State of Opportunity

Here's what your name says about your future prospects

Nov 20, 2013
Alan O'Rourke / Flickr

Researchers have done all kinds of experiments to learn how our names can impact perceptions. If the research is to be believed, for some people creating a new identity other than the one given at birth might be a good idea.

The University of Chicago Business School and the National Bureau of Economic Research, for example, conducted a study that compared responses to identical resumes. The only difference was that some resumes were from applicants with African American sounding names and others had White sounding names.

YouTube / YouTube

This week on State of Opportunity, Sarah Alvarez is taking a look at some radical decisions that have shaped the educational landscape of Detroit schools.

Today, families in the city are taking a gamble on brand-new charter schools, like the Detroit Achievement Academy.

The academy opened earlier this year, by 28-year-old Kyle Smitley. Smitley is the first to admit she lacks formal educational experience. "I’ve been laughed out of so many rooms coming into the education world," she says.

But that hasn’t stopped the unconventional school from getting national buzz. Earlier this year, Smitley and the academy were featured on The Ellen Degeneres Show.

Still, the odds are stacked up against the academy and other charter schools that pop up in Detroit. There are more seats in Detroit schools than students. Many students in the city haven’t met benchmark requirements in their grade levels.

So what do educational experts think about these experimental schools? Check out Sarah’s piece for more. 

clipping courtesy of Ray Litt / via Detroit Free Press

In short, the answer is 'we don't really know.'

Stanford University's Sean Reardon studies achievement gaps - the difference between how one group of students performs compared to another group.

When comparing black, white, and Latino students, Reardon says you see the importance not so much of race, but of class.

"Over the last 40 or so years, the black-white achievement gap and the Hispanic-white achievement gap have narrowed a lot," Reardon said. "On the other hand, the gap between high and low income students has increased quite dramatically."

Reardon said that particular gap has grown about 40% since the 1980s. 

But while economic diversity might matter more in ensuring a quality education, that doesn't mean people want to give up on racial and ethnic diversity.

Ray Litt, a community activist involved in Detroit's Milliken v. Bradley case, reflected, "The desegregation action was to provide a quality integrated venue in which students and staff are exposed to and can interact with kids of different races religions and economic status," he said. "We all need to be able to be comfortable, not tolerating, a society that is the melting pot."

Racial diversity is not something you are likely to find in a majority of Detroit's schools, even after a hard fought desegregation plan.

Read more and listen to the whole story at State of Opportunity.

Funnels.
dorena-wm / flickr

Every school day hundreds of kids from Detroit travel up Woodward and many other routes on their way to Ferndale’s schools. They don't need to move to go to these schools.

Ferndale has wooed Detroit students, exercising their ability to educate students from other districts under Michigan’s "schools of choice" policy.

The district has two high schools that cater almost exclusively to students from Detroit.

One of them, University High, has 426 students only seven of whom come from Ferndale.  

The school system has been called a "funnel district" because of traffic in and out of the district. Kids coming in from Detroit and some suburbs like Oak Park and Hazel Park make up one end of the funnel.

The other end of the funnel is made up of kids leaving Ferndale for suburbs a little farther out. 

You can learn more about how this got started and the financial and educational consequences of it on our State of Opportunity page.

This story is the first in our week-long series looking at how the neighborhood school and education in metro Detroit has changed over the past few decades.

From the John and Leni Sinclair papers / UM Bentley Historical Library

Next week, Sarah Alvarez from our State of Opportunity team will explore the long shadow of a busing and integration case 40 years ago, and the way the outcome fundamentally altered the notion of a neighborhood school for students in Detroit and many communities throughout the metro area.

Check out this post by Kimberly Springer that shows how some Detroit parents were notified that their kids were going to be bused to another school.

The series “Abandoning the neighborhood school” will focus on these topics:

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Our State of Opportunity team has been diving into the issue school funding over the past couple months.

The vast majority of Michigan K-12 schools get between $7,000 - $8,000 per pupil every year. But there are some schools that get more…a lot more. We're talking about roughly a $5,000 difference between the richest schools in the state and the poorest schools.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Over at our State of Opportunity website, we've been on Gap Watch: achievement gaps, literacy gaps, technology gaps, gender gaps, etc.

Our latest documentary continues the trend.

It's called The Education Gap.

I hung out in two very different 5th grade classrooms over the course of a month and a half.

user Laura4Smith / Flickr

For State of Opportunity, reporter Zak Rosen explored how childhood trauma can lead to health problems later in life. 

In his story, he asks you to imagine this:

"Try to imagine this.  It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon.  Beautiful day. 

You’re hiking alone in the forest.  And then you hear some rustling leaves behind you. 

Your heart begins to pound.  You turn around to see a huge, snarling bear, staring directly at you. 

