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Be heard: Education Nation Detroit lets you have your say on how to fix the education crisis

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Every September children pack up their notebooks, pencils and other supplies and head off to school ready to experience the joy of learning. Too often, however, that joy is squeezed out of them and replaced by apathy. That apathy crushes their life potential.

Here are the cold hard facts. Lifetime earnings soar with education. Duh. Of course, you say. But by soar, I mean rocket by millions of dollars. A report titled “The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings”  says over an adult’s working life, high school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million. Those with a bachelor’s degree, $2.1 million and people with a master’s degree, $2.5 million. Dropouts can expect to earn under $20,000 a year.

EducationNationLogoYes, there is a crisis in our educational system. Too many of our children are falling behind their counterparts in more education-intensive countries.

How do we fix it? I bet you have some terrific ideas and you can have say.

In an effort to continue the national conversation about how to help prepare America’s students for success, NBC News is bringing “Education Nation On-The-Road” to Detroit beginning March 22 with summit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. You can attend the event or go to their Facebook page and share your ideas.

The NBC News team will spend a week in Detroit, partnering with WDIV, to ignite a public dialogue about new efforts in the region and across the state to improve student outcomes.

Here are some stats on education in Detroit and Michigan.

Detroit Public Schools boosted its graduation rate by a full 5 percent, from 59 percent to 64 percent, according to data released last week by the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information. Of the 14 school districts with 1,000 or more students in the senior class, all but three improved their graduation rates between 2011 and 2012.

Statewide four-year graduation rates for students expected to graduate last spring increased to 76 percent, up 1.9 percent from the 2011′s 74 percent, the report said. More than 53 percent of Michigan’s school districts saw higher graduation rates.

“One of Michigan’s most pressing responsibilities is ensuring that students are prepared to embrace the exciting opportunities of this global economy,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. “We’re taking an innovative, visionary approach by reshaping education to meet 21st century demands so that our talent meets the needs of our job providers. Michigan’s future depends on a performance-based educational system that gives students and parents greater choices, focuses on student growth, and provides for greater accountability and responsibility at the individual school level.”

We’re going in the right direction but the gap is still huge. In the U.S. the graduation rate for upper secondary students in 2010 was 77 percent and that was well below the average rate of 84 percent for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD is a group of 34 member nations and other major economies.

Even though our graduation rates were relatively low, the U.S. is one of the biggest spenders on education, with related expenditures equaling 7.3 percent of GDP in 2009. So, throwing more money at the problem isn’t going to solve it.

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That’s one of the reasons NBC and WDIV are hosting the summit, which will bring Detroit-area business and civic leaders, elected officials, educators, parents and students together to share information, exchange ideas and inspire change. They will also air education-focused programming during the week.

“I am pleased to welcome ‘Education Nation’ to Detroit,” said Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.  “Detroit residents, businesses and our community partners share my goal of giving our young people the best opportunities to succeed in career and life.  To do that, we must keep improving our schools, after-school programs, and job training initiatives. I look forward to sharing the innovative work we’re doing in Detroit to equip our children with the tools they’ll need to face challenging economic times and increased competition, both here and abroad.”

Here’s the schedule:

  • “Education Nation Detroit” kicks off Friday, March 22, at 9:00 am at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. NBC News will host an opening ceremony emceed by WDIV’s Devin Scillian, with participation from Mayor Dave Bing, W.K. Kellogg Foundation President & CEO Sterling Speirn, General Motors Foundation President Vivian Pickard, Wright Museum President & CEO Juanita Moore, Detroit Tigers Mascot PAWS and area students.
  • At 9:45 am NBC News and WDIV will host a Detroit Summit, including a special interview with Gov. Snyder and  a series of panels including: “Early Learning: Sowing Seeds for Success,” “K-12: New Choices in Changing Times,” and “Job One: Preparing Michigan to Compete in the 21st Century Economy.” The Summit will be hosted by NBC News Special Correspondent Chelsea Clinton, NBC News Chief Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis and WDIV Anchors Devin Scillian and Rhonda Walker. WDIV will air “Job One” live from 12:30-1:00 PM. All summit panels will stream live on EducationNation.com.
  • On Saturday, March 23, Rehema Ellis and WDIV’s Carmen Harlan and Steve Garagiola will host a Student Town Hall, bringing together hundreds of Detroit-area students to discuss their experiences in the classroom and their hopes for their own education. This special event, which is new to the tour this year, will air on WDIV on Sunday, March 24 from 12:00-1:00 PM.
  • During the evening of March 23 Rehema Ellis, Carmen Harlan and Steve Garagiola will host a Teacher Town Hall — a unique educator-only forum that brings together local teachers of all levels for a frank and open discussion about what works  in the classroom and how to address the top challenges facing the region’s education system. Teachers will be invited to participate in-person or via webcast with the ability to provide comments and feedback through EducationNation.com and social media platforms. The Teacher Town Hall will be televised live on WDIV from 7:00-8:00 PM and streamed live on EducationNation.com.
  • Coverage on WDIV continues throughout the week highlighting examples of innovation in schools.

From March 18-28, the Education Nation bus will tour around the Detroit metro area, collecting new and gently used books for the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. The United Way will then donate these books to its Early Learning Communities, as well as its partner hospitals and high schools in the area.

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