University in Detroit To Open Public Middle School in Fall

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Wayne State University, a public research institution in the heart of Detroit, plans to open a public middle school this fall that will serve up to 350 students, university officials said last week.

The school was made possible by 1991 state legislation that was designed to increase parental choice in education. Under the provisions of the Michigan law, the University Public School will be treated like a school district, according to state officials, and will receive the state per-pupil spending average of $4,200.

"Our purpose in doing this is genuinely experimental,'' David Adamany, the president of Wayne State, said last week. "We are interested in using new school formats and teaching techniques and curriculum design in order to find methods in urban education that will be transportable to other schools.''

Only students who live in Detroit will be eligible to apply for admission to the school, which will be determined by a lottery at the end of June.

On April 14, the day the new school's opening date was announced, university officials logged 1,000 telephone calls from parents interested in enrolling their children, Mr. Adamany said.

University officials initially had hoped to manage a Detroit public high school and its feeder schools, according to Thomas Watkins, a special assistant to Mr. Adamany, but such a partnership did not fit in with the public school system's reform agenda.

Plan Draws Some Criticism

The announcement drew some criticism from Detroit public school officials, who expressed concern that the school would siphon motivated students, teachers, and administrators from the public system.

April Howard Coleman, the president of the board of education, said she applauded the university's efforts, but added, "Why are they using people from the public school system to make it work?''

The University School will have a principal and 13 teachers, who will be paid less than what Detroit public school teachers make, according to Mr. Adamany.

He said some Detroit educators are among the pool of applicants for the school and added that the total staffing of the school would make "absolutely no impact'' on the city public school system, which employs about 7,500 teachers.

The new school, to be located near Wayne State on the second floor of a building that houses several high-tech businesses, will be open from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. and will offer 200 days of instruction each year.

The longer school day and year are designed to "keep students engaged in appropriate activities as much as possible,'' said Paula Wood, the interim dean of the school of education.

Ms. Wood, who characterized herself as actively involved in the national movement to restructure middle-grades education, said she strongly urged that the university's school serve students in grades 6 through 8 because those years are a critical time for urban younsters.

People from all walks of university life--from professors to undergraduates--will be involved with the school. Undergraduates, for example, are expected to serve as mentors and tutors to University School children.

And more than 45 faculty members from colleges throughout the university have developed the curriculum outcomes that will be used.
The interdisciplinary curriculum will center on five areas: communication, fine arts, social studies, physical and mental well-being, and science and mathematics.

Students also will be introduced to foreign-language and cultural studies and will be offered a variety of skill-development and enrichment opportunities after the regular school day.

Support Services Planned

Noting that recent studies have shown that young adolescents tend not to use their time productively, Ms. Wood said the school plans to "keep them engaged in appropriate activities as much as possible.''

The school also plans to offer a full range of support services, officials said, including counselors, nurses, and social workers.

Under the 1991 Michigan legislation, three other universities are considering launching schools in cooperation with local districts, according to Michael Addonizio, the assistant superintendent for research and policy at the state education department.

Wayne State is the only Michigan institution that plans to open its own school.

Both the university president and interim education dean said they do not consider the new school to be a "laboratory school'' of the type traditionally associated with higher education, primarily because it will not use a selective student-admissions policy.

Instead, Ms. Wood said she views it as a professional-development school, where new teachers will be trained, research on "best practices'' will be conducted, and the entire university community will be involved.

Vol. 12, Issue 31

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