Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager announced details of the new 2012-2013 Action Plans: Increasing Quality Seats for Detroit School Children.
The plans are comprised of four key components, including:
- Implementation of citywide accountability and common assessments to define school success and create an “apples to apples” comparison for parents making school choices, and a clearly-defined practice to close programs and schools based on performance;
- A new cohort of Self-Governing schools where decisions about hiring, curriculum and budget will all be made at the school level; and an intensified focus on research-based practices and supports so that Centrally-Supported schools can begin to see real gains in student achievement;
- A reorganization of Central Administration to ensure accountability for performance through an enterprise model to provide services demanded by the district’s customers – its schools and other schools;
- Significant strategies to ensure ongoing financial stewardship, focusing on deficit elimination, operating within the district’s means, right-sizing to accommodate the current student population, and pursuit of revenue-generating opportunities.
“Over the course of the next year, we must lay a foundation for Detroit Public Schools that will enable sustained progress for years to come,” Roberts said. “This will require a relentless focus on accountability and action where underperformance persists, a promise of stability and increased support for schools that are achieving, a fundamental rethinking of the role of the central organization, and a continued laser-like focus on restoring the financial health of this district.”
Roberts announced his action plans through briefings to parent leaders, pastors, principals, key community leaders, and representatives of Excellent Schools Detroit, the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce.
“Citywide, we have a collective responsibility to serve Detroit’s children,” Roberts said. “Over time, we must move more and more of our students from seats in failing schools to seats in high performing schools. We have to be honest about where we are succeeding and where we are failing, be forthcoming with data to support fair and objective assessments of schools for both parents and policymakers, and we have to commit to taking bold action to serve our children, even when it may be unpopular.”
About the 2012-2013 Action Plans:
Increasing Quality Seats for Detroit School Children
DPS will participate – in partnership with Excellent Schools Detroit – in the setting of a common citywide definition for school quality and will participate in the administration of a common assessment that will be aligned to the ACT college readiness standard. DPS, the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, and the Michigan Council of Charter Authorizers have agreed to use this common measure of performance–a growth to a standard of college readiness based on the ACT. DPS agreed to use the same assessment tools to determine student and school progress toward the shared goal.
DPS will rely on Excellent Schools Detroit, an independent arbiter, to collect data and report out on all schools in the city in an impartial manner.
Using these tools, DPS will make internal accountability decisions about the schools in its portfolio, with the goal of increasing overall quality at the center of the decision making process. In addition, these tools will allow parents to make “apples to apples” comparisons when choosing a school for their child. Parents and policymakers will easily be able to tell which schools are meeting the mark and which schools are not. DPS will take the bold actions necessary to make these decisions as easy as possible for parents. Citywide partners have committed to these standards and to this bold action. As a result, all students and families citywide will benefit from transparency about performance and commitment to improving the quality of our schools.
Stability for Local School Communities – Creating Self-Governing Schools
This fall, the district will establish an initial cohort of Self-Governing schools where decisions about hiring, curriculum and budget will all be made at the school level. This builds on the research that local school communities require consistency and stability for school improvements to truly take root and that a “one size fits all” model to educating over 60,000 students does not make sense. By shifting authority to make vital decisions to the school level, DPS offers schools both the ability to maintain consistency in their programs and the ability to make decisions that best serve the needs of their particular students.
While charters are an important part of Detroit’s educational future, this plan calls for keeping the remaining Detroit Public Schools in DPS.
Instead, Roberts will select an initial group of DPS schools to become autonomous or self-governing schools. An Office of Self-Governing Schools within DPS will manage 26 self-governing schools – 16 DPS authorized charters and 10 small high schools – beginning next school year. Together, these schools will educate approximately 7,500 students this fall. Chief Innovation Officer Doug Ross will lead this effort.
Under this innovative model DPS will do the following:
- Set clear academic and financial goals for each self-governing school that must be met if the school wishes to retain its self-governing rights and status.
- Select a governing council for each school that will be made up of civic, community, business, government, and local leaders, along with parents, that will take responsibility for the performance of that school in partnership with the Principal and teachers at the school. These councils will have control over budget, hiring, curriculum, and operations, with DPS providing close and careful oversight. The success of this initiative rests on the willingness of community leadership to step forward and provide highly qualified and committed citizens to serve on the councils that will govern these schools.
- Place 97% of state funds at the school level after debt service and fixed cost obligations are deducted, as well as 100% of available federal funds to the schools. Governing Councils and principals will be empowered to make decisions about budgeting, hiring, curriculum and operations to best meet the needs of their schools.
With these actions, principals will be required to be instructional leaders, not chief administrative officers, and principals and teachers in self-governing schools will be expected to take advantage of the new autonomy and flexibility at the school level to pursue learning strategies that will work.
