School choice, metro Detroit’s new white flight

When the high school in Eastpointe recently welcomed the football team from Lakeview High, it was a homecoming of sorts.

That’s because nearly 700 students from Eastpointe actually attend school in Lakeview, a public school district five miles away in St. Clair Shores. As it happens, many of the students who left Eastpointe for Lakeview are white.

So it was that on a cool September evening, most students and fans on the home team’s side of the football field were African American, while many of their white neighbors filled the Lakeview side. It was a sight that saddened Jennifer Ward, head of the band boosters.

A lifelong Eastpointe resident, Ward, who is white, graduated from the high school in 1988, when almost everyone in the district looked like her. Eastpointe was called East Detroit back then, but residents soon changed its name to distance this blue-collar city in Macomb County from the crime-soaked image of its neighbor to the south. The only vestige of its old name is in its schools, which are still called East Detroit Public Schools.

Ward said she thinks half of those who left East Detroit schools choose other districts for racial reasons. Others, she said, probably did so because the Lakeview schools have better test scores, more funding and better facilities. She admits there is likely no way to know for sure. But she also believes that when neighbors don’t go to school together, they don’t get to know each other as well as those who do.

“East Detroit is diverse. It’s the real world,” Ward said. “Everybody should go to school where they live.”

The white flight seen in Eastpointe is playing out in districts across metro Detroit and around the state. In the past 20 years, as African Americans have moved out of Detroit and into the suburbs, white parents have, whether by chance or design, used the state’s schools of choice program to move their children to less diverse, more white traditional public schools. At the same time, some black families have chosen historically white suburban school districts to send their children, while others are choosing charter schools that are strikingly more segregated and black.

As a result, school districts across parts of the state are ending up more racially segregated than the communities from which they draw students.

Such is the case in Eastpointe.

Consider: The East Detroit school district is only 19 percent white, even though 40 percent of school-age children living there are white. And the flood of East Detroit students to Lakeview, which is 80 percent white, has produced yet another shift: the loss of students prompted East Detroit to solicit students from other cities, mostly Detroit.

“School choice has accelerated segregation by race, by class, by ability, by special education status and by language,” said Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University who has reported widely (and often critically) on Michigan’s school choice policies.

But defenders of school choice say the policies produce more good than harm by empowering parents – black and white – whose local schools are failing their children.

Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, is one of the staunchest defenders of school choice in Michigan. He acknowledges that choice can financially harm the districts that are losing students.

But he and others contend that education policy should err on the side of supporting parents who want to move their children to schools that are better performing or safer.

Naeyaert said many more families would be hurt if the program was curtailed in an effort to reduce segregation that can accompany generous choice policies. He argues that, if anything, the state should make school choice less restrictive so poor families have more flexibility to take advantage of school options.

“I don’t know if it’s possible to rewrite the rules to (change) social behavior without eliminating options for people,” he said of segregation trends. “We can’t legislate morality and good intentions.”

50 years later: still separate and unequal

Almost 50 years ago, the Kerner Commission, formed to study the causes of urban unrest in Detroit and other cities, concluded that African-Americans and whites in the United States were moving toward “separate and unequal” societies, including in the classroom.

Today, Michigan’s school choice law has led to several districts that are far more majority white, while creating additional districts in which minority students are in the majority, a Bridge analysis of state enrollment records shows.

The number of so-called majority-minority school districts statewide -- where white students are in the minority -- rose from 38 a decade ago to 55 last year. Meanwhile, the number of majority-minority charter schools went from 119 to 182.

Some critics of school choice argue that the state doesn’t necessarily have to get rid of choice programs to discourage segregation in schools. Some strategies, such as locating magnet schools in communities of color, would promote diversity (which researchers see as a positive for students of all races), while giving parents quality options outside their neighborhoods.

But these same critics say the state’s current system has few safeguards.


  • Blacks comprise half of the school-age population within East Detroit schools, yet nearly 70 percent of the district’s enrollment.
  • Across the state in Holland, white enrollment has plummeted in the last decade, with the top charter destination, Black River, educating 430 Holland students last year. The charter is 74 percent white, compared with a 38 percent white population for the city at large. Nearly half the students remaining in city schools are Hispanic.
  • Statewide, more than 93 percent of African-Americans students who attended a charter school last year were in charters that were predominantly filled with minority students. That number reached 97 percent in Detroit’s Wayne County, as well as in neighboring Oakland and Macomb counties.

“Diverse schools foster both academic and non-academic benefits,” said Dr. Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, sociology professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte who studies school choice and segregation patterns in Charlotte and across the nation. Students in diverse settings learn better, are more likely to be exposed to different ideas and get better grades, she said.

