Segments in this Video

"A National Disgrace" (03:46)


Dan Rather came to Detroit in 2009 to report on the educational crisis, but discovered it was more complicated than he anticipated. At the Osborn School, of the 900 students who enroll freshman year, only 11 seniors pass the National Assessment of Educational Progress before graduation. Students say teachers do not care whether they learn. (Credits)

Broken Educational System (04:20)

Newspapers and magazines report about the crisis, which involves high dropout rates, low scores, and overcrowded schools. In 2009, 73% of the fourth graders tested were below basic skill level on the NAEP. Half of the adults who live in Detroit are illiterate.

Detroit Public Schools (DPS) (03:09)

Only 25% of students attending high school graduate. Community members gather at the New Bethel Baptist Church to brainstorm solutions. Detroit is the poorest city in the United States— 3/4 of the children who attend school qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

Once a Bustling Metropolis (04:16)

Detroit was home to over two million people with a multi-racial thriving middle class. The 1967 Detroit Riots killed 43 people and the middle class moved out of the city. In Milliken vs. Bradley the Supreme Court overturned the decision to bus inner-city children into the suburbs— Justice Thurgood Marshall dissented.

Teaching Poor Students (03:27)

In DPS, 88% of the students are African-American and 2% are white. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo explains that the school system needs to be forthcoming about its actual dropout and illiteracy rates. Schools supply audio CDs as well as books because the children cannot read.

Reading Fundamentals First (04:38)

Doug Ross runs University Preparatory High School, a charter school in downtown Detroit whose test scores are much better than DPS. A recent poll from Stanford University shows that 37% of charter schools in America are inferior to public schools. Bob Thompson offered 200 million dollars to create 15 new charter schools in Detroit, but DPS declined.

Tumultuous Appointment (03:30)

Dr. Connie Calloway explains that DPS was over-inflating its enrollment. She discovered that over a three-year period, test scores declined by over 23% and no teacher evaluations had been administered in at least a decade.

Public Hearing for Calloway (02:15)

In December 2008, the board elected to terminate Calloway's contract. Kimberly Bishop felt that Calloway lost her job because she exposed the financial malfeasance of the school board.

Fraud and Mismanagement (04:14)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated a contract kickback scheme within DPS. Lekan Oguntoyinbo wrote an editorial for the Detroit News discussing the corruption within the school district. Calloway was the seventh superintendent in nine years.

The School Board (05:25)

Bishop describes how some meetings of the school board last until two a.m. Calloway describes a board meeting as "lawlessness;" the president of the board once challenged a community member to a fight. Watch excerpts of board meetings and infighting.

Educational Experience (03:32)

Deanna Williams wonders how her high school prepares her for college. Someday, she hopes to become a librarian and has been volunteering at the library to learn. She lives in Detroit with her sister Isis and mother Katina in a rented home.

A Typical Day (03:46)

Katina wakes up at 4:45 a.m. to get her children ready for school. Isis and Deanna take multiple city buses to get to school because they now live outside the jurisdiction. Deanna understands the sacrifices her mother made.

Elementary School Versus Middle School (03:42)

Deanna struggled with grades at Emerson, but did get accepted into a Detroit honors high school— she could not attend because it was too far from her home. Her teacher in middle school would drink vodka during class and kids would have oral sex in the rear of the classroom.

High School Graduation (02:14)

The principal of Jared W. Finney High School recites a list of what his graduates endured during the past four years. In an effort to curb violence, the school erected a fence around its perimeter. Darius Craft receives his diploma and will attend Alabama State University next year but he does not feel prepared.

Comparing School Systems (02:41)

Demarco and Darius describe how there was no hands-on learning. Deanna feels like the school board keeps taking away more opportunities and stealing from her.

Economic Realities of Detroit (03:05)

DPS is currently the largest employer in Detroit. Calloway believes her power struggle with the school board caused her dismissal— she questions how 47 million dollars can go missing without board members knowledge. Within seven fiscal years, DPS lost over 387 million dollars.

Where is the Money Going? (03:20)

Katina bought tissues and school supplies for the school. School board members discuss how 90% of the deficit occurred when the state of Michigan took over DPS with no improvements to the school system and ponder whether they can govern themselves. Watch video of school board meetings.

A New Day (03:07)

Michigan appointed Robert Bobb emergency financial manager of the school district in March 2009. The community rallied behind his policies. He inherited a 70- 80 million dollar budget deficit and discovered substandard accounting processes.

What Bobb Did About It (03:01)

Bobb sent out 40 auditors to audit every school in the district. At a press conference, he announced that only five of the 190 schools had proper bookkeeping. Since then, he has launched three criminal investigations to discover the perpetrators and feels the school board is culpable.

Council of Great City Schools (04:20)

Marie Thornton believes it is the superintendent's responsibility to discover financial malfeasance. Calloway begged for an audit when she accepted the post, but it was too expensive. Dr. Michael Casserly outlines the fiscal problems inherent in DPS.

An Outside Voice (04:32)

Calloway could not implement any of her strategies without the board's approval. Board members discuss how Bobb fired most of the academic experts. The school board hired a new superintendent, Teresa Gueyser without consulting Bobb.

Unwilling to Face Reality (03:28)

Bobb announced school closures and laid off over teachers, principals, and 3/4 of the central office. He campaigned to get parents to reinvest their children in DPS and created a $500,000 public relations campaign.

Public Relations Campaign (03:57)

Bill Cosby volunteered to help and speaks at a press conference. Bobb explains that he just wants to inform the public about the improvements within the school system. Deanna thinks Bobb's efforts will fail.

First Day of School (04:03)

Dr. Lane Hunt begins his tenure as principal of Henry Ford High School. Isis spends three hours waiting in the cafeteria because the bus that was supposed to take her to vocational training never arrived. Deanna learns she will get her textbook in honors English tomorrow.

Second Day of School (03:48)

Deanna's teacher refuses to give out the textbooks— a month later she still has not been issued. Isis' algebra class was combined with another. It took Deanna a month to transfer out of a Spanish class taught by a music teacher or substitute.

Education is Important (04:15)

Five hundred fewer students went to class during the first week's lessons at Henry Ford High than the previous year. Cosby calls Bobb a "hired gun." Deanna thinks students, school board, teachers, and parents are collectively responsible for the deterioration of DPS.

Deanna Graduates (05:01)

The production team found Deanna and Isis a tutor. Isis ran away from home, and Katina lost her job at Target as a result of the crisis. The community turned against Bobb.

Final Thoughts on Detroit Public School System (02:36)

Rather calls for accountability within the school district and applauds Bobb's endeavors. Isis returned to school but remains estranged from her mother. The district has decided it will turn a third of the schools into charter schools in an effort to close the budget deficit.

Credits: Challenges in the Detroit Public School System: Dan rather Reports on Education in America (01:15)

Credits: Challenges in the Detroit Public School System: Dan rather Reports on Education in America

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Challenges in the Detroit Public School System: Dan Rather Reports on Education in America

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In this program, Dan Rather takes an in-depth look at the challenges facing the Detroit Public School System— rampant corruption, financial malfeasance, high drop-out rates, and low test scores. Dr. Connie Calloway, Robert Bobb, and Dr. Michael Classerly try to aid the school district but are rebuked by the school board. Rather reaches out to journalists, teachers, students, and the school board to understand the conflict on this episode of Dan Rather Reports.

Length: 105 minutes

Item#: BVL114464

Copyright date: ©2011

Closed Captioned

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