The possibility of a public boarding school in Detroit

I’m sitting here tonight, thinking about all of the stuff I should be writing about, like the EMU student with tuberculosis and Rick Snyder’s “One Tough Nerd” gubernatorial ad, but all I really feel like discussing is this article in the Free Press today about the state of Detroit’s public schools. Maybe it has something to do with having just finished season four of The Wire, which is all about how monumentally difficult it is to fix an entrenched educational system that wasn’t built to serve today’s inner-city kids, but I can’t stop thinking about one of the ideas put forward in the article – the possibility of a public boarding school in Detroit… Here’s a clip from the article.

…Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick floated the idea in 2008 of creating a public boarding school on Belle Isle, but the plan never gained enough support. The school would have steered students toward careers relating to waterways and oceanic studies.

Kilpatrick’s idea was based on the work of Carl Taylor, a Michigan State University professor, and his brother, Virgil Taylor, who have worked with urban youths.

They envisioned a boarding school framed by military regimen and discipline. It would be isolated from the chaos of the streets. A team of teachers, counselors and even a physical education teacher could work with students on their academics, health and social skills.

And parents would have to stay away for a while.

“I think the problem that a lot of people don’t want to discuss is that a lot of kids would do better without their parents,” Carl Taylor said…

The nation’s only two college-preparatory public boarding schools are in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, operated by the Washington-based SEED Foundation. The nonprofit bills the schools as “a comprehensive solution to the challenges facing urban students.”

It costs $20 million a year to operate both sites. But the schools have showed results since opening in 1998 and 2008, respectively — 97% of graduates have been accepted to college, and 75% of last year’s graduates were first-generation college students, according to the foundation’s annual report…

According to the web page of the SEED Foundation, they are currently working with leaders in Ohio and New Jersey to establish new schools in those states. And I’m wondering why Michigan isn’t on that list. My fear is that we didn’t make it through their rigorous screening process, which seeks to verify community support, identify appropriate sites, and “determine the availability of the financial resources necessary to build and sustain a school,” but maybe that’s not it. Maybe Detroit hasn’t yet been considered. If not, I don’t see how it could possibly hurt to open up a dialogue with the organization… Right now, I’m reading through their 2002 analysis of Milwaukee (pdf), and starting a letter to the Detroit Public School Board… This, you see, is apparently what I do for fun these days.

And, for what it’s worth, if Rick “tough nerd” Snyder can pull off something like this, he’s got my vote.

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  1. Steve
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Gilbert for Lt. Governor!

  2. Tim Smith
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Ogre’s not going to like this….

  3. BLT
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I’m sure that Rick’s guys did polling, so maybe Michigan’s different, but, given the national polls I’ve seen, I’m surprised to see that they’re going with an “I’m smarter than everyone else” campaign. Maybe they’ve decided that the don’t need the tea party demographic, though. My sense is that there’s risk, but Rick needed to break through with something memorable that would get people talking. He succeeded on that front, but I don’t know that it’ll translate to votes. It was an interesting gamble.

  4. Kim
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    If I’m not mistaken Nicholas Kristof (NYT) has written some good pieces in the past on the DC boarding school. I believe his wife is, or at least was, on the board.

    I’d also like to say that just because it was Kwame’s idea, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

    Does anyone know how many kids are still in Detroit public schools?

  5. Elf
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    The EMU student with TB worked in student food service. Presently at least 15 additional people are being tested. Hopefully for EMU this doesn’t turn into another scandal.

  6. Weather Emeregency
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I’m commandeering this thread in the interest of public safety.

    Please keep this channel clear for updates on the snowpocalypse.

  7. Kevin L
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I like the idea of all the young hoodlums of Detroit turning into oceanographers.

  8. Alice
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    The secret to making something work in Detroit is working around the Detroit Board of Education.

  9. TeacherPatti
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Kim, I teach special ed in the district and we have about 87,000 students. I think something like 17,000 or so are special ed (don’t quote me on that one).
    On one hand, I can already hear arguments on how the state shouldn’t be in the practice of parenting kids. But OTOH, if parents aren’t doing it, then who will?
    For one of my grad classes, I am studying the effects of inclusion and how to help students succeed. One of the main predictors of success is doing consistent homework and help at home. If the students are, for example, born addicted to crack and living with a grandma who prefers the club to parenting (but she like that check that come in every month), when there are multiple relatives coming and going, when the food is substandard or nonexistence, when you move every 4 or 5 months, when you show up to school with crud on your clothes…well, someone needs to take care of you. I do what I can but the busses (buses? bussses?) come at 3:15 and off they go. Somebody needs to step up. If not the state, then I’m not sure who.

  10. Alice
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your work, Patti.

  11. TeacherPatti
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Alice, thanks for your kind comment…it is actually a great job. It’s fun to tell people that I am a middle school teacher (!), special ed (!!), DPS (!!!!!!!) :) The kids are great, mostly. You are SO right though…you have to work around the Board. :(
    And btw, the example that I gave in the above comment is completely true re: two of my students (brothers). It isn’t the worst story I’ve come across, but it’s pretty sad. They are awesome kids though…there was a fire in the bathroom yesterday and I started coughing (I have asthma). Both boys ran up to me to give me a hug to make me feel better.

  12. Lacy
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    A bunch of boys from a military school stuck together on an island? Where have I heard that narrative before?

    (Too easy, but somebody had to do it.)

  13. Walt Thorsson
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t that how Australia was founded?

  14. Cam
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I love going to Detroit and seeing all the young oceanographers gathered on street corners talking about tectonic plates and the like.

  15. Word from the Street
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    “I got your biological, chemical, geological, physical. I got every kind a oceanography… Whatever you need, I got.”

  16. Posted February 11, 2010 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting Teacher Patti. If you see/hear any good opportunities for volunteering to help the kids in your school please post it here…

    Also, I don’t know if it’s good or bad but I named that Revenge of the Nerds clip without even watching it. Does that make me a nerd?

  17. Busyurgeshy
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I am intrigued by this idea. What if, however, instead of a boarding “school”, it was more of an “escort agency”?

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