Those findings echo what the Kerner Commission, established to look at the causes of the 1960s riots that roiled Detroit and cities across the nation, wrote in 1968:

“We support integration as the priority education strategy; it is essential to the future of American society. In this last summer’s disorders we have seen the consequences of racial isolation at all levels…It is indispensable that opportunities for interaction between the races be expanded...If existing disadvantages are not to be perpetuated, we must drastically improve the quality of ghetto education. Equality of results with all-white schools must be the goal.”

But that vision has been a hard sell to parents for decades. They see changes within a school and become uncomfortable with the differences, complaining of increased friction or fears of lowered academic standards. Some have, like students in school lunchrooms or playgrounds, opted to self-segregate.

“They don’t want to make their children the sacrificial lambs on the altar of social science,” Mickelson said. She said it’s up to policy makers to recognize the benefits of diversity —and take steps to minimize the segregationist tendencies of school choice. But she also said she is skeptical that leaders will make different choices than those of the parents who, after all, elect them.

“I would like public policy to be informed by science,” she said. “It’s not.”

A stampede for choice

School choice has been a popular option in Michigan for more than two decades. A byproduct of the 1994 adoption of Proposal A, which radically altered school finance in the state, students were able to switch to any district that opted to open their doors.

Today, over 300,000 students – more than 20 percent of all taxpayer-supported K-12 students in the state – are educated in either charter school or a traditional public school district other than the one in which they live.
Whether choice benefits students academically is subject to debate.

Researchers found that Michigan’s choice students typically do no better on state tests than similar students who stay in their home districts. And many students who leave for another district often come back. Findings for students who attend charter schools are more favorable, with Stanford researchers saying that charter students in Michigan typically perform better than those in traditional public schools, at least for those who attend the state’s better performing charter operators.

Wayne County
 Percent white 
DistrictIn communityIn schoolsGapLeaving via choice
Highland Park3.10-3.1261
River Rouge13.77.4-6.3501
Harper Woods20.17.4-12.7157
South Redford35.320.7-14.6207
Redford Union48.128.5-19.6741
Van Buren57.348.3-9.0683
Melvindale-N. Allen Park59.656.6-3.0350
Lincoln Park62.944.4-18.51,890
Dearborn Heights #774.563.4-11.1395
Grosse Pointe78.075.3-2.762
Allen Park83.483.50.1236
Grosse Ile86.790.23.540
Flat Rock90.786.7-4.0346
Garden City91.181.6-9.5217
Oakland County
 Percent white 
DistrictIn communityIn schoolsGapLeaving via choice
Oak Park15.43.2-12.21,056
West Bloomfield61.655-6.6172
Bloomfield Hills71.071.40.460
Hazel Park78.057.8-20.2432
Walled Lake78.677.6-1.0346
South Lyon84.986.61.7165
Lake Orion85.282.2-3.0263
Royal Oak86.780.5-6.2383
Huron Valley90.391.31.0702
Macomb County
 Percent white 
DistrictIn communityIn schoolsGapLeaving via choice
Van Dyke34.827.9-6.91,082
East Detroit37.218.6-18.62,954
Mount Clemens51.021-30.01,394
South Lake61.841.9-19.9831
Center Line65.356.7-8.6521
Warren Consolidated74.772.2-2.51,996
Warren Woods75.068.2-6.8505
L'Anse Creuse75.976.50.6672
New Haven80.870.6-10.2930
Chippewa Valley82.379-3.3889
Anchor Bay87.490.83.4303
Lake Shore88.079.5-8.5422

* Census data is of school-age children, ages 5-17.
Source: U.S. Census, Michigan Department of Education


Choice transforms Macomb schools


Perhaps nowhere in the state are the links between school choice and race more vivid than Macomb County, where East Detroit schools are located.

It is the state’s third largest county and had long been nearly all-white. As recently as 1990, blacks comprised only 1.4 percent of Macomb’s population, despite bordering the largest majority-black city in America. By 2015, its black population had risen to 11.4 percent.

But as African-Americans moved north from Detroit into southern Macomb, thousands of white students used school choice to attend class elsewhere, in districts whiter than the ones they left.

“You’d have to have your head in the sand to not see that some of it is racial,” said Ryan McLeod, the superintendent in East Detroit.

Before Proposal A, parents wanting to switch schools had few options: They could pay tuition at a private school, or they could move their family to another district. With the passage of Prop A, families could remain in their homes and still change their children’s school, few strings attached.

Last year, 11 of Macomb County’s 20 districts lost more students to choice than they received. For each of those 11 districts, the No. 1 destination was a traditional public public district more white than the one they left. And the Macomb district gaining the most choice students was Lakeview.

As white districts get whiter, other Macomb districts are turning increasingly black. In 2003-04, two Macomb districts were majority black. Now, there are four, including East Detroit.

Taken together, white and black, three-of-four Macomb students who took advantage of school choice last year moved to a district that was less diverse than the one they left.

That pattern is being repeated across Michigan.

In the 2009-10 school year, roughly 64 percent of choice students across the state moved to a less diverse district. That rate is now approaching 70 percent, a Bridge review of student residency and demography data shows, changing the face of classrooms from Holland to Jackson.

“The data suggests that might be happening; that some people are leaving because other people are coming,” said Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, an assistant professor of education at Wayne State University who has studied student demographic changes in metro Detroit schools.


The tug of segregation


Lenhoff and fellow Wayne State researchers Ben Pogodzinski and Michael Addonizio examined U.S. Census and state school enrollment data. They found that the 10 school districts that took in the highest number of Detroit students since school choice began saw hundreds of local students leave their districts. And those who left moved to schools with a higher percentage of white students.

Likewise, data compiled for Bridge by a Michigan State University researcher showed that white students used school choice in greater proportions in East Detroit.

Enrollment trends in St. Clair Shores show how choice can impact segregation among white and black students.
While the Lakeview district is 80 percent white, the face of South Lake Schools in St. Clair Shores is markedly different. Records show that 23 percent of the school-age population in South Lake is black, but its schools are 47 percent African American.

Similarly, in Warren, another changing Macomb County community, just under a quarter of students living within the Fitzgerald school district are black, but district enrollment is 40 percent African American.

Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, which represents the state’s charter school industry, said quality, not race, is the critical factor for most families taking advantage of school choice policies.

Parents may very well opt for a more diverse school district for their children, if all other factors are equal, he said. But quality is paramount, with segregation an unintended byproduct of school choice.

“It’s parents finding a place that works for their children,” Quisenberry said.

Still, support for choice remains solid, and there have even been efforts to make choice policies stronger.
In 2011, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed removing all restrictions between districts. His "Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace" choice plan would have made it impossible for districts to deny a seat to a non-resident student if space was available.

His proposal went nowhere, Naeyaert said because even supporters of choice didn’t like the idea that districts would be required to open their borders, rather than keeping that decision optional.

Currently, districts get to decide if they want to accept outside students. Which is why districts like Dearborn and Grosse Pointe, which border Detroit, can decline to enroll students from outside their district.


Echoes of the past


The debate over race and school choice goes back decades in metro Detroit.

In 1971, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen J. Roth found that the city’s public schools had for years illegally separated whites and black students in violation of the landmark desegregation ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education. Among Roth’s findings was that Detroit school officials:

  • Created “alternative” school zones in racially mixed neighborhoods that allowed white students to transfer to nearly all-white high schools.
  • Bused white students past black schools with available space so whites could attend other white city schools. And, similarly, bused black children to other black schools.
  • Built new schools in all-white and all-black neighborhoods, ensuring that segregation continued.

What caused a bigger uproar, however, was Roth’s proposed remedy: busing students between Detroit and more than 50 suburban districts in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, areas where many white former Detroiters had moved.

Roth’s busing plan sparked protests and even more flight: From 1972, when Roth first announced his plan, to 1975, the suburban districts targeted under his plan lost 45,000 students; while suburban districts outside his plan gained 15,000 students, according to a Bridge review of historical enrollment data.

But two years later, a divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Roth plan in a landmark ruling that curtailed desegregation busing plans across the county. The majority concluded that the suburban districts should not be compelled to take part in cross-district busing because they did not cause the segregation in Detroit. As a result, districts across the metro region remained largely segregated.


Winners and losers


East Detroit’s superintendent, Ryan McLeod, said it’s too simple to say race is the sole reason students leave the district. Some parents opt for districts with more resources – resources that tend to expand as more choice students transfer in, bringing with them education funding dollars.

On that point, at least, Naeyaert, the school choice advocate, agrees.

“I don’t think this is motivated by race. I think the motivation is getting my child from a district that is doing less well to a district that is doing better,” Naeyaert said.

At Lakeview High, juniors last year had an average ACT composite score of 19.8, well above East Detroit’s 15.8 score, and its elementary school students were far more likely to score proficient than East Detroit youngsters on the most recent M-STEP assessment tests.

That is not much of a surprise, considering that just a third of Lakeview students struggle with poverty, compared with 7-in-10 East Detroit students who live in poverty. Research has consistently shown that more affluent students typically perform better academically than low-income students.

As a result, said McLeod, of East Detroit, school choice will inevitably produce “winners and losers” among school districts. “There are some communities that have benefited from school choice; communities that have the means to take care of basic needs are the winners.”

Under this scenario, East Detroit is not a winner. Indeed, earlier this year, the state stepped in and named a CEO to take over the academic programs at four of East Detroit’s six public schools.

Which is likely to produce more uncertainty: Will parents support the next millage when most East Detroit district residents do not enroll their children in their schools? Will they continue to run for school board? Join the PTA?
“With school choice, people don’t have to invest in their local community schools,” McLeod said. “They have the ability to simply send their kids to some place where other parents have made the decisions.”


