Grosse Pointe, Detroit Teachers and students speak up about socio-economic gaps in online learning

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Educators in Detroit and Grosse Pointe public schools who alter teaching approaches throughout the pandemic, voice concerns about educational and socio-economic disparities in remote learning environments 

Discrepancies throughout the decades:

According to the 2020 Census, Detroit and Grosse Pointe are the most socioeconomically segregated cities in the country. In Grosse Pointe, only 7% of kids are impoverished, and the median household income is over $90,000, compared to Detroit, which has a median income of $26,000. Students in Grosse Pointe have a graduation rate of about 95%, compared to Detroit’s 77%. 

Shannon Holmes, a Grosse Pointe transition services consultant and Detroit resident and Shalika Robie, a Detroit resident and Grosse Pointe educator, said this divergence spans through the decades and is challenging virtual instruction in Detroit communities.

“We know that socioeconomically in both school districts, Grosse Pointe has more access to things,” Holmes said.

For more of Holmes’ interview, click here

Two-pronged issues

Robie also said the socioeconomic gap, in relation to the current pandemic, is even more polarized. Robie’s children attended both Grosse Pointe and Detroit schools. “From a personal perspective and having 18 years of experience in the district, she refers to the disparities as a “two-pronged concern.” 

“You have history on the back of those staff members who have been there (in the district) for a long time, but then you also have students going through that system when it is tumultuous,” Robie said. “And that’s just from the school system perspective, when you think about the community perspective and the different changes over the decades, it adds a layer to it.”  

From technology access to instruction material, Robie said Detroit schools continue to struggle with providing all students with the same amount of resources.

“From a financial aspect of it, not all families have accessibility (to devices),” Holmes said. “So when you talk about devices; computers and laptops, not all families have those at their disposal. I think that is an assumption that’s made … specifically because of the digital divide.”

“There’s a lot more overt issues in Detroit that are attached to health crises, economic crises, racial disparity and overall disparities, than there are in Grosse Pointe,” Robie said. “I mean, let’s just put it out there — it’s so obvious.”

Addressing the technology and educational gap

For University Liggett School senior and Grosse Pointe resident, Cameron Strong, he said these discrepancies impact not only students’ health, but their academic performance. 

“I feel like if there’s less money being funneled into a certain community; that leads to less resources,” Strong said. “The amount of money and resources in a school district goes hand in hand with the way students perform; just take Liggett, for example.”

While Strong’s transition to virtual learning was a fluid one, he said the technology gap and educational gap is a difficult issue to resolve.

Division on a nationwide scale

While the pandemic continues to impact the school system, Holmes also said that these educational discrepancies – in relation to the current health crisis, spans far beyond Grosse Pointe and Detroit communities.

“We saw how many African Americans and people of color lost their lives and lost a lot of relatives (to Covid-19) … I’m a woman of color, and even in my own family and immediate circle, we saw how Covid-19 ravished … I can’t block it down to just Grosse Pointe versus Detroit – I saw it nationwide, where people of color were truly much more greatly impacted by COVID and the ramifications of this pandemic.”

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