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Superintendent, teachers respond to Detroit Public Schools' dead last ranking

Posted at 6:22 PM, Apr 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-10 18:22:34-04

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the current test scores are a result of 10 years of the district being run by emergency management.

Vitti says his first year on the job has been spent analyzing the issues, of which he says there are many. 

No one knows that better than teachers. 

Teacher William Weir says he has 36 students in each of his classes and many of those students came to his class very far behind academically, not to mention other challenges they face.

Catching that many students up is an uphill battle for one teacher without support. He says reducing class size and providing teacher/student resources would make a big difference in improving education. 

Ivy Bailey, Detroit Federation of Teachers president says she wants to see more training an support for teachers. She also believes if each school can address the needs of the community it's in, barriers to education that lie outside the classroom can be addressed and students will perform better in the classroom.  

At Tuesday night's school board meeting Vitti's budget for next school year is being reviewed and there are many solutions proposed. 

Addressing the school staff shortage is high on Nikolai Vitti’s "to do" list. 

"One of the proposals in the budget is to add some of these positions back in the schools to alleviate some of the pressures teachers are facing," says Vitti. 

That includes hiring a Dean of Discipline for every school and support staff for teachers, and more teachers. 

"We not only have to recruit teachers, but we have to recruit guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists. So when I tell people we are rebuilding the district, I literally mean we are rebuilding the district," says Vitti. 

Nikolai Vitti says implementing a new more rigorous Curriculum district wide is key to improving education.  

"This year’s first graders will be exposed to a better curriculum, teachers exposed to more training," says Vitti. 

"We’re creating new programs like art and music programs that speak to the whole child," says Vitti adding that gym and other electives will be returned to every school. 

He believes that will build a stable foundation, but that's just the beginning. Challenges outside the classroom that impact education need to be addressed too. 

"That’s when we talk about washers and dryers in schools. Counselors, social workers, psychologists to deal w social emotional issues children being with them to school every day." 

Vitti wants to implement Saturday School and Summer School to help students get caught up. 

School Board Member LaMar Lemmons supports Vitti. 

 "He’s moving the district in the right direction. We have to give him a chance, he’s been here only a few months," says Lemmons.

Not only does he believe the arts should be added back into schools Monday through Friday, but Lemmons would like to see music incorporated in a Saturday School program. 

"Music is proven to be a direct correlation with mathematics and I think STEM scores will increase as a direct result of music participation," says Lemmons.   

Of course that brings us back to the teacher shortage. There are just under 200 teacher positions to fill. Vitti says he is working with the teachers union to remove some of the existing barriers to recruitment and working on ways to make a teaching job in Detroit more desirable. 

Vitti also says test scores aren't everything. He shared that as a kid, his own test scores were terrible, but he still managed to get into a good college. He says test scores aren't an accurate reflection of talent. 

Vitti says change will come, but it won't happen over night. He believes by 2021 parents, teachers, students and even test scores will attest to the improvement of Detroit Schools.