Is there a better way?


Is it possible to provide choice and stability? Yes, say some researchers, who argue that giving families options for sending their children to school does not have to lead to cuts or racial segregation.

Choice “can be a tool rather than an end in itself,” said Kevin Welner, a researcher at the University of Colorado who has studied the issue. “It’s a question of how you set the rules.”

His study argues that choice should be “grounded in our larger societal goals for our schools, including the valuing of diverse communities.” That would include, as Naeyaert of GLEP suggests, policies that help poor families to get their children to the same schools chosen by more affluent families.

Miron, the Western Michigan University professor, said he agrees that changes to Michigan’s school choice policies can help redeem them.

“We look at Detroit and metro Detroit as the poster child for failed school choice,” Miron said. “School choice is not being used as a tool for alleviating segregation. But it could be, if it was designed for that purpose.”

Mickelson, the UNC-Charlotte professor, said one way states can use choice to foster diversity is to locate magnet schools in minority communities.

“Inter-district choice plans are the best strategies to address choice,” Mickelson said.


Tempted to go, choosing to stay


As the sun set and a cool breeze swept over the East Detroit football game against Lakeview earlier this month, Ward, the band booster, draped a thick blanket over a fellow parent, Loretta Price, who is African American.

Both mothers have daughters in the marching band and concede they have considered transferring their children to Lakeview, where there’s been no budget deficit, nor a threat of state takeover. But transportation remains a barrier.

And, Ward added, her daughter is a sophomore with roots in Eastpointe, stellar grades and a list of school leadership positions. Starting over in a different school in a different city holds less appeal.

“Over there, she’d be just another kid,” Ward said.

So the family stays.

So does Angelia Mitchell, an African American with two children at East Detroit High. Though she, like Ward, is conflicted. She notes that the high school has seen more fights and disciplinary problems in recent years. Racial tensions, rarely discussed, hover over a community that’s changed from majority white to majority black in a decade.

“As parents, we’re all looking for possibilities for our children to go farther. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that," Mitchell said. But she added that whatever decision a family makes, people need to be more accepting of racial differences.

“Education has no color," she said. "How do you get to acceptance? That’s the hard part.”

