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School Review Teams Get To Work

February 29 2012 | no comments

Quality review teams are visiting 175 schools in Detroit to be the eyes and ears for parents looking for the best schools for their children.

Henry Wells is a retired Detroit Public Schools teacher and counselor.  Recently he was back in the halls of Wilkins Elementary on Detroit’s east side.  Why?  Because he has an undying love for children.

Henry has agreed to lead one of the teams of volunteers who will visit Detroit schools this spring.  Their observations will become part of a report card of schools being prepared by Excellent Schools Detroit.

Daniel Varner, Chief Executive Officer for Excellent Schools Detroit, explained, “People show up unannounced and stay for multiple hours doing this review of the school culture.” Every single Detroit Public School will receive a visit, along with many charter and private schools.  Most principals welcome the attention.  Wilkins principal, Yvonne Stokes says, “It’s going to be a learning point for us to have other eyes look at what we do in school. The team is welcome.”

Henry arrived at the school first and took a look around while we waited for his team.  “One gets an impression just from entering the building what’s going on in the school,” he told us.  “  What we’re going to do is observe the school, we’re going to give them our first impression and what we see as we go through the school.”

Each team is made up of four or five people.  They may be former teachers, parents, or just concerned citizens.  More than 250 people have volunteered.  They each received several hours of training in preparation.

Varner says, “They’re looking for the kinds of things that any of us would be looking for when we walk into a school.”

For instance, Henry spotted a bulletin board that acknowledges good attendance, “When we entered the building I saw that recognition and it made me feel welcome.”

Before they got going, the team got to know each other a bit. Cheryl and Lorenzo Houston are foster parents, Stephanie Beal is a parent, Katherine Dokes thinks everyone should get involved.  Dianne Kinsey is a grandparent.

The team isn’t evaluating the academic programs at the school.  They are simply looking at a number of specific items and recording their own actual observations.

The review began with a walk down the hall.  The group stopped at the trophy case and noted that not all the awards were for athletics.  There were trophies for glee club and Academic Games too.

They visited the office, and checked the working condition of the equipment in the teachers’ resource room.  They checked the water fountains, flushed the toilets and tested the handrails on the stairs.

The group checked out how well a first grade room was supplied, and sat in during a lesson for 6th graders.

They were there for lunch time.  And cleanup time.

Their observations will be added to test scores as well as teacher and student interviews to help parents determine if this school would be a good fit for their child.

Varner said, “We think that its important that schools be measured on the totality of their work, not just test scores.

Because, to quote the Wilkins School motto, “It takes team work to make the dream work.”

Excellent Schools Detroit is hosting a School Shopper Fair for Parents on Saturday, March 10.  Click here for details.

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