Detroit students need equal support for equal success

Detroit students need equal support for equal success
COMMENTARY by Sharlonda Buckman

More than 2,000 years ago the Greek physician Hippocrates told his medical students, “Listen to the patient – he’s trying to tell you what’s wrong with him!”

The Detroit Parent Network embraces that same philosophy as we fight to obtain the best education possible for our city’s children. We want state officials to “Listen to the parents. They are trying to tell you what’s wrong and what they need to help their children succeed!”

Clearly, our elected representatives are not listening or asking parents for their ideas. In fact, many Detroit parents believe state officials think they don’t have to listen to them because they are not financially privileged.

“Listen to the parents – they are trying to tell you what’s wrong and what they need to help their children succeed!”

That may well be the case.

In the most dismissive, underhanded, disrespectful way, state officials approved legislation allowing the state to close 38 schools that have been in the bottom 5 percent for at least three consecutive years. Twenty-five of those schools are in Detroit.

They made the decision with little or no evidence that additional state resources have been invested, let alone exhausted in those 25 Detroit schools recommended for closure. This simply underscores the intentional undermining of education in Detroit.

Shuttering the doors of Detroit’s schools is not the answer, nor does it make sense.

The idea of eliminating the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools is mathematically ridiculous because there will always be a bottom 5 percent, just like there is always a top 5 percent.  Closing the bottom 5 percent of schools will simply mean that new schools move to the “bottom.” Are they next?

Notably, the top-to-bottom list closely mirrors wealth-to-poverty levels. Increased quality is desired at all levels, but the simplistic exercise of closing the identified schools punishes poverty.

The State of Michigan has controlled the schools in question for well over a decade. During this time it had an opportunity to define quality standards and educational strategies for best practices, one of the roles Detroiters envisioned for the Detroit Education Commission. Instead, we got re-framed, bad policies as a bailout for Detroit children and a fresh start that they said would make Detroit schools great again.

State officials need to step up and acknowledge their solutions have not worked. Then again, perhaps our legislators are looking at a set of “alternative facts.”

The fact is consequences of the state’s failure to establish quality measures should not be foisted on parents and students.

We need one clear set of high standards and the ability to control which schools operate in our community versus which schools close. It is not a question of maintaining and supporting failing schools, but rather an issue of comprehensive solutions that work and the elimination of double standards between competing school systems.

Education reform must be coupled with anti-poverty measures, fair housing, environmental justice, action against hunger and hiring high-performing school officials. Opportunity happens both inside and outside the school house. Through parent support and community leadership we can achieve educational success for our children.

As I said, closing 25 Detroit schools is not the answer. It will further destabilize education in the city and create a crisis for parents and children, as it would in any community.

This is unacceptable.

It is time for the state to take responsibility for its poor policies and irresponsible decision-making.

Sharlonda Buckman is CEO of Detroit Parent Network.

Editor’s note: For more information on the DPN movement to fight school closures and stem education inequities visit them at or call 313-832-0617.

Follow the Detroit Parent Network  @DPNDetroit





One Response to "Detroit students need equal support for equal success"

  1. Anthony E. King   01/25/2017 at 2:42 am

    I completely agree with Mrs. Buckman.i have been saying for the past 5 years that parents of Detroit students should be at the table,on the panel,at the forum for very conversation about our children.


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