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Tue, 09/13/2016 - 9:17am
When all the talk is boiled down. Parents choose the best school for their children. I refer you to the latest Michigan school test scores that were released and you will find that Blacks do not do well. They lag in every school district. For example, Avondale School District is comprised of ~18% Black Students, yet they trail significantly on the SAT Scores that were released by racial breakdown. This stat is true for all districts that have Black in it. Also, there is the culture issue or increase crime. This isn't a racial issue, it is a culture issue. Why would I want to keep my White Children in a District that is now predominately Black with lower academic Standards and Results?
Thu, 09/15/2016 - 8:43am
Sorry Mark, your comment is 100% racial. That is part of the broader problem, many folks with racist views don't even realize it.
Thu, 09/15/2016 - 1:31pm
Jon- You are right my view / statistics / data is racial, but not racist. Don't be afraid to discuss are the problem being politically correct. Tell me where I am wrong in any statement - data that I listed.
Charles Buck
Fri, 09/16/2016 - 10:10pm does not provide standard deviation figures for SAT scores, so how did you determine that there is a statistically significant difference between the mean score for blacks and the mean score for other students in Avondale School District to reach your conclusion? More importantly, you committed a common logical error by pointing out parents want the best school for their children, then stating that you would not want to put white children in a predominately black school district. But you just spent the better part of your comment stating that racial/cultural issues, not pedagogical quality, determine student achievement. You made a logical leap of faith into concluding the proportion of black school enrollment is related to pedagogical quality or the quality of a school. For example, to borrow 25% black Avondale School District, how can it be that ASD white students scored 516.1 on the Math SAT when Huron Valley School District white students scored only 514.8 when there are only 1% black students at HVSD?
Sat, 09/17/2016 - 2:35pm
Charles- SAT scores are broken out by Race for each school district in the state. I stand strong in my comments. Your logic and massaging of thoughts are most confusing, and you must be in denial that Blacks as a whole are the least performers on any of the State and College Prep testing.
Sun, 09/18/2016 - 2:32pm
Whenever somebody has the need to tell you they're not talking about race, they're talking about race. Mark's talking about race. And the reason you shouldn't worry about keeping your kids, white or black, in a district because of the results is that the results are overwhelmingly the result of parenting. Your kids can get a good education in Detroit if you, as a parent, demand that your kids show up and learn. They can get a bad education in Troy if you're a bad parent. The way we rate districts mostly has to do with which kind of parenting is prevalent there, and if you're the concerned parent you think you are, your kid will do well anywhere. School choice does a lot of harm, but very little if any real good.
Margaret Leary
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 9:47am
Excellent piece with statistical backup. Please let me know the source of the information used to create the database. Thanks. Margaret
Mike Wilkinson
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 1:41pm
The data came from the state's site. It is the student mobility file and it tracks by grade where students from every district go if they leave their resident district.
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 10:04am
The intent of any parent regarding the choice of a school is to get the best education possible. So in the case first described above the school with the better teachers, equipment and curriculum producing higher test scores is a choice any well intentioned parent would make. Why should any parent be forced to put their child into a substandard school given a choice? Some people make this a race issue for all the wrong reasons. Black and white students are moving around and away from schools that don't produce results - that don't adequately prepare children for the rigors of college demands. Parents do that because they want their children to have a better future than they have had. How can anyone fault that parent who makes the time and financial sacrifice to get their child into a better school and literally take them some distance to get there. Until teachers are measured by the results of their efforts to teach and fired when they don't improve like any non-preforming worker this won't change. The problem is not black or white its a teachers union who will continue to protect the bad teachers who won't improve their efforts. And our children suffer because they must win at all costs.
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 12:51pm
I am a retired school teacher from Saginaw. I taught on east side Saginaw where the student population was and is overwhelmingly black. Our performance scores were and are abysmal. I tried hard and faced failure. After ten years I was transferred to the west side of Saginaw where the student population was predominantly white. Black students who chose to transfer to the west side were largely able to raise their test scores by considerable amounts. Teaching the same subject matter in the same manner, I had success among most students with a few national merit scholars thrown in. I doubt I suddenly became competent. I don't know what the solution to this societal problem is but, if there is one, it lies outside the walls of our schools. I do believe that this situation was all part of the grand plan created by John Engler to end public schools in Michigan. It's taken awhile, but he's been patient.
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 2:29pm
George, We have been hearing much about the education system from Lansing [even Washington] on down, about the school administrations, about the teachers and how each and all need to be doing better [much better], but rarely if at all do we hear about the students from that perspective. From your experience, do you see a distribution of success, failure, and a range of learning achievement in between within a classroom, if so what do you attribute that to? Do you see the individual students having a role/responsibilities in their learning process? If so, how critical is their role/responsibilities to their learning, and can it overwhelm the efforts [quality/quantity] of the teacher, the school, the system? If you see the individual student has a significant impact on their learning success, what do you see as factors within the student that differentiates the level of learning success each has?
Dave Suton
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 7:40pm
