School daze

By now, the nation knows Detroit kids can't add but what we learned — or re-learned — from the reaction to the now-infamous National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) results is that adults involved with the district have mastered politicking on the platform of educational failure.

After the dismal test results were announced last week for the sample of fourth and eighth graders who took the NAEP exam — scoring the worst in the history of the test — a flurry of statements, appearances and op-eds appeared. Mayor Dave Bing, who would like control of the district's administration in place of an elected board, called the results "another wake-up call for our community."

District Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, who says he knew how bad the scores were weeks ago, called the results the "failing of adults" and trotted up to Lansing. There he used the dismal scores to lobby for control of the district's academics as well as its finances. Then back in Detroit over the weekend, he launched a citywide effort to organize volunteers to help kids learn to read. 

The Board of Education, for its part, met Thursday and some of its members discussed whether the NAEP results were even accurate. "You can make statistics say whatever you want," opined Marie Thornton, who lost her seat in November's election. (Yeah, right. Statisticians who can make these numbers say Detroit schools work are invited to e-mail [email protected].)

Board member Ida Short met with the Detroit Parent Advisory Council on Monday to tell members, "We knew the results would be bad when we agreed to give the test." To her point, the district's curriculum is aligned with the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, not the NAEP, but who cares when you can lobby for your power base on children penciling in the wrong answer?

Meanwhile, the Detroit Federation of Teachers is voting this week on a contract agreement that Bobb forged with union president Keith Johnson. It calls for, among other provisions, teachers to give the district what amounts to $10,000 loans. Bobb says it's a good deal for teachers: he wanted them to take pay cuts.

A vocal opposition has launched a recall drive for Johnson, accusing him of selling out to Bobb and paving the way for more charter schools in Detroit. The contract vote is expected Friday. 

The American Federation of Teachers, the DFT's parent organization located in Washington D.C., issued a statement supporting the contract. "While this agreement must still be ratified, Detroit's educators, their union leadership and school administrators have reminded us all of what community means. Compromise, collaboration and mutual respect — as well as smart investments, even in a tough economy—are needed to bring our country back," it says.

Words to live by?

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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