Fourth Was Bad Enough

What do Warren Mott and Cass Technical High Schools have in common? Give up? They’re both ranked higher than Grosse Pointe South and North High Schools.

This ordinal fact is not what one would expect, but according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 Best High Schools List released on April 22, it would be the case. While U.S. News & World Report’s methodology for their rankings is to say the least, suspect, it is still well followed and frequently cited. How exactly Grosse Pointe South can go from fourth in their rankings to not ranked in one year is a bit of a mystery to me.

Let’s say you get a job offer at a recovering car company and you were going to move your family to metro Detroit, but to which suburb? Chances are good that part of your research would involve typing “best school systems in Michigan” into Google.

For generations the Grosse Pointe Public School System’s preeminence would have been a foregone conclusion, but today there is a dark pall cast over our pedagogical supremacy. What do you think happens to your home’s value when U.S. News & World Report ranks Warren Mott over Grosse Pointe South? I won’t belabor the obvious ramifications for property values in the community, but it is suffice to say that property values are directly related to our school system.

Some of my consternation, and our failure, is caused by a methodology that weights poor children’s achievement more than the achievement of their more affluent peers. The demographic trend our community has experienced over the recent years, with lesser-affluent students transferring from lesser school districts, has had a devastating effect on our ranking. The argument of the validity of this methodology is a complex question with no clear answer. What is clear is that we must seal this achievement gap before the dike breaks.

Since the demographical winds have shifted in our community we have noticed a demonstrable and considerable decline in the level of excellence we have come to expect from our school system. I don’t believe this is a coincidence and other communities’ experiences would validate my observations.

The time has come to shine the Lantern of Diogenes on our community to illuminate the ugly truth and take some remedial action. We owe it to the taxpayer, the children, and the students and teachers who help build our once unassailable reputation. This point is beyond contestation, the argument lies to what shall be done, not if it should be done. With that in mind, I would make the following suggestions:

1) All transfer students will be tested and placed according to their merits. If you read at a fourth-grade level, you go to fourth grade.

2) We finally admit to ourselves that we need to rethink our arrangement with Harper Woods and examine extricating our children from that situation.

3) Call upon the Grosse Pointe School Board Members to individually publish plans to rectify the travesty that has befallen our quaint community.

I am GP For Life and the time for debate and discussion has come and gone like a thief in the night. We must now act decisively and intelligently.