To the person who blames the teachers union (probably blames unions for everything) I would like to invite you to my classroom. In the last 10 years I have e taken pay cuts every year, but my time spent in the classroom has gone up every year also. Plus my student number has gone from 28 to 33 per class. Now, I have a Master's degree plus 30 credits above. Who in their right mind would stay on the job with those kind of cuts unless they love teaching? The problem isn't the Union (as Fox news would like you to believe) but we have bad management from the top down giving us the shaft. Take Gov. Snyder. Takes $14 billion dollars out of public education, and uses it for his business cronies tax breaks. So all of Michigan children suffer so a bunch of millionaire supporters of Snyder can ski behind thier third yacht. Makes sense right? Easy to blame the Union....if you're a conservative Republicon that is.
Sun, 09/18/2016 - 4:25pm
The schools benefiting from schools of choice have better facilities, but that's true, in part, because they're benefiting from schools of choice and the extra funding it brings. You're mistaking the effect for the cause. They don't have better curriculum or teachers. They just have the sort of students who are likely to do well in school. Switch students, and the poor schools (with worse facilities) would be labeled "successful" while the wealthier schools (with great facilities) would suddenly be "failing." Send your kid to either school, and your kid will do about the same (as the story mentions) because what determines your kid's success is mostly the parenting you provide. And the teachers' unions contracts, as well as tenure, have rules that allow the firing of bad teachers. The only thing they make a bit difficult is firing good teachers. Teachers aren't the problem, and unions aren't the problem, either. School choice creates some problems, though.
Greg Eaton
Tue, 09/20/2016 - 4:33pm Explain that then. Schools do matter but not from a teacher perspective. Schools matter from what it offers after school. That is a major difference. If the school has a program for the kids to finish homework and study as my son's school does (it costs $45 a week) then you bet that it helps with the child success. Now I also go over material with my child ahead of what he learns in school so the teachers think he's advanced (He takes forever to learn simple concepts) and the summer is like a bonus for him because whenever he's with me he's getting all this extra education in math and computer science, while with his mother he's reading and learning new vocabulary plus biological science. I agree that not all children get those kinds of benefits yet making some of it available through the school would definitely help.
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 10:25am
When schools of choice began, the projection was that the traditional public school would be left with only the kids whose families couldn't make a choice, due to finances, transportation, etc.. The traditional school would be left with kids who were academically challenged. This is an issue of the disparity that blacks face in all of society: economic, business, academic, health, to name some. More focus should be on beefing up the resources that go into the lowest achieving schools. The "choice" idea was to treat schools like a business, and those that aren't achieving will have to close, or suffer. Tell that to the kids left behind in those schools. Separate and Unequal is definitely our school system today.
Barbara Stevenson
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 10:37am
Good article but one point missing is the value of a sense if place, of being known! The good part of growing up going to a neighborhood school was feeling I belonged! Neither my children, who went to a Mumticultural magnet school or now my grand children who go to good charter schools ever experienced walking to school, growing up with neighbor age mates, or moving through school known from. K-8 at least! Children succeed when they are known and know their school staff and culture! There us research that supports this !
Gregory Eaton
Tue, 09/20/2016 - 4:39pm
I only attended one neighborhood school growing up and even though I only went 2nd to 4th I met my best friend for life there. I didn't even walk to school. I think that you're right
Janet Van
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 10:41am
I have two questions, not about the story, but about the illusion that this has anything to do with "choice:" 1. How are poor or lower-income parents supposed to get their child to a better district if they don't have transportation, or insufficient transportation, or odd work hours that make them unable to accept the burden that "choice" puts on the parent and not on the commons, aka, public transportation? School Choice is really about Vehicle Access and gas money. 2. Have we as a society completely given up on helping all schools get better? Are we going to pretend this is only about forcing standards on schools when we know, and have known for decades, that these poor children "drag down their betters" because they live in awful, Third World communities? And this isn't a rich old white broad who's never ventured out of the suburbs talking. I lived in a Third World Detroit neighborhood for nearly a decade in the post-9/11 world. I didn't have kids, but I know how hard my neighbors tried to help their own. Seeing white people in the suburbs cluck their tongues about African American children and their Standards and Results with zero empathy or even rational understanding is disheartening, not to mention it only makes the problems worse.
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 11:29am
Tying your educational options to your zip code was the most destructive concept ever devised. It destroys cities, neighborhoods and families by chasing out families who have the ability to seek the best options for their kids. It hurts kids by creating a monoculture of poverty and destructive behaviors that feed and sustain it. It fosters the idea that every kid is blank sheet waiting for the proper formula of social science theory and the crushing label of failure when reality inevitably dawns. If you really want to turn around cities, continue the efforts to build and access the best range of options available to best fit each child's individual abilities regardless of the political interests of those our entrenched educational system is seemingly designed to benefit.
Sun, 09/18/2016 - 4:28pm
Actually, we were a lot better off when we were "tying your educational options to your zip code." The whole argument for school choice was that it would end that, but as it turns out, it's the family that determines how well or poorly kids do, and school choice doesn't really make kids' education better. It just lets their parents run away from changing demographics.
Bob Balwinski
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 11:34am
Allow me to share an experience "outside" of the metro Detroit area. While employed by the MI Department of Education, I worked with Beaverton, Gladwin, and a charter school in Beaverton. The superintendents at the time chuckled about schools of choice as parents, who were angry with one of those districts or the charter school, moved their children to the other district or the charter school. This was done multiple times. So, children in the area may have been Beaverton students, charter school students, and Gladwin students all in the same year.......most ending up right back where they started. In Gratiot and Isabella counties, the superintendents chuckled about school choice because while a number of students may have left a particular district via schools of choice, a number of students entered the very same district under schools of choice. Enrollments at that time were relatively stable.....just the home addresses of some students were different. I know my 40 years in education, including 9 years at MDE do not qualify me as an expert but I wanted to share nonetheless.
