Educators discuss impact of school choice at WSU forum

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Detroit News, 4/18

Educators discuss impact of school choice at WSU forum

By Jennifer Chambers

School Choice
Keynotes and Panelists

During a debate on school choice in America, Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said Wednesday he could speak first-hand about what it was like to walk into a school system decimated by unregulated choice. “You hear about studies on choice. If you want to go to the place where choice was implemented at the purest level of the laissez-faire market, come to Michigan and come to Detroit,” Vitti said told a room of educators at Wayne State University. “We hear it’s about empowering and leveling the playing field,” he said. “Stop studying (choice) and start acting different from a policy perspective. I am an advocate of research but we need to look at the impact of what happened in Detroit and repeating bad policy.” Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Wayne State, said Detroit can be an innovator on how to do choice right. “It’s important to think about how we improve all schools for all kids. ...We need to have critical conversations on what measures mean ... so if you are still looking at achievement and not growth you are looking at how many poor kids there are in that school,” she said. The Wayne State University College of Education hosted the event, “School Choice in Urban America: Prospects and Challenges,” at the Student Center. R. Douglas Whitman, dean of the College of Education, said school choice is a complex and often controversial issue. “It is also one of the chief concerns of educators, parents and communities in Detroit, throughout Michigan and across the country,” Whitman said. “As an institution committed to our community and as educators focused on ensuring the success of Michigan’s children and schools, it is critical that we provide information, prompt inquiry and promote involvement surrounding school choice so all children have access to excellent schools.”