Annis Stubbs is the Executive Director of TFA-Detroit, site of the First Annual Alumni Awards and Educators Conference taking place on July 18, 2013 at Detroit’s famed Cobo Hall.The conference gathers alumni teachers, school leaders and school systems leaders from across the country for a day of networking and professional development. Travel stipends are available. Alumni educators: register today.
I love Detroit. No really—I mean LOVE this city in the way that one would a family member, a dear friend, a classroom of students. . .
The great deal of Detroit pride I have isn’t dampened by statistics (we’ll get to those in a second). I've never been discouraged by the "Dateline NBC" specials or national headlines that cast my hometown as a bastion of desolation with no hope. Instead, when I think about the Motor City I clearly see the beauty, the rich history, and the grit and determination of our people. It’s that grit that is coasting us to success, despite the challenges.
According to the recently released Diplomas Count special report, high school graduation rates have increased by more than 7% over the past decade—that’s good news.
But when you disaggregate the data to look at statewide trends the story is a lot murkier.
While Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky boasted the most growth, in Michigan graduation rates have actually decreased by 2% over the last decade. Indeed, with the lowest NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) test scores in the country, and an abysmal 3% of third graders testing at grade level in math, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has referred to my hometown of Detroit as “ground zero” for education in our country.
All students have the potential to be great students. I learned this firsthand when I was a corps member in the South Bronx teaching a classroom of 7th and 8th grade students that everybody had given up on. They were on 3rd and 4th grade reading levels and my job was to get them to pass a high-stakes test at the end of the year that determined whether or not they could go on to high school. My students and I set the goal at the beginning of the year that everyone was going to get there. . .and we did it.
Classrooms of intelligent, focused, hands-raised students can be made when people believe that they can really do it. Fueled by the recent reorganization of the state’s lowest performing schools, innovation in Detroit public schools, and a growing charter movement, change is coming to Detroit.
So there’s no more fitting place than my hometown to convene Teach For America’s alumni teachers, school leaders and school systems leaders for an inspiring day of sharing best practices, creating professional learning communities, and truly celebrating one another in this work.