Throughout the United States, many people don’t make enough money to support themselves or their families due to the fact that they are unemployed. In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics did a study on the relationship between education, earnings, and employment. They found that for people 25 years or older, as the degree of educational attainment rose, the unemployment rate decreased and the average weekly earnings increased (“Earnings and Unemployment” n.p.). Through looking at just this factor alone, the solution seems simple: in order for people to ensure that they can support themselves, they need to become more educated. For some areas in the U.S., however, the problem is more complex than it seems. Detroit is an excellent example of this. In Detroit, the sections that flourish, like Midtown and Downtown, are the ones that are filled with intelligent, educated young people. These prosperous areas do not feel the hardship and trouble that exists in other parts of the city (Gallagher 123). To ensure that every student in the city has the chance to be prosperous later in life, students must have access to the tools and knowledge necessary to get accepted into college, where they can pursue a higher level education. The skills needed to be college ready are provided by the K-12 education system. The problem begins here. Detroit schools are among the lowest scoring schools in the nation, and most show no significant signs of improvement. To find a solution to the education problem in Detroit, the full extent of the problem must first be understood, and past solutions in Detroit must be analyzed to find out which ones, if any, were effective. High scoring schools must be examined in order to find out what successful methods they implemented in order to solve similar problems. After analyzing multiple solutions in Detroit and in other cities, the most successful solution is found when a previous solution in Detroit, the Detroit Healthy Youth Initiative, and the “entrusted management” act used in Shanghai, China are merged. Through combining these two solutions, Detroit may finally have a chance of successfully improving proficiency levels of its schools.
Before finding a solution to Detroit’s ineffective education system, the problem must first be fully understood. Detroit schools are among the lowest scoring schools in the nation. On standardized tests administered throughout the U.S, they score lower than many other cities. In 2011, the average reading score for eighth graders in Detroit on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was lower than the average score in other cities. Detroit students had an average score of 237, while the average for other public schools in cities was 255 (“Reading 2011 Trial”, n.p.). In 2011, the same low scores were earned on the Mathematics section of the NAEP. Eighth grade Detroit students scored an average of 246, while public schools in other cities scored an average of 274 (“Mathematics 2011 Trial”, n.p.). One would assume that these low-scoring students do not graduate, but in reality, most do despite the fact that they are not proficient in many core subjects (“Many Michigan High School Grads”, n.p). For example, in 2010, Mumford High School in Detroit had a graduation rate of 89 percent, yet only 10.5 percent of their students were considered proficient in science based on national standards and only 6.4 percent were proficient in math (“Many Michigan High School Grads”, 3). This problem is not unique to a handful of schools. An organization called Excellent Schools Detroit analyzes schools in Detroit every year. The schools are ranked among other schools in Detroit and in the nation based on established excellence standards (Excellent Schools Detroit, n.p.). In 2013, the organization found that 75 percent of all schools in Detroit did not provide their students with an adequate education (CBS Detroit, n.p.). As a result of these conditions, many students in Detroit do not have the skills necessary to succeed in college, which affects their future jobs and earnings.
Detroit already has solutions in the form of programs or policies that are put in place to solve the education problem. Some of these attempts produce results, and others are completely ineffective. One ineffective solution in place today was introduced by the federal government. This program, called the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Initiative, was put in place in 2002 in order create after-school learning communities designed to help students in high-poverty, low-performing schools meet national proficiency levels (“21st Century Community” n.p.). Michigan has spent 37-41 million dollars per year, which is about 1000 dollars per participating student, on this program since 2012 (“Afterschool Alliance” n.p.). Although it has been in action for over a decade, the 21st Century Initiative has not significantly increased proficiency rates. For example, NAEP math and reading tests showed no significant growth in Detroit students’ performance from in 2009 to 2011 (“Reading 2011 Trial”, n.p. ; “Mathematics 2011 Trial”, n.p.). The program has not been effective in increasing proficiency levels in areas like Detroit that need it the most, yet the state spends millions of dollars supporting it. Contrary to what is commonly believed, simply spending money on the education system does not help increase student performance (Hanushek 45). 21st Century Initiative is an ineffective solution that Detroit should not waste its time or resources on. Despite the fact that some programs do not help solve the education problem, Detroit has promising solutions in place that produce results.
For many years, Detroit schools suffered from weak physical education curriculums. In response to the problem, Wayne State University and Detroit Public Schools teamed up in 2002 to create the a curriculum reform project called Detroit Healthy Youth Initiative. Wayne State helped provide at-school support, organize and lead professional development, co-design programming, and evaluate project outcomes (McCaughtry et al. 28). Over a ten year span starting in 2002, 125 K-12 schools have been helped (McCaughtry et al. 29). This program placed a strong education system, Wayne State, in charge of many weaker systems which led to vast improvements in Detroit schools’ physical education system.