In this moment, your body is releasing a ton of hormones that will help you either fight the bear or run away. 

This is the body’s natural fight or flight response at work.

“If this happens once in a very long time, then that makes a lot of sense.  It’s life saving and it’s this big activation in your system,” says Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician and the founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco.  

But what if that bear is an abusive parent?"

Listen to the story here

user BES Photos / Flickr

If you were a teacher, what would you do if a second grader won’t quiet down during story time? What if a third grader wants to go home sick, but she’s not actually sick?  What if one of your students hits one of his classmates?  How would you handle that?

Zak Rosen is spending the year at the Boggs School in Detroit. In this piece for State of Opportunity, he explores how the school uses discipline in constructive and meaningful ways.

Sarah Huelett

Think back to when you were a kid, and how much time you spent playing outside. Maybe you wandered the neighborhood until the streetlights came on. Or built tree forts. Or explored a nearby field, or creek, or woods.

Now, think about the kids on your block – or in your house – and how much time you see them exploring the neighborhood. Without their cell phones.

Some advocates of unstructured outdoor play say far too few kids are doing that these days. They have a name for it: “nature deficit disorder,” and point to a growing body of research that links too much indoor time with problems including obesity, attention deficit disorder, and depression.

State of Opportunity checked in on one Grand Rapids school where kids don't just play outside, they learn from and in the natural environment. Read the rest of the story or listen in at State of Opportunity.

Dustin Dwyer

Today at 3pm on Michigan Radio, our State of Opportunity team presents its latest documentary.

Dustin Dwyer takes a look at men in our society. It’s a story in six parts.

It features the voices of men and young men from River Rouge High School, a church in Grand Rapids, and a martial arts gym in Lansing.

It even takes us to the Davis Primate Center in California, where we learn about a species of ape where the females – not the males – are dominant.

State of Opportunity has a new storytelling booth that can easily go places and record lots of personal stories in one fell swoop. 

For its first trip I took the booth to J.W. Sexton High School in downtown Lansing. I wanted to catch the graduating class a few weeks before their big day.

There are stories of seeking asylum in America, learning how to control anger, what it feels like the moment a college acceptance letter comes in the mail, and wanting a second chance.

http://www.daymonjhartley.com/

 Today, on State of Opportunity, I report on a troubling fact of charter school expansion in Michigan: Some of the state's best charter schools are struggling to compete against low-performing charter schools. The reason, simply enough, is marketing. Low-performing schools can easily outspend high-performing schools on advertising and recruitment gimmicks. 

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Fewer teens and kids are incarcerated now in Michigan than fifteen years ago. A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation says youth incarceration in the state has dropped 44 percent since 1997.

A student working on wiring
Logan Chadde

In the last piece in the Stockbridge series, State of Opportunity explores how the schools in Stockbridge, Michigan have in some ways a sad task in educating their youth.

Because Stockbridge is a rural village with very little economic opportunity, preparing kids to succeed often means preparing them to leave town.

Teachers and administrators at the high school there don't think it's enough to try to prepare their students for college. College is expensive, and though most of the kids will pursue higher education of one kind or another, paying for it can be tough. 

So teacher Duane Watson and a few others are heavily invested in technical education. Watson has three rooms he teaches in, to call them classrooms might give the wrong impression.  In one of them, the only desks are broken ones people hope his students will fix. 

The classroom is actually a garage and I was impressed three full cars could fit inside it before Watson corrected me.

“Four actually, and one compact utility tractor, a snowplow going on a truck, a completely student fabricated tandem-axle trailer, and an alternative fuel vehicle-a battery powered golf cart." He said as he laughed about the golf cart experiment.

This shop is part of a serious effort by Watson and the schools in Stockbridge to keep technical classes from slipping out of the curriculum, like they have at a lot of other places. Plenty of the equipment in the auto shop was donated by schools who shut their programs down.

Finish the story and listen to it and the work of the Stockbridge youth journalists at State of Opportunity.

Stateside: State of Opportunity looks at Stockbridge

Feb 11, 2013
Logan Chadde / Michigan Radio

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

All this week, Michigan Radio is airing a special series of reports exploring the schools and the educational opportunities in Stockbridge, Michigan.  It's part of the “State of Opportunity” project.

Stockbridge is a village about mid-way between Ann Arbor and Lansing.  Like so many towns and villages around Michigan, the economy has taken a beating, industry has gone, and the school system is one of the few ways kids from Stockbridge can get a leg up.
 
Cindy talked with Sarah Alvarez from the “State of Opportunity” team about what can be learned from this rural town, and its efforts to make sure its kids get a great education, even in the face of shrinking state aid and a tough economy.

