Over the course of the past three weeks, I’ve been in Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, Maryland, New York and Michigan. Actually, I’ve to Detroit twice in the past two weeks. There’s only one word to describe it: wow.
Or is it Whoa? At this point, I am not sure.
A part of me can’t help but admire the work being done by teachers being pushed to surreal levels in this city. I don’t want to turn this into a “war stories” post but last weekend, 17 people were shot in the area where I was doing some PD, 10 died and the school lost 3 of its students in the past month.
A school where student to teacher classroom sizes are at 62 to 1. That’s not a typo. Some classes have 58, some a mere 47 but to see it firsthand is to see a secret shame America appears to want to either bury or ignore and I am not sure why.
I’d like to think that Detroit represents a reason why we simply cannot ignore the impact of a community on school test scores. No matter the platitudes or propaganda, no matter the finger pointing at teachers or the heightened rhetoric of the people who promise No Child shall be Left Behind, no matter the non-educators who rant on Capitol Hill or the candidates running for office next year who think that there is an easy answer in things like merit pay, Smartboards for all, or heightened teacher accountability (whatever that means), Detroit is a place that exemplifies what real teachers across the country already know: ya can’t pretend the whole child perspective on viewing academic achievement is irrelevant… because it’s not.
I was told Arne Duncan called Detroit “Ground Zero” in 2009. Well, the 2011 school year is about to dawn for them and all of them asked me the same question, “So what has he done about the problem? After all, he identified it and called us out quite publicly two years ago.”
A moment of silence for those kids – and the educators who are on the front lines – is in order. America deserves better.
And for those who say that class size doesn’t matter, I say, “Why don’t you head to Detroit and see how it looks to teach a class where kids sit on used milk crates, share desk at a clip of 2 students per one seat, and struggle without enough books to even manifest a classroom set of materials in order to teach a daily lesson.”