This approach will preserve organized labor as a key partner in reform. In the months ahead, DPS will be looking to build upon and strengthen existing agreements that will make this reform possible.
If this approach is successful, DPS will move more schools under this model in the years ahead.
Creating Stability for Local School Communities – Increased Support for DPS-Centrally-Supported Schools
Under the leadership of Superintendent of Academics Karen Ridgeway, DPS will engage in several critical strategies that will bolster support for centrally-supported schools.
- DPS will create new structures to wrap both schools and students in support. Schools will be divided into clusters of School Improvement Groups, with approximately 15 like schools in each cluster. These groups will be organized based on need, and DPS will organize to provide the most intensive services to those groups that need them most. At the school level, students will be at the center of a wrap-around service model and DPS will work with strategic partners to make this approach possible.
- DPS will ensure that Extended Day and Extended School Year opportunities are available for all students.
- DPS will support high-quality teaching and learning and shared responsibility for academic achievement. Under this approach DPS will differentiate professional development for new and veteran teachers, develop a principal training academy and ongoing mentorship program, and develop robust teacher and principal evaluation systems that are conducted annually.
- DPS will recruit, retain, and support quality principals and teachers.
- DPS will ensure that there is a rigorous, transparent and continuous improvement cycle. This approach will allow the district to create a sense of shared responsibility for academic improvement as well as pre- and post-tests for all core subject areas, district-wide data systems that are public, accessible, user friendly, and efficient, and professional learning communities to drive the sharing of best practices.
- DPS will lead with a customer service approach.
- And DPS will maintain a close partnership with Detroit Public Schools’ Police Department to make decisions around safety and security. This, as it has been to an increasing extent this year, will be a major component for schools in both categories. Already, through participation with the Mayor’s Youth Violence Initiatives and a new multi-agency approach including strong volunteer corps, DPS has reduced school crimes year-to-date by 13% and violent crimes by as much as 40%.
Financial Stewardship and Redesigned Central Structure to Support the Strategies
The Central Office will be redesigned. To support the academic and financial viability of the district, the central organization must re‐acquaint itself, from one that has been the monopoly provider of school services for decades to one that 1) holds accountability for performance paramount, and 2) continually evaluates and recreates itself to provide the services that its customers – schools – demand.
With DPS Charter and Self‐Governing schools in the DPS portfolio exerting a greater degree of choice, DPS must work to be seen as a valuable and competitive service provider. DPS will create the Enterprise Services Group as a flexible arm of the DPS organization. This group will re-envision its business model and adopt a more service-oriented and fee-based approach. DPS plans to turn its traditional centralized bureaucratic business structure into one that is efficient, and financially self sufficient, and one that services the needs of the schools based on their demand. The concept seeks to serve not only DPS schools, but non-DPS schools as well.
Roberts also outlined additional financial strategies focusing on financial stewardship, includingdeficit elimination, operating within the district’s means, right-sizing to accommodate the current student population, and pursuit of revenue-generating opportunities such as provision of services to other school operators and districts.
Steps being taken toward those goals include:
- Eliminate the DPS deficit in 5 years, as outlined in the DPS Deficit Elimination plan;
- Manage a balanced budget for FY2012;
- Develop and manage a balanced budget for FY 2013;
- Right-size the district, including closures and consolidations of schools and similar reductions in the capacity of the central office;
- Identify opportunities to generate revenue from other sources by repositioning DPS as a potential service provider to all schools citywide;
- Mitigate the negative financial and budget impact of the acceleration of the debt service relating to the District’s 2005B Series Bonds;
- Stem the loss of student membership;
- Reengineer significant budget and financial processes.
Roberts updated community members on the district’s recent steps toward financial stability over the last 10-and-a-half months. Those include:
- DPS generated its first annual operating surplus since 2002, reducing the deficit by over $43 million.
- DPS completed a $200 million debt restructuring that further reduced the district’s legacy deficit to $83.9 million, where it stands today down from $327 million. This came after the district received a favorable A+ Standard & Poor’s credit rating.
- DPS completed the relocation of offices from leased space in three different buildings spanning 3 city blocks to one main location and schools owned by the district.
- DPS announced school consolidation and relocation decisions four months earlier than in prior years.
- DPS initiated a month-long spring open enrollment period running through April 16, allowing parents the opportunity to make timely decisions about where to send their children next school year, and providing more accurate information upon which to make decisions within DPS. Importantly, this provides the school district more accurate enrollment estimates, early staffing and budgeting timelines and, ultimately, ensures the goal of a teacher in front of every child in every classroom on the first day of school in the fall.
“History judges societies by what they do in times of great struggle,” Robert said. “Let us all be remembered by what we do for our children in this community at this moment.”