Category: Community Published on Monday, 19 August 2013 08:24 Written by C.L. Price
Dramatic changes in academic scores and physical improvements are changing the way we look at Detroit Public Schools
Detroit Public Schools has transformed its educational system. Moving far beyond simple cosmetic improvements, the 97-school system is delivering dramatic improvements in educational quality.
Its progress is raising the interest, attention and expectation of groups once thought to have written off the state’s largest urban school district.
The district has garnered top rankings for its schools by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and Excellent Schools Detroit, two of the most independent and respected entities in the state, which recognized its rising MEAP results, graduation rates and test scores.
Detroit Public Schools (DPS) administrators undeterred by the applause, accelerated efforts to completely turnaround each and every school’s performance.
“Detroit Public Schools’ goal is to ensure that every child is successful, and we are doing everything in our power to make that happen,” said Karen Ridgeway, superintendent of Academics. “Our test score gains, rising graduation rates and school honors are tangible proof we are making significant progress.”
And there’s much more ahead, according to Ridgeway who is confident that the addition of new arts and music enrichment programs for elementary and middle schools students, broad community school programs to make schools the “service hubs in their community,” 46 new Pre-Kindergarten classes, new Career Academies and other academic enhancements will make DPS one of the top educational leaders in the state.
The changes are all a part of the district’s 5-year Strategic Plan, which includes improving test scores used to measure student achievement.
The positive momentum for DPS included record gains on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) Test for the fall of 2012, with improvement in 17 out of 18 assessments. DPS increases outpaced statewide progress, “closing the gap,” in 14 out of 18 assessments administered.
Gains were especially significant in reading and mathematics.
In reading, students made gains ranging from 3 percent to 11.3 percent in all grades 3 through 8. One particularly impressive result is that DPS students bested their statewide peers in grade 8 reading by 7.1 percent. In mathematics, improvement in students’ proficiency ranged from .5 percent to 6.7 percent in grades 3 through 8. Gains were also seen in science, writing and social studies in all grades, except one.
“These gains aren’t due to any one silver bullet,” Ridgeway said. “They are due to a comprehensive academic plan that includes robust professional development for our teachers and all academic staff, constant data analysis and regular alterations to teaching strategies to meet the needs of every child individually.”
Detroit Public Schools’ high school graduation rate also increased 5 percentage points for 2012, bringing the rate to 64.74 percent, the highest rate since 2006, while closing the gap with statewide rates by greater than 3 percentage points. The district’s dropout rate also decreased by nearly a point to 19.38 percent.
Detroit Public Schools seniors also scored $146 million in student grants and scholarships in the 2012-13 school year.
DPS Schools Honored
In addition to improving graduation rates and rising MEAP scores, DPS saw many of its neighborhood-centered, quality schools honored for their achievement in 2013.
Eight Detroit Public Schools were ranked among the best elementary-middle schools in the state by Mackinac Center for Public Policy with Thirkell Elementary School named the state’s highest rated elementary school.
Two Detroit Public Schools — Thirkell and Davison — were among the top eight in the state of Michigan, and two DPS-authorized charters were among the top 10 schools in the state — Ross-Hill Academy and Martin Luther King Jr. Education Center.
Additional DPS schools in the Top 100 recognized were:
• Ronald Brown
• Burton International
According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “although about 90 percent of Thirkell’s students are from low-income households, 84 percent of fifth-graders scored proficient on the MEAP mathematics and reading tests in 2012. Thirkell students, on average, did far better on the MEAP than the state average. Adjusting for student background makes Thirkell’s success even clearer.”
Guests at the assembly to honor the schools also experienced Thirkell City, the result of a year-long, all-student hands-on educational project that resulted from research, writing and creating a 3-D city that spans the school.
Thirkell Elementary is an example of the tremendous impact a first-class leader can have on a school’s performance, according to Audrey Spaulding, Mackinac Center’s director of Education Policy who authored the study.
Detroit Public Schools also scored 12 of the city’s 20 top-performing kindergarten through eighth-grade schools, according to a report issued by Excellent Schools Detroit in April 2013.
