School of the Week: Fisher Magnet Upper Academy

After trying her hand at the flute, Fisher Magnet Upper Academy fifth-grader Lovely Rogers was excited to test her skills at the clarinet as part of her school’s new music program.

But Rogers, 10, is not content with learning just two instruments. She already has her eye on the saxophone, which Fisher Upper students can select as their chosen instrument in their later grades, and she’s thankful that music is being offered again at her school and in elementary and middle schools throughout DPS as one of the district’s Strategic Initiatives.

“It’s a good opportunity for kids to learn a talent,” said Rogers, who plans to be a lawyer.

Music classes are just one of the many programs Fisher Upper offers to provide a comprehensive, well-rounded and engaging learning environment geared toward excellence, said Principal Harry Coakley.

“Fisher Magnet Upper Academy has a culture where students and staff give 100% all day, every day,” said Academic Engagement Administrator Selina Wilkins-Poe.  “Excellence is an expectation.”

Fisher’s educational philosophy is centered on engaging the “whole child” and all the diverse learning styles that are possible in a school of nearly 600 students serving grades 5-8. In addition to Fisher’s rigorous curriculum, which is infused with technology on a daily basis and incorporates iPads, Netbooks and Kajeet Wi-Fi hotspots, every student has an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) to target and improve their academic achievement.

The school, located on the east side in one of the district’s newest buildings, was constructed in 2003 and is tailored to suit 21st Century learning. The building features a sweeping glass-encased atrium, a competition gymnasium, acoustically-geared music rooms, a media center, and a training facility. The bright hallways are dotted with dozens of signs that command attention to success, evoking a collegiate feel.

Mr. Coakley and his team ensure that students are focused on achievement and their future from day one.

He makes a point of reminding students that they should always be thinking about high school graduation – and beyond – by awarding every single student a shirt with their high school graduation year, which they are encouraged to wear every Friday.  All students are also encouraged to sign up for Detroit College Promise (DCP), which provides scholarship money for college if they graduate from a DPS school and reside in the city of Detroit.

The expectation of excellence is also infused in the curriculum through a daily affirmation to set the tone for learning and creates a culture where all students can reach their highest potential.

“Students are encouraged to practice the Golden Rule of Life:  treating others the way they want to be treated, with respect,” said Wilkins-Poe.

A clear example of the Golden Rule is on display through Special Olympics Project Unify, a program incorporating sports and education that joins students of different academic abilities and encourages them to treat people with intellectual disabilities with respect and dignity.

In Teka Neal’s English Language Arts class, striving for excellence means tailoring classroom instruction to how students’ brains work, including allowing students to collaborate on their assignments.

“Coming from a special education background, I know that students need to get up and move around on occasion,” Neal said, adding that she also encourages them to have robust classroom discussions.

During a recent lesson on the “Escape from Pompeii,” students’ desks were clustered in fours with students facing each other and discussing their “predictions” for the story.

“The teachers have a different way of teaching us here,” said sixth-grader Aaliyah Thomas. “Sometimes they group us by two’s or more,” she said, adding that the strategy helps students to work together to find solutions.

“Our teachers say two or more brains are better than one,” she said.

Fisher also has an abundance of staff members to aid students socially and emotionally, including a nurse, two social workers, a counselor and a psychologist who visits Fisher twice a week.

But educating the whole child means that learning should not stop when the school bell rings at the day’s end, so Fisher offers access to a wide array of extra-curricular opportunities that encourage students to be excited and engaged about learning and coming to school. These activities include Academic Games, Chess, 21st Century tutoring, a drum-line group, and a Robotics team.

The school also has a partnership with the Detroit Police Department through the “We’re Here, We Care” program and “Global Kids,” where students are exposed to real-life situations, making learning relevant in the lives of students while connecting content to practical situations, Wilkins-Poe said.

“We have a lot of activities,” said fifth-grader Deangelo Martin. “It makes coming here fun.”

Something you didn’t know…

Fisher Magnet Upper Academy is a site for the district’s middle school basketball games.  The Fisher boys’ basketball team is currently undefeated.

Learn more about the K-8 Sports program »

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