Frederick Douglass Academy in Detroit has suspended 50 of its students for walking out of class in an organized protest about the poor quality of the education they’re receiving. Complaints include lack of textbooks and a staff culture that accepts their teachers abusing sick time rules. A parent noted that one math teacher had been absent for over 68 days.
“We’ve been wronged and disrespected and lied to and cheated,” senior Tevin Hill told the Detroit Free Press. “They didn’t listen to us when we complained to the administration. They didn’t listen to the parents when they complained to the administration, so I guess this is the only way to get things solved.”
Hill went on to say that teachers were routinely absent simultaneously forcing affected students to just hang out in common areas rather than attend classes, and being given homework was an irregular occurrence. The seriousness of the children’s lack of education was brought home to Mr Hill when attended a placement exam at his chosen university and realized the gulf between his current standard of education and the one expected of him next year.
“I literally couldn’t answer a question on there,” Hill said. “Right now, I’m not going to be as successful as I should be because I haven’t been properly taught.”
In 2009 Arne Duncan, the US Education Secretary, classified Detroit as ‘ground zero’ for education reform. Detroit has received less overt criticism since then but perhaps this easing off is unjustified given situations like that at Frederic k Douglass. The District is in debt to the tune of hundreds of million of dollars, undergoing an enrollment crisis and could only achieve a disappointing 55% attendance rate at the opening day of the 2011-12 academic year.
One of the things that most alarmed parents at Frederick Douglass was noticing that their school was no longer listed as an ‘application school’ and that standards had slipped so far that students didn’t only no longer have to apply to enter the school, but no longer had to apply themselves in class either ; merely showing up to lessons was considered outstanding achievement:
Smith told the Free Press that her son was given an A in geometry without taking a final exam.
“It was by default, just for showing up. It wasn’t because he earned an A,” she said.