School District "In Deep Distress" Begins Ascent

Adamany Plan Gets Mixed Reviews

As David Adamany, the man Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer chose to rescue Detroit's public schools, sets about his task, he must contend with a host of problems. In July, Adamany released his preliminary report, required by law, on conditions in Detroit schools and the steps he plans to take to rectify them.

In his report, Adamany spoke of "ills [that] run so deep in the organization, operation, culture and attitudes of the district and, in certain respects, the community itself, that all of the major and minor causes of the district's distress will take years to become known."

But he did list what he considered the most significant problems:

  • only two Detroit public school students graduate for every three graduates in the rest of the state;

  • Detroit students score significantly below students in the rest of the state on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test, trailing in some categories by as much as 40 percent;

  • poor management of finances and administration, buildings, supplies, and a host of other matters is chronic and pervasive; and

  • "unacceptable numbers" of teachers, principals, support staff, and students have bad attitudes and are "making little effort and are producing unacceptable results."

Adamany says that before anything can be accomplished toward turning this situation around, every consideration must take a back seat to one overriding goal: educational improvement. "Past policies and practices that gave priority to Detroit Public Schools as an employer, a buyer of goods and services, an electoral or political organization, or a symbol for various causes must be discarded," he says.

In a list of the most important goals for the district, Adamany says that Detroit schools must have

  • students in all grades perform at grade level on a recognized national test at the same rate as students nationally;

  • students who take the ACT perform at the same level in each subject area and achieve the same scores as other Michigan students who take the ACT;

  • graduation rates approximate the statewide average graduation rate; and

  • average daily student attendance exceed 95 percent.

Adamany's plan for achieving those goals (see below) has received mixed reviews from parents, students, and administrators and other officials. John Elliott, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, told the Detroit Free Press that his 11,500-member union agrees with Adamany's goals. "But it's not going to be easy," he said. "They're all things we all want- it's how you get there that we'll have more to say about."

"I don't want my daughter taught by a video," said Detroit parent Cynthia Davis, who attended a public forum on the new plan and says teacher quality should be the top priority. "I want her to be taught by qualified teachers."

"He's got a lot of good intentions, but also a lot of loopholes," said Curtis Drane, another forum attendee, who wanted to know what Adamany planned to do to parents whose children are chronically truant.