The problem of low performing schools is not unique to Detroit. A good way of finding a potentially successful solution to the education problem in Detroit is to look at how high-scoring schools have solved similar problems. To do this, high scoring schools must first be identified. One way to know which schools are the most proficient is to look at their test results. One well-known test, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), is used to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing 15 year-olds in key subjects (“About PISA”, n.p.). It differs from other international tests such as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) because, rather than test classroom curriculum directly, it tests a student’s ability to apply knowledge to real life challenges (Tan, “Framing Educational Success” 155). On the PISA test in 2009, Chinese students from Shanghai scored higher than any of their international peers (Minxuan and Lingshuai 124). This makes Shanghai an excellent place to look towards for solutions on improving the flawed education system in Detroit. One of Shanghai’s policies for improving weak schools, which was launched in 2007 by the Shanghai Municipal Education Committee, was the “entrusted management” act. Under this policy, urban districts in Shanghai, which typically scored higher than the rural areas, were entrusted to manage weak schools. This system also involved high scoring schools assisting low scoring schools in the same area. (Tan, “Learning from Shanghai” 74). This system helps infuse a high-scoring school’s methods and ideology into a weak school, which raises the weaker school’s standards. Under the entrusted management system, the stronger schools work to strengthen the leadership team of the low-scoring school. They also send good teachers to help observe and alter the teaching process. To ensure that the system produces effective results, the process is periodically evaluated by the Shanghai Education Evaluation Institute. (Tan, “Learning from Shanghai” 74). An example of a success story under this system is the Jiangqiu Secondary School, which was managed by the Caoyang Secondary School. After four years, it was reported that Jiangqiu rose from one of the bottom schools to one of the top ten in the district (Tan, “Learning from Shanghai” 74). Another success story is Huadong Secondary School, which was partnered with the top-performing Zhoupu Secondary School. It was reported that the partnership helped the weak school improve its teaching methods and academic results (Tan, “Learning from Shanghai” 74). The “entrusted management” act has proven to be effective in China, but the only problem with applying this method to other areas of the world is that it may be difficult to get good schools to take the time to help improve weak schools. In China, this system is an official policy so schools are forced to help each other out. In other places where this is not the case, it may be difficult to ensure that schools cooperate with each other.
The system in Shanghai is very similar to the Detroit Healthy Youth Initiative. In Detroit, instead of pairing schools together, Wayne State University took the position of the “strong school” and mentored public schools which were the “weak schools”. The Detroit Healthy Youth Initiative was proven to be successful in Detroit, and its effectiveness is further supported by the fact that it mirrors the successful “entrusted management” act. The best option for Detroit schools is to blend the two solutions together. Since only 25 percent of Detroit schools are scoring at national proficiency levels, they will not be able to help out all the other schools in Detroit because there are too many of them. The remaining weak schools in Detroit could be paired with Wayne State. The Detroit Healthy Youth Initiative addresses only the physical education program in public schools. If this program were to be extended to cover various topics like science, reading, and math, it could raise proficiency levels in these subjects. In Shanghai, the Shanghai Education Evaluation Institute monitored the school program pairing to make sure they were effective. In Detroit, Wayne State University professors could take the role of the experts. For example, professors of Math Curriculum and Instruction could overlook the math education systems that are being reformed in schools to make sure that the new reforms produce effective results. Since this general format was proven successful before, it’s very likely that it will succeed with these few alterations. The only problem with this system is that it may be hard to get strong schools to take the time to help weak schools. It may also be difficult to convince professors to overlook the process and help reform curriculums. If this occurs, Wayne State could offer some sort of incentive to encourage its professors to contribute to the program. After all, Wayne State teaches classes about Detroit, encourages its students to help the city, and is already involved in some programs that are dedicated to fixing other problems in the city (“Irvin D. Reid Honors College” n.p.). If this solution is put in place, Detroit public schools have a promising chance of increasing their student proficiency levels for the first time in years.
Through blending the Detroit Healthy Youth Initiative and the “entrusted management” act, Detroit may finally have a chance of successfully improving the proficiency levels of its schools. If this is done, the previously rocky road of education in Detroit will become a smooth, paved road, giving citizens a simpler path to a more successful and prosperous life. Since the correlation between education, earnings, and employment does not exist solely in Detroit, other cities can apply this education model to help increase their students’ chances of success.
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