings’ announcement indicates, still more progress needs to be made. In the next few years, it will be critical for states to move beyond the important task of implementing new standards for calculating cohort graduation rates, to create a range of incentives, supports, and sanctions that can help more high schools graduate many more students ready for college and careers.
Next-generation accountability systems should redress the single-minded emphasis in current systems on meeting high standards by giving weight to graduation as an equally critical goal.
A blueprint for this policy agenda is taking shape. States are beginning to implement legislation and policies that make graduation rates as important an accountability measure as high academic performance. A growing number of state-level efforts seek to identify and support struggling students early, quickly address poorly performing high schools, and support the creation of new schools and programs that work for struggling and out-of-school youths. These efforts are as much a part of the college-ready agenda as setting and raising academic-performance levels for those who make it through high school.
A number of states are taking the lead. Some, like Georgia and Indiana, have passed new dropout-prevention legislation. Others, including Michigan and Kentucky, have set numeric goals for postsecondary completion. Still others, such as Massachusetts, are building P-16 longitudinal-data systems and beginning to study inefficiencies and leaks in the pipeline that links education to economic growth, so that graduation rates can be increased and successful transitions to college maximized.
These first steps are tentative, though. State policymakers worry that the goal of keeping more students in school until they graduate, while also raising expectations for them, may constitute another “mission impossible.” But new research and lessons from the field and from the states have helped outline a coherent set of policy strategies addressing this problem systematically. It is now up to all states to incorporate this framework into their own policies and practices.
During the past several years, our nonprofit organization, Jobs for the Future, has partnered with Achieve Inc. in an initiative funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to study how states might best support such efforts to raise standards and graduation rates. In “Raising Graduation Rates in an Era of High Standards,” a report that builds on this work, we call on state policymakers to follow the lead of their most innovative peers and commit to five critical outcomes for their districts, schools, and students. Our work suggests specific steps states can take to focus high school reform efforts on securing the following five outcomes:
• A high school diploma that signifies college- and work-readiness. States must ensure equal access for all young people to academically challenging, high-quality high school programs of study—and do that without stifling local and school-based innovation and flexibility in curriculum design. To have quality, equity, and consistency in the delivery of a college-prep course of study, states will need to monitor coursetaking patterns, disaggregate data for race and income, include student-transcript data in state data systems, and connect K-12 and postsecondary data systems, so that student progress to and through college can be tracked.
Making sure that curricular innovation is not stifled in the quest for consistency will require that states give districts flexibility, holding schools responsible for outcomes while supporting and aiding the innovators who want to create evidence-based instructional programs that will engage particular groups of struggling students and help them succeed.
• Pathways to graduation and college success for struggling and out-of-school students. Effective high schools—particularly those for low-income, African-American, and Hispanic youths—tend to be small and to emphasize relationships, relevance, and academic rigor. There are far too few of these, and few vehicles for their development and support. States need to establish these vehicles, as well as the conditions and funding to ensure that such schools are developed or replicated in communities with concentrations of struggling students and dropouts.
North Carolina stands out in this regard for its effort to support partnerships and other means for spurring new school development. The state’s New Schools Project is the school-development entity for Gov. Michael F. Easley’s ambitious Learn and Earn high schools. It has already created more than 40 new schools whose students can earn both a high school diploma and up to two years of college credit or an associate degree, tuition-free.
• Turnaround of low-performing high schools. States need to identify low-performing “dropout factory” high schools, and work with districts to create the conditions and capacities either to turn these schools around or replace them with more-effective options. A few states, such as Florida and Arizona, now provide supports for their lowest-performing schools. These include technical assistance, capacity-building, and funding. Equally important, both states ensure that a lack of reform progress will result in significant state intervention. In an era of limited resources, one of the most important sources of funding for new, effective schools and programs will have to be the replacement of dropout factories with more evidence-based, high-quality options for those schools’ students.
• Increased emphasis on graduation rates and college-readiness in next-generation accountability. Additional accountability indicators, recognitions, and incentives—starting with a set of “on-track metrics” predictive of high school graduation, such as promotion from 9th to 10th grade, or completion of core courses—can help states encourage schools and districts to hold on to struggling students, get them back on track to a diploma, and increase their readiness for college and careers.
