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July 2012

New Report: Michigan Lags Behind in Education

by Kurt Metzger, Director

Michigan ranks in the bottom half of the states (33rd) in education, according to the latest Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This annual review of child well-being ranks each state overall as well as in four domains of child well-being: economic security, education, health and family/community. Overall Michigan ranked 32nd among the states, down from 30th the last two years. (In the Midwest, Michigan outranked only Indiana.) Michigan’s ranking in the Education domain was 33rd, second lowest behind Economic well-being.

What components drove this ranking?

  1. Less than half of children ages 3 and 4 in Michigan attend preschool,
  2. Only three of every 10 of the state’s fourth-graders could demonstrate proficiency in reading—with no significant change between 2005 and 2011.
  3. Poor performance in 8th grade math and on time graduation rounded out the indicators.

While Michigan outcomes stagnated over the trend period, other states improved so the state’s ranking dropped from 25th to 33rd among all states on reading, 19th to 24th on preschool attendance and 30th to 34th for math.

These trends do not bode well for Michigan’s economic future. Education is key to economic security. Michigan’s drop in per capita income ranking coincided with the loss of low education/high wage manufacturing jobs.

We talk the talk in Michigan but we don’t walk the walk!

While Michigan continues to drop nationally, we must realize that Detroit’s numbers are much worse. Detroiters, however, realizing that we cannot allow this to continue any longer, have embarked on an educational turnaround strategy through Excellent Schools Detroit (ESD). D3 is proud to be its data partner. There are many exciting plans and we, in conjunction with ESD, the Midwest Education Trust, and many other partners will be keeping you informed. Stay tuned.

We must get this right for Detroit’s kids! We must get this right for Michigan’s kids!

Read more at the Detroit Free Press and Mlive

ARISE Detroit’s Neighborhoods Day

By Louis Bach, Communications

August 4 is Neighborhoods Day, a day-long event which features over one hundred activities in Metro Detroit, ranging from neighborhood cleanups to music festivals to library book fairs. The events are coordinated by ARISE Detroit, a coalition of community groups dedicated to volunteerism and social improvement.

Rochelle Riley explains the day’s significance using information from D3’s Kurt Metzger in the Free Press:

“Neighborhoods are, and have always been, the foundation … the lifeblood of Detroit,” said Kurt Metzger, head of Data Driven Detroit. “We are all Detroiters but, even more, we are from Clark Park, Chandler Park, Palmer Park, Rosedale Park, Regent Park, Victoria Park, Forest Park and Parkland … just to name a few.”…

“My greatest hope for this day,” said [ARISE executive director Luther] Keith, “is these people all over Detroit are able to make their communities better. This is a day when Detroit literally changes. If you have over 50 cleanups and people cleaning schools, the city changes.”

Neighborhoods are the building blocks of any city. But in a city as geographically large as Detroit, simply keeping track of neighborhoods’ names and boundaries can be challenging. D3 analysts are continuing to collect Detroiters’ knowledge about their neighborhoods to refine and expand our neighborhood map. (Our data is built on the work of CityScape.) If your neighborhood is missing from this map, drop us a line.

Stat-Check: Detroit’s “Slowing Population Loss”

By Kurt Metzger, Executive Director

Data Driven Detroit (D3) has the opportunity to review many Census releases during their initial embargo period. This allows us to develop analyses prior to release, which we can use to further our mission of providing communities with better data for better decisions. It also prepares us for questions that come directly from the press.

Such was the case with last week’s release of 2011 sub-county (city, village, and township) population estimates. During our analysis it became clear that the Census Bureau had suspended its standard estimate methodology and, rather than developing independent estimates for sub-county areas, had distributed county-level 2010 – 2011 estimates of population change uniformly across all sub-county areas. This meant that all 43 communities in Wayne County, Michigan, including Detroit, were estimated to have lost one percent of their populations. If anyone can believe such an occurrence, I have a great deal of swamp land that I am willing to let go real cheap. A review of the other 82 counties in the state of Michigan revealed that county-level population change was assumed for all of their respective sub-communities.

Based on this discovery, Data Driven Detroit’s analysis of the 2011 subcounty estimates is that they were meaningless and that no trends could be assessed.

Needless to say I was both shocked and disappointed when Destination Detroit hoped to develop a great story for the city of Detroit based on a lead story from MSNBC. The heading of that story reads “Detroit Population Loss Slows as Cities Nationwide Boom.”

Allow me to quote from the story:

For the first time in a century, most of America’s largest cities are growing at a faster rate than their surrounding suburbs, MSNBC reports.

MSNBC said Detroit saw much smaller losses last year, a sign that its 25 percent decline over the past decade has bottomed out. No further details were immediately available.

The reason for the city surge? Young adults seeking a foothold in the weak job market are shunning home-buying and stay put in urban centers.

New 2011 census estimates released Thursday highlight the dramatic switch.

Driving the resurgence are young adults, who are delaying careers, marriage and having children amid persistently high unemployment. Burdened with college debt or toiling in temporary, lower-wage positions, they are spurning homeownership in the suburbs for shorter-term, no-strings-attached apartment living, public transit and proximity to potential jobs in larger cities.

And this was not all! Here are more headlines:

There are lots more just like those. Guess what… Pretty much all of those stories are wrong, or at the very least baseless when you really look at the data.

While we know that young adults are driving the rebirth of central cities, these numbers do not support this trend. Was there any new growth in cities? There are no data in any of this to tell us one way or another. While we all want to believe the Detroit headline, I am sorry to say there is no support for the claim.

I call these data clarifications “Objective Truths.” Data Driven Detroit is committed to calling out the media and others when their use of data goes beyond the actual facts. In this case we also feel that the Census Bureau is to blame for this misinterpretation. The press release should have come with WARNING labels that clearly told users that the methodology made this year’s numbers virtually worthless.