Randy Schipper
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 12:09pm
Data show the strongest factor in how well a child does in school is the social-economic strength of his or her family, not the school the child attends or even the child's race. Changing schools does not improve the student's education to nearly the extent that addressing problems of poverty in the family does. (The parent may feel the child is safer in a school where most of the students look like her child, but our kids need to learn to live in a diverse society.) A student attending a mediocre school can score at the top of the college entrance tests and a struggling student can fall through the cracks in the highest performing school. In the 20 years of prescribing school choice and competition as the magic elixir, Michigan schools have fallen from among the best in the country to among the worst. Pushing choice as the answer is educational malpractice. Parents' intentions in using school choice may be pure but school averages are not very meaningful; children are not averages but the products of their families and communities.
Joe Schwarz
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 2:24pm
The heart and soul of any neighborhood is its school. Take away the school, due to low enrollment as a result of the predatory behavior of an adjacent district, the neighborhood suffers and starts to deteriorate. Housing values drop, families leave, and the student count in the district falls. Families might move to a different district in the immediate area, or, perhaps, sell their homes and move to another community. Michigan's ill-conceived "School of Choice" statute has morphed into nightmare for many hard pressed districts. As their student count falls, districts most negatively affected by "choice" will fail and be subsumed by other districts or, worse, taken over by the State. As a State, we must re-evaluate how public education is organized, and how it can be improved. A good start would be to redraw district lines and create fiscally viable "consolidated" districts. Five hundred sixty (or so) school districts are far too many. It would be a "hard sell", but significant change in public education is inevitable. Michigan should start now, before a concern becomes a crisis.
Wed, 09/14/2016 - 11:01am
I agree, Joe Schwarz, that schools have to consolidate and stop competing with each other. Too many losers in this game of attracting students, and those losers are always the same - low income communities. But, Joe, we already ARE in a schools and outcomes crisis. Public education has been consistently de-funded. We are still not up to pre-Recession foundation funding levels, 7 years after the Recession ended! Low-income communities are losers in this funding scheme (see David Arsen, MSU). Our state is ensuring that we continue to have a permanent underclass prevented from moving up by regressive policies of locally-funded school districts and schools of choice that favor richer districts and for-profit, unregulated charter school operators. It's a discriminatory scam. It's a national disgrace. It's heartbreaking. It IS about money. It IS about race. It IS about class. It's about a legacy of concentrating poverty via redlining and predatory home loan lending. It's about the continuation of people in power who cynically reap more power by whipping up stereotypes and using those stereotypes to cut social support programs that create healthier communities. That's where we are - it's a crisis, but because we are so segregated, if it's not your family and friends, it doesn't matter.
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 3:42pm
If white suburban schools are generally better than urban schools, wouldn't then the white suburban schools become more diverse balancing out diversity between both the urban and suburban schools? At least that's what I experienced with students coming into Kentwood Public Schools from Grand Rapids.
Sun, 09/18/2016 - 4:32pm
That would only happen if the suburban schools all allowed schools of choice students and if all the inner city parents were able to transport their kids to the suburban schools and sufficiently invested in their kids' education to care. And if that were the case, we wouldn't be talking about a difference in school quality, since most of what separates a "failing" from a "successful" school is what sort of parenting the students get at home.
Kevin Grand
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 7:38pm
I'm a little disappointed that the school safety aspect isn't focused on a lot more by Mr. Wilkinson & Ms. Dawsey. When you have situations like this occurring frequently in East Detroit in the past (and I'll be more than happy to provide many more links than this), does it honestly surprise anyone why parents would want their children to go to a safer school district? No pun intended, but the issue is a little more nuanced than just simply being black & white.
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 9:31pm
Kevin is correct. It is more than race. It does include safety and household income. Detroit has a unique opportunity to make great strides to correct their problem because they had billions of dollars in assets tied up in art at the DIA. Unfortunately we have a Governor who was more interested in saving the DIA instead of Detroit and Detroit's schools. So far he has gottrn away with it but as the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over until its over". I pray he gets what he deserves and the Great Art Heist of 2014 is reversed.
Wed, 09/14/2016 - 6:02am
It has been proven more money is not the answer to better educational success particularly in urban areas. Let's put some of the blame on the community of students and their families (or lack of). Every year, high absenteeism and education not as a priority. Southfield Public Schools are routinely in the top 5 of per pupil funding every year, yet the test scores are generally below state averages.
Thu, 09/15/2016 - 4:29pm
I'm not a native Michigander, but have spent most of my life here. My friends and acquaintances - who are spread around the country - sometimes ask: "Why would anyone want to visit (much less actually live in) Detroit?" "What UNIQUE assets does Detroit have to offer?" Realistically, there aren't many left: The Guardian Building. The FOX and Fisher Theaters. The Cranbrook Educational Community. The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. The Motown Museum. And there are some others. But topping the list is The DIA, and its world-class art collection. Sbanicki, you are sadly oblivious to the importance of The DIA to Detroit's rebirth and future.
Sun, 09/18/2016 - 4:37pm