Louisiana’s Graduation Index creates incentives for high schools both to keep students enrolled through graduation and to provide a rigorous curriculum through the senior year. Next-generation accountability systems should redress the single-minded emphasis in current systems on meeting high standards by giving weight to graduation as an equally critical goal.
• Early and continuous support for struggling students. Research in Chicago and Philadelphia has identified powerful 6th and 9th grade school-based indicators of the likelihood of dropping out, such as academic performance in core courses, credit accumulation, and attendance. If states strengthened their data systems to include such indicators and also helped school districts develop and use accurate early-warning systems to identify off-track students and target interventions early, far more struggling students would get back on track and succeed in high school and beyond.
The time is right for state action to raise graduation rates at the same time that academic-performance expectations are being raised. The public, increasingly concerned about the country’s economic standing, is beginning to demand action. And policymakers see clearly the economic imperative of increasing the number of residents with postsecondary credentials. These five state-policy commitments point the way to turning what may seem unattainable into a must-win “mission possible” of making high standards achievable for all students.
Cheryl Almeida is a program director and Adria Steinberg is an associate vice president at Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization in Boston.
United Way Receives $1 Million from AT&T To Support Local Schools
For more information, contact:
Cara I. Belton
313-226-9484 or 313-520-8454
Laura L. Rodwan
313-226-9484 or 313-477-2750
United Way for Southeast Michigan
Grant will support Greater Detroit Education Venture Fund
DETROIT, August 4, 2008 – AT&T (NYSE:T), today announced a $1 million contribution to the United Way for Southeastern Michigan Greater Detroit Area Venture Fund. The Venture Fund was created to support school turnaround efforts in high schools that have low graduation rates, based on best practices that have proven effective in other cities nationwide.
"We're pleased to present United Way with the largest gift we’ve ever given of this kind in Michigan," said Gail Torreano, president of AT&T Michigan. "We are proud to be a catalyst for the Venture Fund, and hope AT&T’s contribution will inspire many more companies and individuals to come forward and contribute to support our local students who are the future leaders in Michigan."
The launch of the Venture Fund is an example of United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s commitment to becoming an impact-driven organization in order to better meet the needs of the communities it serves. The Fund is a $10 million initiative to transform high school education in the region.
“As part of our re-alignment into a community-impact organization through the Agenda for Change, United Way will continue to take the lead in unprecedented, innovative work throughout the region,” said Mike Brennan, president and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan. "Through the generosity of AT&T, we will lay the groundwork for long-term success in turning around southeastern Michigan’s low-performing schools.”
Currently, there are 2,000 high schools in America that have graduated less than 60% of their freshmen class for three consecutive years. More than 30 of those schools are located in Southeastern Michigan.
The Venture Fund’s purpose is to turn around the low graduation rates at high schools in the region with dropout rates of 40 percent or higher.
The Venture Fund will financially support partnerships between high schools and proven educational intermediaries working together to create small, personalized learning environments.
In April 2008, AT&T unveiled the “AT&T Aspire” program through which the company and the AT&T Foundation will commit $100 million over the next four years toward high school success and workforce readiness initiatives.
With more than 12,000 employees in Michigan and over 300,000 employees worldwide, AT&T is uniquely positioned to take on this challenge and lead the way in supporting students and schools in our local communities. By focusing on education and workforce readiness, AT&T is looking beyond today, because our nation’s prosperity depends on investing in and supporting the next generation.
United Way president and CEO Mike Brennan accepted the $1 million gift from Torreano on the first day of a two-day school turnaround forum, “Conversations with Intermediaries,” held at Lawrence Technological Institute in Southfield. Representatives from AFT Michigan (AFL-CIO), the Skillman Foundation, and other corporate and community partners are at the forefront of this effort, and are providing generous support to The Venture Fund.
After acknowledging AT&T’s contribution, Brennan expressed the continued need for education reform in our community. “Now, more than ever, the success of the region in the 21st century will require a renewed commitment to a culture of achievement in our schools and communities.”
Greater Detroit Education Venture Fund Funding Partnerships for Turnaround Schools Q & As
What is the Venture Fund?
