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Policy Paper

Anthony Nardone
Prof. Fowler
23 March 2016

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The problem being faced by the city of Detroit which I am researching is the
underperforming public school system and how poverty relates to the lack of success. In this
paper I will be assessing the failure of the teacher evaluation system enacted by the Detroit
school board.
Poverty in the city of Detroit is a major problem, it not only affects the living conditions
of many of the residents of the city but it also has a negative impact on the youth in the public
school system.

The broken homes many children are raised in and the lack of parental

involvement causes students to have a harder time succeeding in school. 1 Another factor which
diminishes the ability of academic success for students is the dilapidated state of Detroit public
schools. The lack of quality staff, insufficient resources, and unsafe environment create a setting
in which academic success is difficult to achieve. The combined effects of poverty and a broken
school system create an environment where children are setup for failure and a cycle of low
economic standing later in life.
In an effort to increase funding to more successful schools in the district, the board of
education created a new teacher evaluation system as a means to reduce unneeded staff. 2 The
board of education implemented this new form of evaluation with the hope of decreasing the
number of underperforming teachers and creating revenue for the school system. This plan was
enacted by the Detroit public school board of education, operating under the local government.
Structural barriers in place that could have diminished the positive effects of this policy are
1 Williams, David, and Nancy Chavkin. "Low-income Parents' Attitudes toward Parent Involvement in
Education." Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare 16 (1989): 17-18. Law Journal Library.

2 Skinner, Victor. "Detroit Board to Pull 15 failing Schools out of Academic Improvement Program."
EAGNews.org. 2012. Accessed March 22, 2016.

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teachers unions, which could slow the process or fight the school board, and lack of funding to
evaluate the staff of the Detroit public school system. These barriers could cause problems with
the success of the school boards evaluation system because the unions will protect the dismissal
of teachers, whether or not they are quality staff members. The lack of funding could also effect
evaluation because the school system needs to allocate funds to conduct the evaluations, if the
funds are not available the policy can not be enacted. These factors combined could have caused
or been part of the cause of the policy failure which was seen.
When analyzing the policy enacted by the Detroit board of education, the failure which
happened can be linked to some malpractices of the board of education and the local government
evaluating the teaching staff.

The evaluation system fell short of fixing the problem of

dilapidated school systems and subpar faculty because of stern resistance from teachers unions,
skewed results from the studies, and being an overall poor solution from the beginning. 3 As seen
in the article by Tom Gantert, although the failing education system was evident the district gave
many of the teachers a rating of highest effectiveness. If the teachers had such high quality
teaching skills, why did the results not show likewise in academic reports. 4 A structure that
helped with the demise of the policy was the strong resistance posed by the Detroit Federation of
Teachers(DFT). The DFT combated the dismissal of a large number of teachers by filing a
lawsuit against the Detroit public schools.5 This action taken by the teachers union helped deter
further actions being taken by the board against teachers in the district. While the lawsuit aided

Gantert, Tom. "Detroit Public Schools Gave 8 of 10 Teachers Highest Rating Despite Being
Nation's Worst Urban District." CAPCON. 2015. Accessed March 22, 2016.

4 Klein, Rebecca. "Roy Roberts, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager


Announces Retirement." Huffpost Detroit. 2013.

5 Tribune News Service. "Michigan AG Sues to Remove 7 of 11 Detroit School Board Members."
Governing. August 10, 2012.

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in the failure of this policy, the policy began as a weak play by the board of education to reinstate
their power over the school district. After a statewide program failed to increase the revenue of
many of the Detroit public schools, the board of education decided to close fifteen of the lowest
performing and underfunded schools in the district.6 This action taken by the board of education
was followed by the teacher evaluation policy. This policy was weak from the beginning due to
the poor choice of closing fifteen schools in the district. 7 The closing of these schools caused
many teachers to loose jobs and there were repercussions from the DFT.
This policy that was enacted at the level of local government can teach our group that
policies many times have a lot of opposition which can increase the likelihood of failure. This
can be seen with the opposition produced by teachers unions, this group fought the main goal of
the policy which was enacted by the board of education. The resistance caused the policy to
loose momentum and possibly could have been one of the largest parts to its demise. Our group
can learn from this that opposition is expected and compromises must be made in order to
achieve a goal. Another deduction our group can make is that a policy should be formed from a
grounded perspective, this will help limit the controversy and increase support for our policy.
When creating a policy our group should avoid controversial actions, such as relaying skewed
data. Our group could emulate the decisiveness of the board of education, they showed this trait
in their decision making; not letting too much time pass before the statewide plan had failed to
enact their own policy.
When reviewing the policy made by the Detroit public school board of education, much
can be learned from the failure of their approach to increasing revenue for the district. The
6 Williams, David, and Nancy Chavkin.
7 Engberg, John, Brian Gill, Gema Zamarro, and Ron Zimmer. "Closing Schools and Shrinking Districts:
Do Student Outcomes Depend on Which Schools Are Closed?" Urban Economics 71, no. 2 (March
2012): 189-203. Science Direct.

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problem addressed by the board of education was the lack of funds allocated to the low
attendance Detroit schools. Although they attempted to fix this problem, the closing of fifteen
school and the dismissal of over 400 teachers did not have the positive impacts they may have
thought. When our group is forming a policy to address the problem of poverty and poor
education we will have to take into account the problems that were faced by the board of
education and think of processes to avoid certain problems or opposition. The research I did
taught me the many obstacles involved with policy forming and surprises that can arise.

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References
Engberg, John, Brian Gill, Gema Zamarro, and Ron Zimmer. "Closing Schools and Shrinking Districts:
Do Student Outcomes Depend on Which Schools Are Closed?" Urban Economics 71, no. 2
(March 2012): 189-203. Science Direct.
Gantert, Tom. "Detroit Public Schools Gave 8 of 10 Teachers Highest Rating Despite Being Nation's
Worst Urban District." CAPCON. 2015. Accessed March 22, 2016.
Tribune News Service. "Michigan AG Sues to Remove 7 of 11 Detroit School Board Members."
Governing. August 10, 2012.
Klein, Rebecca. "Roy Roberts, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Announces Retirement."
Huffpost Detroit. 2013.
Skinner, Victor. "Detroit Board to Pull 15 failing Schools out of Academic Improvement Program."
EAGNews.org. 2012. Accessed March 22, 2016.
Williams, David, and Nancy Chavkin. "Low-income Parents' Attitudes toward Parent Involvement in
Education." Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare 16 (1989): 17-18. Law Journal Library.

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