The Stockbridge series of reports will air during Morning Edition and All Things Considered all this week.  This is a part of Michigan Radio’s “State of Opportunity” project, looking at ways to break the cycle of poverty and build opportunities for Michigan’s most disadvantaged children.

State of Opportunity is funded by a great from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Clarification: We've updated the story to make the funding comparisons more clear.

In his State of the State address last week, Governor Snyder called for $1.2 billion a year over the next ten years to address the “toughest single issue” of 2013: roads.

At the same time, Snyder called for an increase in funding to early childhood education.

The governor mentioned the 29,000 four-year-olds eligible for a spot in the state’s Great Start Readiness preschool program (GSRP).

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The amount of money you save can have a big impact on your child's life. 

State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra recently spoke with Erin Currier, director of the Pew Economic Mobility Project to learn more. According to Currier, a child is more likely to move up the income ladder when his/her parents are able to develop their own assets.

For 20 year-old Monique Norton, 2013 is all about developing her own assets. She's made it her New Year's resolution to save $4,000 by the summer. So far she's saved a little more than half.

Norton wants to use the money to provide a better life for her son, six-month old Jamar. For Norton, this means buying a decent used car and moving out of her mother's subsidized housing complex in Battle Creek.

How a Nobel Prize-winning economist became an advocate for preschool

Nov 28, 2012
heckmanequation.org

There's a growing consensus that more needs to be done to prepare children for kindergarten. 

But does preschool really have a significant impact on the lives of children? State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer recently sat down with economist James Heckman to find out.

Five things to know about early childhood brain development

Nov 14, 2012
http://developingchild.harvard.edu / Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

There's a lot of research that shows just how important the first few years of a child's life are to their cognitive development. But for those of us who aren't medical doctors the information can be rather confusing. 

One woman's fight to end the cycle of poverty

Nov 7, 2012
Keisha Johnson

Economic mobility for Americans at the bottom of the income scale seems to be fading. Today more than 40 percent of children born into poverty stay in poverty as adults.

State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra profiles one woman trying hard to be on the right side of that statistic.

What this election means for low-income families

Oct 31, 2012
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

After months of political rancor and over $2 billion raised, the 2012 presidential race is almost over. Yet with only six days left until Election Day, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have largely ignored the issue of poverty.

Health insurance is such a political issue, talked about all the time and so dispassionately, that it can be easy to forget just how important it is to some families. But, last year the Census estimated paying for health care pushed at least 10 million Americans into poverty.

State of Opportunity / Michigan Radio

Join us this afternoon at 2 p.m. for a special call-in show. We'll examine the disparities that exist in our society, and how they make it more difficult for children to break out of the cycle of poverty.

Michigan Radio reporters are working on a new three-year initiative to explore the issue of children living in poverty here Michigan. State of Opportunity captures the stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet. We’re going beyond the statistics and exploring what it takes to make Michigan a place where our every kid have a chance to build a positive future.

“Our project kind of has two ways at looking at these issues. We look at statistics, we look at data, and we look at trends. But then when we talk to the individuals, the individual stories don’t always match up with those trends,” reporter Dustin Dwyer said.

Reporter Jennifer Guerra is currently working on a documentary about the infant mortality rate in the state. She says the information she found was staggering. “Infant mortality is still a big problem in Michigan. We’re above the national average for the past twenty years,” she said.

Michael Newman / flickr

State of Opportunity is covering tomorrow's announcement of poverty estimates by the Census Bureau. The numbers will show how many Americans lived in poverty during 2011.

courtesy Melissa and Jeffrey Rice

Today, the State of Opportunity team turned their microphone over to 9-year-old Leah Rice.

She reflects on her family, highlights of her summer and her thoughts on going back to school.

(She was placed in an advanced class, to which she says "uh, Boo-yah!".)

You can hear Leah's story here.

cheriejoyful / Flickr

In Grand Rapids, African American infants are just slightly more likely to survive to their first birthday than infants born in the Gaza Strip. Six years ago, Grand Rapids had the worst infant mortality rate in the state. Today, it is sixth.

Fuscia Foot / flickr

Having lots of money does not make somebody a better parent, but a child with wealthy parents is more likely to go to college, and more likely to have economic opportunity once they become an adult.

If you are a low-income parent and you want your kids to be successful, the numbers are not on your side.

user CarbonNYC / flickr

This week, Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity reporter explores a pilot project in Michigan that helped kids and reduced state caseloads.

So why, he asks, is it ending?

insipidlife / flickr

Kids don't get enough exercise, and it's really bad for their heath. That's what many adults told a national survey. Lack of exercise was number one on the list of top-ten child health concerns according to the survey conducted by C. S. Mott Children's Hospital. Obesity and smoking rounded out the top three health concerns for kids.

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