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Posts Tagged ‘Arne Duncan’s visit to Detroit public high school’

Detroit Schools: “A National Disgrace”

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 21st, 2009 5:32 AM |

Our country is kidding itself if it thinks it can maintain a position of longstanding economic strength with an abhorrent urban education system.

I initially addressed this topic last October in writing, “Give a Man a Fish…”

I followed that writing in mid-May by specifically comparing and contrasting the dire state of the Detroit public schools with a fabulous academic/work/life program known as Domus in Stamford, CT.

I wrote Secretary of Education “Arne Duncan Visits Detroit; He Should Visit Domus.” Well, the Detroit school system is in the news again and it is not for good reason as the Wall Street Journal writes Detroit Schools on the Brink:

Detroit’s public-school system, beset by massive deficits and widespread corruption, is on the brink of following local icons GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy court.

A decision on whether to file for protection under federal bankruptcy laws will be made by the end of summer, according to Robert Bobb, Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager. Such a filing would be unprecedented in the U.S. Although a few major urban school districts have come close, none has gone through with a bankruptcy, according to legal and education experts.

But in Detroit — where U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan dubbed the school system a “national disgrace” this spring — lawmakers and bankruptcy experts see few alternatives, given the deep financial challenges confronting the district and the state.

Those inside and outside of the Detroit system can easily find convenient excuses for the sorry state of the Detroit schools in particular and urban education in general. While macroeconmic developments are outside of our individual control, in my opinion, though, the fact that our urban education system has a graduation rate of 50% (Detroit’s graduation rate is 25%!!!) is an indictment of our entire society, including:

1. Men who father children without taking responsibility for their offspring.

2. Mothers who get pregnant without intention of starting a family.

3. The mass media which glorifies sexual promiscuity and degrades any semblance of moral values.

4. The media which does not highlight the pathetic statistics of urban education.

5. The teacher unions which put a stranglehold on politicians.

6. The politicians who cowardly will not more aggressively support school choice, via both charters and vouchers.

7. Those fortunate enough to help who turn a blind eye.

Is Detroit a unique situation? Anything but. The WSJ highlights:

Some experts say the Detroit case could be the first in a string of Chapter 9 bankruptcies among school districts and other public entities battered by the economic crisis, and it could help shape that area of the law. “Given the state of public finance,” says Samuel Gerdano, executive director of the American Bankruptcy Institute, “I think the wave is coming.”

Make no mistake, though, there is also significant fraud and criminal activity involved in this nationwide education debacle. The fraud must be rooted out and individuals held accountable. It would be excessively naive to think that the fraud does not cross into political offices. These individuals must be prosecuted.

Over and above these individuals, though, our nation as whole is collectively guilty for allowing the moral decay at the core of this situation to propagate.

Guilty as charged and we are all paying whether we know it or not!!


Arne Duncan Visits Detroit; He Should Visit Domus

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 16th, 2009 9:04 AM |

Our nation faces many huge problems but none greater than the issues in urban education.  President Obama has experience in this area during his time in Chicago. Not surprisingly, he went to his roots and brought Arne Duncan from Chicago to Washington to head the Department of Education. Let’s check in with Mr. Duncan. 

Duncan recently paid a visit to Detroit, home to the worst public schools in the country (based upon graduation rate). The Washington Post offers insights on his visit, Duncan Delves Behind Grim Statistics.  

While this article asserts the graduation rate for 9th graders in Detroit is 38%, it fails to address that there are plenty of students who drop out prior to 9th grade. The actual graduation rate in Detroit is an abysmal 25%!! The overall graduation rate in urban schools is a paltry 50%.

Duncan has been given a massive checkbook to address education issues in our country. Rest assured, money is part of the problem. However, in my opinion, money is not the critical issue. As the Washington Post’s article highlights, many students in urban settings are involved in gang activities. Regrettably, gangs have replaced traditional families. Why? Well, I am not a sociologist nor a psychologist but I have to believe when so many newborns enter this world into single parent families (70% of newborn African Americans enter this world into a single parent family, 50% for Hispanics, 30% for Caucasians), they have one strike if not two against them before the game has even begun. These kids will look for structure somewhere. Regrettably, the gang becomes the structure.

I addressed this sensitive, but critically important, topic last Fall. Please allow me to go to the archives and revisit, “Give a Man a Fish, Feed Him For a Day…”

My point in writing that article was to highlight the cold but sobering reality of graduation rates in urban settings and the correlation with incomes. I also wanted to address the hurdles presented by the bureaucracy embedded in teacher unions.

My article back then elicited much feedback from readers, business associates, friends, and family. Often, the question was raised as to what could be done to address the core problem – the lack of family structure in urban settings.

As fate would have it, I had the good fortune of meeting an individual this week who for the last 26 years has been doing miraculous work in this area. Mike Duggan, who graduated a year ahead of me at Holy Cross, started his career in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York.  In the early 1990s, Mike was recruited to Stamford, CT to overtake a program called Domus, which “helps over 600 children and their families experience academic and life success through educational, residential, and community programs.” At the time Mike joined Domus, it was $300k in debt and hanging on by a thread.

Domus is now a thriving organization with an $11 million annual operating budget. Duggan has worked magic in the face of extreme challenges. The Domus program is all encompassing. Ultimately, the foundation is based on “tough love” with the emphasis much more on the love than the tough. In my meeting with Mike, he offered that he does not allow his students to view themselves as victims. The mayor of Stamford has publicly praised Mike and Domus for the profound impact they are having on the Stamford community. 

I asked Mike if there are other programs similar to Domus in the country. He offered that there are two. As I recall, one is in Texas and one in California.

Plenty of naysayers may believe our urban education problem can’t be solved. Plenty of educational bureaucrats may say urban schools simply need more money. I say there is a third path. Our country needs to promote Mike Duggan and his work at Domus on a grand scale.

Mr. Duncan, please visit Stamford, CT and replicate the Domus model nationwide.


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