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The highland park school district outside of the Detroit is among the lowest performing school district in the nation.
Recent test score showed 75%.
Of seventh graders are not proficient in reading.
The Michigan ACLU.
Says there are hundreds of students in the school system -- are functionally illiterate.
And they are now so -- the district for violating the children's right to learn.
Joining me now Michigan ACLU executive director Kary -- and -- I wanna tell me I'm jumping right on the on the ACLU site on this one of this sounds.
Horrible that these kids I didn't know the -- there was.
-- Missouri rural law -- what is it that you're able to sue for this right to learn.
Hi Todd thanks for having me.
Well there is a state law that says very specifically that went fourth and seventh graders are not reading at grade level that the state.
Have to provide individualized.
For each child and we've been finding that this lot has to simply not been enforced.
So this is it's obviously somebody somewhere in Michigan Michigan legislature said we're not gonna do visit social promotion is that what they're worried about.
You know it's hard to know the law was passed a while ago but what we're saying is -- -- that.
The mandate that -- state provide a public education is to mean anything that must mean to begin with that we teach children to read.
So that's really that the crux of the case.
If it is just it seems so narrow because again.
I don't think there's many of -- it would like to see children promoted.
Through the next grade without being able to pass some sort of proficiency that they are at their grade level.
But this is this is very narrow continue broaden it out.
Well what we're asking for is that all the kids in this district two are not reading at grade level be assessed.
And that appropriate interventions.
Be put in place and then that way.
We begin to address the problem and catch these kids -- and then.
The question of promotion is is is less important but the first thing is we need to know that they're learning how to read write that Gateway got all other learning.
I presume they go together don't say I'm would you guess that anecdotally that if you can't read how can -- is how can you study math -- -- you study history -- study.
English literature and planned and the list goes on and on and on so they've got to be behind in everything.
So how how -- how how did you find out about this how did I mean this is.
Way beyond this must have been going on for years to -- got 75%.
Of the kids to can't read at grade level.
Yes it's been a long standing problem.
We look at the schools that we're in the lowest 5% in terms of test scores across the state and then we began.
To really investigate and a lot of different districts.
And this particular one Natalie you know did we find these these terrible test scores but the learning conditions were a -- small.
That inadequate heat in the winter not enough books the books that the kids have or outdated.
They're not allowed to take them home for purposes of doing homework.
That building is filthy.
We've heard of a homeless man sleeping in the basements.
There are no counselors no vice principal so how is it possible for teachers.
To do a good job managing kids with behavior issues mean.
The problems were to seemingly analysts and then we had a number of parents come to us who had been trying to get help and felt that they'd been hitting ahead against a -- so it was all of those things coming together that told us that this was -- district we should.
-- try to help.
So this is your way this is this is.
The the piece of legislation of the gives you the right to at least bring this into court.
What about what kind of reaction have you had from Highland Park officials from this the parents.
RRR and what are you going to actually go to court.
Well -- overwhelming reaction from the public has been great we've not yet had an official answer from the district or -- state.
So will wait to see and we're gonna try to expedite this in the court it's urgent that the state begin to do what it is supposed to do.
As soon as possible hopefully they'll have some.
Plans in place before the start of the new school year but which -- -- -- these conditions persist.
How many other school district -- like this and -- sounds.
Absolutely horrible but but do you have others that if you win this case -- you get as a settlement in your favor.
Do you have others that you have lined up.
Well one of the things we hope we'll come because of this case is that.
We can see convened a panel of experts people who understand.
What kind of learning intervention -- make a difference in districts that are high poverty and are struggling.
And with this health experts acting as an advisor we hope.
That we can -- vol performs in this case and that will be used in other districts to help other struggling areas we have we hope it'll have a wider.
-- you know we hear so many times about the the teachers always say.
It you know the parents were not there babysitters you know the parents have to be involved and their children's education.
When you look at the case and you look at these children that are that are behind.
Do you assess you know it kind of in in civil law do you assess.
5015 to the schools in the parents is -- someway to deviate deviate between the two.
I think there's plenty of blame to go go around I mean this is not a pro or anti parent case it's not a pro or anti charter case it's not a pro or anti teacher case -- union case what.
We're trying to do is say we are here representing the children were record it representing 970.
And we need to look forward and we need to stop just planning -- fingers and instead focus on what kind of intervention.
Do we need to do now.
And what will make the greatest difference.
Well and you've got these kids that are that are fairly well along in the primary school system.
How far behind are they -- you said there -- 75% are behind in seventh grade reading.
Are they at six grade level fourth grade level were -- that.
Well there all over the place and part of the problem is that.
When kids are reading at grade level they really need further testing to determine exactly how far behind they are but what we see.
It's that -- eleventh grade 90% are not reading proficiency.
Are not proficient in science or social studies so we know that if we don't intervene early.
It just has a tremendous impact.
And their ability not only to learn to read but much last to be.
Ready for college and we know from educators and social science data that it's really important to intervene early and -- -- even before kindergarten.
I commend you I'm glad I'm ledger you're trying -- -- -- you you working for the kids Terry -- a -- use -- Detroit thank you so much.