On my way to a training Wednesday morning (June 8) I decided to grab a copy of The Examiner, a rare occurrence but since there was no bus in sight I thought I should do something productive with my time. Now, for those of you who do not know what The Examiner is it is a free daily paper and I like to think of it as DC’s version of the Daily Post or the News in New York.
In huge bold font the headline read, “MontCo, Fairfax top nation’s grad rates, School systems 1 and 2 in annual ranking.” Turning to page 5 to read the article I was instantly pulled to their list of The Top Schools and The Bottom Schools. An important caveat, the annual ranking is based on the 2008 graduation rate of the 50 largest school districts in the country. You can find the complete article including the listing of Top and Bottom schools at: http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/education/2011/06/montgomery-fairfax-top-nation-graduation-rates
As I skimmed the lists nothing jumped out until I came across the bottom schools. Ranked at number 42 Milwaukee Public Schools (my hometown) has a graduation rate of 50.9%, a fact most Milwaukeeans are used to hearing given the local political climate in Wisconsin at this moment. I know MPS has a bad reputation so the ranking did not shock me too much, but at the very bottom of the list was Detroit with a mere graduation rate of 33.4%. Without a doubt this is deplorable, but I was more furious because of a news story I had heard earlier in the morning.
On the June 7 episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, Ms. Maddow reported on Catherine Ferguson Academy, a high school for pregnant girls and young mothers in Detroit that boasts a 90% graduation rate. 90%! That is a figure almost completely unattainable anywhere else but regardless the Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager has unilaterally decided to close down the school.
Think about all we know about teenage pregnancy and education. The facts are simple: if a teenage girl becomes pregnant before she graduates high school she is less likely to complete school which inevitably sets her up for a lifetime of unnecessary hardships. Here is a school in a very low performance district that actually achieves better graduation rates than most affluent school districts.
The dynamics of this story are complex and multifaceted. It embodies the racial inequality rampant in Detroit, gender inequality and parenting responsibilities, and severe socio-economic distress of raising a child while still being a child. Let’s not forget to mention the sheer power differential between a group of teenage mothers fighting for their right to an education and the will of state government.
The Maddow Show first aired this story in April but the final decision by Detroit’s Emergency Manager was just announced. Here are the most recent reports:
Here is another article by Ms. Magazine
Catherine Ferguson was not closed! It will remain open although it will now be a charter school. For the most recent information: