Category: Achieve Written by Princess Hayes
As the film opens, it’s the last day of school at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a new charter school in northwest Detroit. It’s Aug. 3, 2012 – late in the summer, since JRLA has a year-round schedule – and students and staff have gathered for an end-of-year picnic. School founder Jalen Rose hands out awards to two students who had perfect attendance. The school was in session 211 days and these two students were there for all 211.
We then get an overview of what this school actually is – a publicly funded charter school. The scene may look familiar but the school itself is quite different.
We go back to 1994, the year that Jalen Rose was a junior basketball player at the University of Michigan. We get a short history lesson about how charter schools came to be in Michigan: How the Legislature passed the law in a late-night session on Christmas Eve, 1993. How Gov. John Engler signed the charter school law on Jan. 14, 1994. How two decades later, Jalen Rose would use John Engler’s legislation to make a difference in a different arena.
Rose (and others) tell the story of how the school came to be: How they worked with Central Michigan to get the school authorized. How they struggled to find a facility. How they worked with MAPSA to navigate the process.
We then meet a Detroit family that has been struggling to find the right school for their daughter. Irving and Tanisha Bailey are proud graduates of the Detroit Public Schools and their daughter, Unique, has been attending a DPS school since kindergarten. But as she enters high school, they’re frustrated with the situation in DPS – overcrowded classrooms, violence, chaos. They want more for Unique.
Irving Bailey sees a TV report about JRLA and he decides to check it out. They love everything about the school so they decide to enroll Unique.
That’s when they find out it won’t be as easy as all that. In order to get Unique into this school, they’ll literally have to win the lottery. There are only 120 spots available and more than 130 students are vying for those spots.
We see dramatic footage of the lottery itself. With the Baileys sitting in the front row, the officials start pulling names. Fifty names are called, then 60, then 70. Then 100. Unique’s name still hasn’t been called. With only a few spots left, Unique’s name is finally called. Her mother jumps up and starts shouting, and then hugging everyone in sight – including Jalen. You’ve never seen a happier mother at a charter school lottery.
Now we come to the first day of school, Sept. 12, 2011. As the 120 new students gather in the auditorium for an assembly, Jalen speaks to the students and sets the tone for the new school. As he sees two students talking and joking during his speech, he pulls one of the terrified boys out of the audience and makes him come on stage. “Read this,” Jalen says. It’s a statistic listing how many ninth graders in Detroit aren’t at grade level for math. “Ninety percent,” the boy mumbles. “Say it louder,” Jalen says. “Ninety percent! That’s how many of you aren’t prepared for ninth grade in math. We’ve got work to do.” The message has been delivered, and the tone for the new school is set.
As the year goes on, we see scenes of other charter school life:
Saturday school. On a rainy day in March, when other kids across Detroit are home watching TV, the students at JRLA are in school. We see Unique present a report in history class about the Holocaust.
A board meeting. We see Jalen chairing a meeting of the JRLA School Board as they discuss budget and other matters. Ed Roth of CMU sits in the front row as part of the authorizer oversight process.
The second school lottery. As the 2012-13 school year approaches, a lottery has to be held to fill one opening in the school’s 10th grade class. Another very dramatic lottery scene, with another very happy mother.
School in the summer. We visit the school on a blistering hot summer day in July 2012. As other kids across Detroit are at the pool or hanging out, the students at JRLA are in school. Unique and a partner are working on a children’s book about math.
We come back to the last day of school – where the documentary started. Unique’s mom expresses great joy at the academic growth Unique has experienced. Unique says that summer school wasn’t fun but she knows it was good for her. Just before the ending credits roll, we learn that Unique was one of 12 students to end the school year with a perfect 4.0 GPA. And as she gets ready to start her sophomore year, she’s been elected vice president of the Student Council.
The Bailey family is happy.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 15:46
Category: Achieve Written by Princess Hayes
“My son is reading everything now. He is reading at a sixth-grade level. His grades have gone up and he is a different kid now. His behavior has really improved and it’s due to the structure at the school.”
Parents and students are speaking enthusiastically about their experience with the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan (EAA), the new public system of schools whose mission is to change the paradigm for how education is delivered to urban students. The system opened in September 2012 with 15 of Detroit’s lowest-achieving schools.
There are many qualities of EAA direct-run schools that are different from traditional schools including longer school days and a longer school year, and the student-centered learning approach. But one of the most significant changes, according to many students and parents, is the leadership in the schools.
The EAA partnered with the Harvard University Graduate School of Education last year to conduct an extensive nationwide search for principals before the start of the school year. The same process was used in hiring teachers. With new leadership, students have not only grown academically but also behaviorally.