In another ESD report on school organization affecting student progress, more than half of all DPS schools were rated as “well organized,” with Davison the best in DPS and Edison, Carson, Bennett, Chrysler, Clippert, Coleman Young, DSA, Gompers, Hutchinson @ Howe, Maybury, Nichols, Pasteur and Clemente ranking highly.
How They Do It
Asked how Davison, a neighborhood school, is listed by Excellent Schools Detroit as the fourth highest achieving Detroit Public School of any type based on student success in reading over the most recent three-year period, Principal Dianne Holland, who has been at the school since 2003, says simply, “We work with the whole child. Whatever the need is, we look at it and try to make it happen. We don’t see differences. We just see students, families and staff.”
A visit to Davison on any school day demonstrates ample evidence that this is a school of excellence teeming with support programs and a warm, welcoming, bright and colorful learning environment serving an unusually diverse set of African-American, Bangladeshi, North African, Arabic and Polish students, plus a sizable special needs population.
When making the announcement of the school rankings, Excellent Schools Detroit urged parents considering school options to attend the schools they listed as top performers.
To determine the rankings, Excellent Schools Detroit reviewed this year’s MEAP performance and year over year MEAP performance of 126 kindergarten through eighth-grade schools. The 31 new or turnaround kindergarten through eighth-grade schools in Detroit were not included in the analysis, as the study considered performance changes over time. The rankings were based only on this year’s and year-over-year performance on the Michigan standardized test, the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP).
Excellent Schools Detroit also released the eight schools at the bottom of the barrel that parents should avoid.
“In order for the education of our children to move forward in Detroit, we need to leave some schools behind. If your child is in one of these bottom eight schools, you should move them to one of the top 20,” Dan Varner, CEO of Excellent Schools Detroit, said at the time of the release. “Excellent Schools Detroit is committed to keeping our community informed about the quality of Detroit’s schools so that more kids go to better schools.”
Teachers and staff at schools across many high-ranked Detroit Public Schools say that making schools a success in a community effort.
Principal Holland uses the terms “family” and “collegiate” interchangeably in describing Davison’s culture of learning.
Support and enrichment programs at Davison are completely weaved into the school day (“I don’t like programs that are just before and after school,” Holland states). All programs include students in the planning, are equally divided with responsibilities going to every staff member, and they don’t fall apart when even long-time members of the teaching staff retire.
“Staff will do all kinds of things to increase student achievement,” the principal said in explaining the uniquely collaborative, team-like commitment that Davison School’s teachers and staff have to serving students and maintaining long-term support programs. “You come to Davison and it’s not work. It’s a wonderful place to be, and we have fun.”
Dramatic changes in academic scores and physical improvements are changing the way we look at
Detroit Public Schools
Detroit Public Schools scored 12 of the city’s 20 top-performing kindergarten through eighth-grade schools, according to a report issued by Excellent Schools Detroit in April 2013. The top DPS schools in the report included:
• Thirkell (#1 overall)
• Burton International
• Bates Academy
• Charles Wright
The Detroit Public Schools Difference
Detroit Public Schools’ announcement of its intent to create Centers of Excellence — in every school in every neighborhood — is creating interest among area parents. According to DPS officials, educational advantages of the centers include:
■ Individual Learning Maps for every student at 97 Detroit Public Schools
■ 215 Pre-K classrooms at 70 Detroit Public Schools
■ Art & Music enrichment for every elementary and middle school student
■ A “12/7” Community Schools Model which extends school services to 12 hours per day, 7 days per week
■ A New Parent University and other new/
expanded parent programs
■ A Customer Service mandate aimed at
exponential improvement of parent/student/school communication.
■ Multilingual programs featuring 7 different language program and robust ESL programs
■ Take-home Netbooks for students in grades 8-12 (with parental consent) and accessible for all students in grades 6 and up
■ New and majorly-renovated state-of-the-art school buildings along with millions of dollars in school building improvements district-wide
■ Enhanced safety and security enhancements in schools and throughout the district
■ Transportation, free healthy meals and a focus on safe routes to schools
■ $146 million+ in grants and scholarships for 2013 grads
Open Doors Day
DPS will host a city-wide Open Doors Day event on Aug. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. All DPS schools will be open for parents to come in and check out what’s happening at area schools and to meet DPS principals and teachers . To learn more about enrollment in DPS visit:
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