With my retirement on June 30 barely a heartbeat away, it is, as the hash-tag says, getting real. Each day has the tinge of poignancy, of last times...
June 5, 2015. Later today I will attend one of over two dozen, year-end, in-school galas that are underway in InsideOut schools across Detroit. Each year at this time, iO students' eyes light up as they gather in their school cafeterias or auditoriums or libraries to open their beautiful books and find their words and their names for the first time.
With the future of our students at risk, it's time to finally hold our charter school authorizers accountable for the public education they are providing our children.
I hope our leaders can, as iO's mission states, "think broadly" enough to let go of rigid, behaviorist notions of what education means. I hope they will heed the many stories like this one that prove the dramatic, turn-around impact of the arts on "under-performing" schools.
You would be hard-pressed to find data that show less money in education leads to better results, but you can easily find people who complain that we spend too much on education.
The cultural calendar in Detroit moves so fast these days, it seems a long time already that I enjoyed the Cinetopia Film Festival here in town. But it was only one week ago!
Despite the call for "all deliberate speed," generations later, we are still waiting. In urban areas especially, a high-quality education remains out of reach for too many low-income and working class students. But there is hope.
We're past the halfway mark, but happy Poetry Month, anyway. It's still April after all. And while taxes (for most of us) are done, poetry is still going strong.
African American poets gave a glimpse into what W.E.B. Dubois famously identified as 'The Souls of Black Folks.' Our students honored their poetic forbears which was also a manifesto about the importance of poetry in young people's lives.
Weeks of hard work, revision and practice have gone into creating a blockbuster group poem of Detroit pride, affirmation, social critique -- a manifesto of youthful determination and hope for a better future, no matter what.
Looking back over eighteen years of the growth and development of InsideOut Literary Arts Project (iO), I realize that this hope has been with us all along.
In the eyes of some, such as CBS's 60 Minutes, we are led to believe Detroit is akin to "Mogadishu.'' But I am proud that our work, and that of so many other committed Detroiters, paints a truer picture.
The primary problem facing public education is the legislated diversion of time, talent and resources to things that do not improve student learning -- a reliance on silver bullet, bumper sticker market driven reform ideas instead of focused, research-based hard work and effort.
I'm not arguing for innovation for its own sake. But where it can improve outcomes for our children, why haven't we pursued it with more vigor? What conditions need to exist to encourage faster and better innovation in public education?
Through working closely with writers and seeing their work in publications, it is my hope that our young people come away with a sense of their readers, a sense that there is someone there for them, like we are for Keats, on the other side of the page.
I have seen evidence for the challenges we face at every level, from the student with his head down in a South Side Chicago classroom, to district-wide data demonstrating vast underperformance and inequity, to our nation's weak standings on international assessments. The cause for concern is serious and urgent. There is evidence that we are making progress toward closing the opportunity gap, but I am worried - we are not closing the success gap.