“The new structure at Brenda Scott is just tremendous,” said Sharon Reed-Thompson, a parent and volunteer at Brenda Scott Elementary/Middle School.
“My son completed third grade last year and couldn’t read. At the start of this year I said I would give the EAA structure a week and see how it went. It only took a week for me to realize what great things were going to happen for the students,” she added.
“My son is reading everything now. He is reading at a sixth-grade level. His grades have gone up and he is a different kid now. His behavior has really improved and it’s due to the structure at the school. The school couldn’t ask for a better principal, administrative staff or teachers. They are wonderful,” Reed-Thompson said.
Marques Stewart, Brenda Scott principal, said that he solicits feedback from parents and students often to get a full understanding of their perceptions.
“It is important to establish a positive culture from the start if we are really going to help our students learn. Establishing a positive culture has been one of our number one priorities as a staff through building relationships with students, parents and the community.
“Now that we have a more positive culture in place, student learning is on the rise and all students have taken ownership for their learning,” Stewart said.
It’s not only the staff and parents who are seeing changes. The students’ experiences have changed and they see their classmates behaving in a new way.
Faith Young, 12, said that the changes have helped her and other students learn more. “I see kids learning more and behaving better. Kids who misbehave get in trouble and the rest of us keep learning at our own pace,” Young explained.
Her classmate, Kannetha Stainback, 12, agreed that students’ behavior has transformed. “I’ve never seen teachers communicate with the kids before and they really do now. That makes it different because it keeps the kids under control. Mr. Stewart is always in the hallways making sure everyone is behaving. I didn’t see my old principal in the hallways,” she said.
Reed-Thompson said she has been a parent volunteer every year at the school but could only handle a few hours at a time of being in the school before.
“Now I’m there eight or nine hours a day. There are a lot of the same students that were there previous years but their behavior is so much better. I see it all firsthand when I am there. Mr. Stewart goes to the classrooms and observes the teachers and students. He talks with them in the hallway. And the rest of the staff cares just as much as he does. It wasn’t like that before.”
Changes are also visible at Nolan Elementary/Middle School where 33 percent of students already have shown a year or more growth in reading and math and suspensions have reduced 50 percent since last year.
Nolan Principal Angela Underwood said that her students, and parents, are engaged in what goes on at the school. The community proved that when they came together to remove nearly 39,000 pounds of trash from the school as part of a beautification effort. Underwood has established 65 community partnerships for Nolan and acquired 150 volunteer mentors that work with the parents and students.
The school also has 13 clubs that students may participate in each week during an exploratory period at the end of the day or after school, and they plan to add more programs in June.
“If a child who has been labeled as having special needs since his first experience in school walks up to me after taking an assessment with tears streaming down his cheeks and says ‘Ms. Underwood, I didn’t know I ever had it in me’ because he knows he has just shown two years academic growth in reading and math only six months into the school year, that is affirmation enough for me to know that what we are doing is worthwhile,” Underwood said.
Reed-Thompson said she recommends EAA schools to everyone after seeing her son grow so much since September. “I wouldn’t say that things are different. That doesn’t even begin to explain it. The way that the administration has been able to get a handle on things is remarkable,” she said. “This is a tremendous turnaround. I have never seen structure in a school like this before. I wouldn’t go anywhere else for my child’s education.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 15:04
Category: Achieve Written by Princess Hayes
In areas where prospects and resources are limited, afterschool programs are often the only source of supplemental enrichment in literacy, nutrition education, technology and preparation for college entrance exams. Afterschool programs offer an effective and affordable way of overcoming obstacles confronting urban communities and helping children realize their full potential. In Detroit, DAPCEP, Junior Great Books and YouthVille are low-cost after-school programs that provide students with the knowledge and resources they need to get ahead.
DAPCEP is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides both in-school and out-of-school time educational experiences to over 4,000 youth per year in the Detroit area. DAPCEP students are between the ages of 5 and 18 and are in grades K-12. Generating excitement about STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) at a young age and increasing academic capacity is the key to growing the number of students who pursue STEMM degrees in college and ultimately fill the talent pipeline for metropolitan Detroit and the nation.
Through partnerships with eight Michigan universities, DAPCEP places these youths in university environments on Saturdays during the school year and in camp format during the summer. These opportunities allow youth to learn advanced STEMM topics while simultaneously adapting an “I can go to college because I’ve been to college” frame of mind. Qualitative skills are taught as well, including communication, networking, résumé writing, professional etiquette and time and resource management. For students at higher grade levels, DAPCEP offers ACT preparation, as well as workshops for both students and parents that focus on college application and financial aid processes. All students who attend public schools, charter schools, and private school are welcome to apply for DAPCEP programs. For more information about this program call (313)-831-3050 or visit www.dapcep.org.
