Education

The Detroit Parents’ Guide to Schools: A Valuable New Tool for Families

This week marks an important time for our city as the Community Education Commission (CEC) unveils its first Detroit Parents’ Guide to Schools. Many individuals and organizations, including the Skillman Foundation, that have been working on improving education in Detroit for a long time see the release of this guide as a sign of a growing and powerful new partnership between the Detroit Public School Community District and the city’s charter schools.

Being a part of the planning process and having the opportunity to sit in a room of partners who are thinking deeply about how to help families best was inspiring and increased my hope about what can be achieved in the years ahead. The process involved rapid coordination and cooperation among several different organizations across the city including the CEC, Detroit Parent Network, the Mayor’s Office and Detroit’s public and charter school systems. Though the guide is a small step forward for our city’s education system, it is certainly not one to be overlooked.

Ensuring families have access to the information they need to make decisions about their child’s education has long been a goal of the Skillman Foundation. From the Good Schools Guide to the Excellent Schools Detroit Score Card, the Foundation has a history of supporting initiatives that help engage families in the school selection process so they can make the most informed decision for their children. While some efforts have been more successful than others, the Skillman Foundation has learned a lot through the process and brought those lessons to the planning of the new Detroit Parents’ Guide to Schools.

Of utmost importance is delivering the kind of information families find most valuable to navigating our city’s complex landscape of schools. While test scores are important, we know parents value far more when deciding whether or not a school is a fit for their children and family. That is why planning for this year’s guide started by asking parents about what information they wanted and needed. We talked with over 200 parents to learn more about the aspects that mattered to them when choosing the best school for their child. As a result, valued information like a school’s bus transportation options, schedule, uniform requirements, and before/after school activities all became important components of the guide’s school-by-school report.

Leading up to the release, the Skillman Foundation also helped to facilitate several training sessions for community members to learn more about the guide and to provide feedback. It was an incredibly powerful experience to watch as community leaders, educators and parents came together to brainstorm ideas and develop new ways to improve the guide. One participant raised the possibility of creating a separate special ed resource to help parents of special needs students navigate their school options. Another asked for “slim” versions of the guide that narrowed down to particular neighborhoods. All of this feedback will play an important role in continuous improvement and refinement to future guides.

You can view the Detroit Parents’ Guide to Schools at detroitschoolguide.com.

If you have ideas on how to improve the guide for future years, please share them with us by commenting here.

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