The Greater Detroit Education Venture Fund (“the Venture Fund”) was created to support eligible school turnaround efforts in high schools that have low graduation rates. These turnaround efforts are based on best practices that have proven effective in other cities nationwide.
The Purpose of the Venture Fund IS NOT:
to create charter schools
take over schools
to break up unions
limited to schools only in the city of Detroit
Where did the idea for the Venture Fund originate?
A recent Johns Hopkins study identified 78 high schools in Michigan (more than 30 of which are in Southeastern Michigan) as “dropout factories,” meaning that less than 60% of the students graduated with their class for at least three years in a row. Yet since 2001, a wave of urban high school transformation efforts has swept across the country, and some cities and intermediary organizations have shown amazing results.
Who is involved in the Venture Fund?
The AT& T Foundation, the Skillman Foundation and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
Why has the United Way for Southeastern Michigan created the Venture Fund?
The issues facing families and individuals in our communities have become greater in number and more acute. As a result, the United Way for Southeastern Michigan is changing the way it does business in order to meet the needs of the communities it serves. The Venture Fund is a part of that change. United Way’s shift in function and focus is an agile, swift response to rapidly changing community needs, including the area of education.
How is United Way changing the way it is doing business?
United Way has implemented its Agenda for Change and is transforming into an impact-driven organization seeking to create measurable and lasting change in the areas most critical to the well being of Southeastern Michigan communities. The Agenda’s three impact areas are:
What is role of United Way in the Venture Fund?
In addition to creating the Venture Fund, United Way will act as its fiduciary, marking a non-traditional role and progressive approach by the organization. As part of its re-alignment into a community-impact organization, United Way will continue to take the lead in unprecedented, innovative work throughout the region.
What is the goal of the Venture Fund?
The Fund will financially support partnerships between high schools and proven educational intermediaries working together to create small, personalized learning environments.
Why the need?
There are 2,000 high schools in America that have graduated less than 60% of their freshmen class for three consecutive years—and more than 30 of those schools are in Southeastern Michigan. The schools listed below have been invited (via school district leaders) to submit a School Turnaround Proposal.
How will the funds be allocated?
Grants up to $80,000 per year per small high school (500 students or fewer) or $320,000 per large high school (1,500 to 2,000 students) will be made to support comprehensive turnaround efforts. Grants are renewable for up to five years based on annual performance objectives. Funds will be paid directly to the intermediaries identified by the school.
Will the Funds go directly to the schools?
No. Funds will be paid directly to the intermediaries identified by the school.
Which schools are eligible?
Academy for Business and Tech.
Communication & Media Arts
Melvindale-Northern Allen Park
Van Dyke Lincoln
Detroit School of Industrial Arts
What is an eligible intermediary?
An educational intermediary is a non-profit organization that partners with a school district to help its leadership and teachers improve student achievement. Intermediaries eligible for funding must have a proven record of improving student achievement and graduation rates in high poverty high schools, as measured by an external evaluator.
What is the strategy behind the Venture Fund school turnaround efforts?
Other cities have shown that urban school districts, union leadership, and community members can transform large, failing high schools into smaller, successful ones. The purpose of the Venture Fund is to incentivize those partnerships and best practices to turn around schools in Southeastern Michigan. This includes the following key components:
Conditions in the lowest-performing schools must be changed so that school leaders have the authority to make decisions in the best interests of the students. Changing conditions also means being accountable for increased achievement rates.
Increasing capacity means that one lead external partner (or “intermediary”) works with the school district and school staff to implement proven school turnaround and student engagement strategies.
To be effective, school turnaround cannot occur in small, isolated pockets. School leaders and teachers involved in turnaround need both collaboration and competition.
What are the criteria that indicate success in school turnaround efforts?
If a school’s district office is supportive of the turnaround efforts.
The school has a plan for effective site-based management.
The school has selected a partner with a proven record of improving graduation rates.
There have been failed efforts in the past. How is this different?
In the last few years we have begun to see the development of successful strategies for improving low graduation rates throughout the country. The strategies will create the foundation for change in our failing schools. In addition, The Venture Fund is unique in that labor and school leaders, as well the corporate and philanthropic community, are working together to tackle this critical issue.