News Story

Analysis: Detroit Public Schools Students Bear the Pain of Limited Educational Opportunities

A frightening report from the first day of school in Detroit describes how two students were shot on their way home from Mumford High School. Thankfully, both appear to be OK.

Also disturbing is the contrast between this event and the broader assessment made by a school district spokesperson contained in the same news story, published in TheDetroit News: "Overall, this has been one of the most successful opening days in recent history."  There's no doubt the official meant well, but one nevertheless hopes that this isn't the definition of success in the Detroit Public Schools.

The Detroit Free Press report on the shooting describes how one 15-year-old heard the gunshots after his first day at Mumford. He said he doesn't want to go back, not necessarily because of this particular violent incident, but because he doesn't like the school in general.

Looking at Mumford's academic track record, one can see why, especially if this young man has any college ambitions. The school was recently named one of the state's 92 lowest performing by the Michigan Department of Education. The average ACT score at Mumford is a mere 14.6 (compared to a state average of 19.3).

A preferable alternative just six miles away is the University Preparatory High School, where 92 percent of students graduate on time, and the average ACT score is 16.9, better than Mumford by 16 percent.

Unfortunately for students like this 15-year-old, over the years legislators in Lansing have cooperated with school employee unions to limit the growth of Detroit charter public schools like University Prep, so space in them is extremely limited. So limited that potential students must enter a lottery that selects a lucky few for whom there is space.