The Great Books Foundation is a nonprofit educational organization whose mission is to advance the critical, reflective thinking and social and civic engagement of readers of all ages through Shared Inquiry discussion of works and ideas of enduring value. Since 1947, the foundation has helped people throughout the United States and other countries conduct discussion groups in schools, libraries, community centers and other venues.
Great Books K-12 programs are proven to increase student achievement. With consistent program use, you’ll see student gains in reading comprehension, critical thinking and writing. Whether students are gifted, at-risk or somewhere in the middle, Great Books K-12 programs produce measurable results. The National Staff Development Council, now known as Learning Forward, reviewed the Junior Great Books program and cited it as an effective, content-specific development program that increases student achievement.
Junior Great Books book clubs meet two times a month to help students in grades 1-12 increase their reading comprehension skills. Morning sessions for grades 1-7, afternoon sessions for grades 8-12. The program runs from September-December. Students must read the assigned story at home to be prepared to discuss the story at each book club meeting. For more information about this program call (313) 481-1300.
The Detroit Youth Foundation (DYF) was formed in 1999 as an outgrowth of a previous initiative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Initially, DYF focused on engaging youth, their communities and organizations that assisted in fostering positive youth development and community change. This was accomplished by re-granting dollars to organizations for program activities to work directly with youth on leadership building and philanthropy (grant making). Such collaborative efforts worked to improve outcomes for youth. As DYF transitioned to a separate foundation, funding needs were met entirely by the Kellogg Foundation.
In recent years, DYF moved toward change making versus grant making to impact youth developmental outcomes. To create this change, DYF implemented a conceptual and program model called YouthVille Detroit. The goal of this model was to create a safe place for youth by providing program opportunities and personal support. This model was developed in consultation with several youth and family organizations, some of which later became tenant partners in the YouthVille Detroit facility.
YouthVille Detroit is more than a youth center – it is a concept, a new approach to developing youth and enhancing their well-being. YouthVille Detroit is the culmination of Dr. Smith’s lifelong commitment to positive youth and community development. For more information about this program call (313) 309-1300 or visit www. youthvilledetroit.org.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 15:11
Category: Achieve Written by Princess Hayes
Parents have more schools choices than ever, and that should be a good thing.
But how good a thing that is depends deeply on two things: the quality of choices available and how informed the parent population is.
School choice is only a choice if parents are making informed options between quality schools. I say that as someone who attended eight schools growing up in Detroit. But it wasn't because my mom was always making well informed choices, hopping from underperforming schools to better ones. No, it was due mainly to the transient nature of our lives. As my mother found new work or better rent, we moved, and whatever neighborhood school was nearby was where I ended up.
Today, there are still many Detroit families who change schools because of choices that have little to do with academic options. But the fact is that parents today do have more responsibility and opportunity to do better and consider
than families 30 years go. The debate must extend beyond public or private, or public or charter. The truth is there are good schools - and very poor schools - in any model you consider. We should place children and their outcomes at the center and frame the debate around quality; then we should support schools that deliver it and help parents find those schools.
Our Foundation, which has worked in Detroit schools for more than 25 years, works with Detroit Public Schools, the Education Achievement Authority, various public charter schools and private schools. Our interest is the same as parents: we want children to have the best education possible to them. So we place more value on what results the schools deliver than to who runs the schools.
We encourage parents to do the same. We work to support measures that help schools of all types increase quality, from the public schools that educate
just under half of the city's children, to the newest charters. And we believe all schools should be held accountable by making available relevant and comparable data on how they're doing. That's becoming more common in Detroit, with the work of organizations like Excellent Schools Detroit, which released a report card on the best and worth K-8 schools, based on MEAP scores, this week. A fuller
report is coming this summer.
As parents, we must think about these things when making a decision about where to send your child: What is the school's academic track record? We have found schools that do academics well typically do support services and safety well, too. Next, question the marketing promises schools make and do your own research.
The Detroit marketplace is saturated with schools not at full capacity; they want your child in a seat. Make sure what they sell you about themselves stacks up to realty by visitingwww.excellentschoolsdetroit.org. Also, apply early.Because there aren't enough high-quality schools, spots in these schools go fast.
Think about how the school is preparing students for a future that is more and more technologically driven. And finally, don't be discouraged - if you
need help, ask for it. Try a resource like the Detroit Parent Network, an organization that helps parents cut through the clutter and understand what options are available.
Tonya Allen is the Skillman Foundation chief operating officer and incoming president.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 14:47
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