Once sold, the DIA's art (which doesn't really belong to the city anyway) would be something that could never be gotten back. Working to make it clear that option was off the table was one of the few good things Snyder has done as governor.
Sun, 09/18/2016 - 4:35pm
If not for school choice and the way it's devastated the enrollment of districts like East Detroit, you'd probably see a very different student body there and the issue you linked to wouldn't have happened. You're using the results of the schools of choice policy as justification for it.
Greg Thrasher
Tue, 09/13/2016 - 7:54pm
Nothing new here that enlightens or informs ... How about some creative solutions ??
Anthony Morris
Wed, 09/14/2016 - 9:43am
Hello, I'm a East Detroit High School graduate of 2014. During my 4 years at EDHS I first hand seen all that transpired, My senior year at EDHS was probably the most memrable for odd reasons. I had a few teachers that were really cool. But what I remember the most is how bad the freshman class was. Now going off the charts that were given to us here on this artical and going off past experience I'd say at least half the students in the classroom do not want to learn. They are disruptive to fellow students and staff and the students who do care about doing well are picked on. In a school where 2/3 of the student have is black we can see from past academic scores as well as a multitude of other sources that a solid 40%-50% of Black students don't want to learn. So the students who do care take advantage of school of choice and move to a school where there are more students who care. It's not so much the parents are taking the children away from the school over racial issues is the students that are driving the other students away.
Thu, 09/15/2016 - 10:43am
This is the most honest article about public education and "choice" available.
Kevin Grand
Thu, 09/15/2016 - 12:34pm
Speaking of there is more going on than what is being told to readers... I think that Mr. Morris just might be onto something.
Kevin Grand
Thu, 09/15/2016 - 2:42pm
After reading about this (and wondering why there was an armada of news choppers flying around that general area, I would highly recommend that Mr. Wilkinson & Ms. Dawsey issue an apology to those living within Eastpointe for what their article was insinuating. I find it highly improbable for them to be so unaware of this while they were researching this story.
Fri, 09/16/2016 - 6:57pm
Kevin- Ms. Dawsey is married to Darrel Dawsey. He is a radical activist that lives his life counting everything Black vs White. Very Sad.
Sun, 09/18/2016 - 4:40pm
What, precisely, makes you think you're owed an apology. The article was correct, except for the parts where they quoted Naeyaert or other choice apologists. You may not like it, but reality is under no obligation to apologize to you.
Kevin Grand
Mon, 09/19/2016 - 1:24pm
While doing research on a story, Mrs. Dawsey attends a local football game (and apparently only a football game), speaks to local parents, and NOT ONE of them tells her about the numerous riots at the high school in the past (especially at sporting events)? The times the local police department needed to request mutual aid from surrounding cities because of this? The numerous fights occurring inside of the high school while it is in session and caused by those living outside of the city? The discipline problems SoC students have brought with them to the district that are still adversely affecting classroom instruction? Now, why do you think that she "omitted" those details from this story? I may have been born at night, fefs. But it certainly wasn't last night! The apology isn't for me, it's for the Bridge Readers who were led to believe from viewing Mrs. Dawsey's piece, that parents don't give a damn about the safety of their own children whatsoever. That these parents only made their decision on where their children should attend school based solely on the factor of race and absolutely nothing else. Not only are those perspectives on reality disingenuous, at best. But, when more facts about what has happened/is happening with this district is finally made apparent, people won't be so easily fooled by simply a black and white argument like we are seeing above.
Thu, 09/15/2016 - 6:43pm
If this article had been written by someone who lived in the area, who has known what has transpired within the school district within the last 8 years, you would understand that the 'flight' you speak of has nothing to do with race, but with the changes that occurred with the schools and the district itself. As someone who lived in the district, whose children went there, we moved to Fraser schools because of these issues. They changed so much, so fast, and didn't bother to wait to see if it worked before they made half a dozen other changes. Look at the history of changes in the district between the years 2008-2016, and you would have a completely different article that is much more accurate.
Sun, 09/18/2016 - 4:42pm
The point is that school choice is destructive; the changes you're complaining about were largely a result of school choice. You're not the only one justifying school choice using the results that have come from it, but it's not convincing.
John Q. Public
Fri, 09/16/2016 - 11:08pm
For those investigating which high school (not valid for K-8) to choose, here's a great proxy for investigating standardized test scores, percentage of graduates going to college, etc. Go to home football and/or basketball games at each school you are considering and check out the police/security guard-to-fan ratio. We found a high correlation between that and the quality of the educational programs: the more cops at your athletic events, the worse the academic/social experience of the students committed to scholarship. Bear in mind, this wasn't a peer-reviewed study with margins of error and degrees of freedom for you readers who make life decisions based on such things; just the observations of parents who wanted to do right by their children.
Sat, 09/17/2016 - 7:41pm
"Go to home football and/or basketball games at each school you are considering and check out the police/security guard-to-fan ratio." Related to this is the policy of Okemos schools (a ritzy upper class suburb in the Lansing area) when they play Lansing schools in an athletic contest they have a buddy system where each student is supposed to look out for each other in case they have problems being around Lansing students.
Sun, 09/18/2016 - 3:04pm
The statement: " Research has consistently shown that more affluent students typically perform better academically than low-income students." is true. But it does not mean that more resources.(within broad limits) accounts for their superior performance. As reluctant as the liberal community is to admit it, there is a third factor that accounts for both affluence and superior academic performance: ability.
Sun, 09/18/2016 - 4:44pm
The affluent love to tell themselves that their wealth is due to superior ability, but there's not much evidence to support it. Stability and parents' education level both tend to result from wealth, though, and those are the things that actually affect student achievement.
Mon, 09/19/2016 - 6:05am
With the term ability do you mean "intelligence"?