Detroit Public Schools Reorganizes Academics Division to Support Continued Academic Achievement and Accelerate Educational Progress in the City of Detroit

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Jack Martin today announced a reorganization of the District’s Academics Division designed to sharpen DPS’ focus on providing high quality schools for all students by achieving maximum efficiencies in school operations, curriculum development, central office support for instruction and, most importantly, to assist in accelerating current positive momentum in student achievement.

“I have stated many times since I began my tenure as Emergency Manager that the only way Detroit Public Schools will be able to compete as a premiere educational provider, maintain and grow enrollment, and thereby stabilize its finances, is to offer a superior academic product,” said Martin. “While we have made definite progress in this area, there is still much work to be done. This reorganization sets the stage for this work to occur with greater accountability in an optimum environment, and to cement DPS’ role in ensuring quality education, college and career readiness and student-focused educational environments in all Detroit neighborhoods as part of the city’s revitalization.”

Key changes focusing on innovative, service-oriented, high-performing academic support teams in the departments of Curriculum, Professional Development, Innovation, School Turnaround, College and Career Readiness, Pupil Population Management, Accountability and Strategic Planning are as follows: 

Curriculum

Changes in the Curriculum area focus on leadership of both content areas and delivery of instruction at schools and will significantly enhance the District’s continued professional development in a relevant and updated way.

The Core Curriculum areas of Math, Science, Literacy and Social Studies will be consolidated under the newly created position of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, which will report directly to Superintendent of Academics Karen Ridgeway. These areas formerly reported to the Chief of Staff to the Superintendent of Academics. The change in reporting structure and the consolidation recognizes the fundamental relationship and need for more coordination, planning and integrated curriculum development among these core content areas, under the focused supervision and guidance of an experienced curriculum leader, as a necessary means to improve and increase student achievement.

Finally, the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum will also assume direct supervision over the Office of Professional Development in order to enrich, improve and inform the professional development of teachers with the collective knowledge and experience of the core content and other curriculum areas. This realignment also embeds professional development throughout the academic organizations of the District, recognizing that developing educational leaders and teacher professional development must be done within the context of the District’s curriculum in order to maximize the opportunity for academic achievement and maintain professional development’s relevance to the actual needs of teachers and meet the District’s instructional goals.

Dr. Irene Norde, a veteran DPS educator who most recently served as the Executive Director of the Office of Mathematics, has been appointed to this new position.

In addition, the curriculum areas of Multicultural/Multilingual, Fine Arts and Health & Physical Education departments, which formerly reported to Assistant Superintendents of Schools, will be consolidated under the direct supervision of the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum.

These realignments will give the Assistant Superintendents of Schools a singular focus on managing, supporting and assisting the portfolio of schools under their supervision.

As a result, the new structure will increasingly hold the Assistant Superintendents accountable as the key instructional leaders over each constellation of schools.

Chief Innovation Officer

Several key academic functions, particularly early identification of those addressing significant academic challenges and the need for innovation to resolve them, are being reassigned to the Office of the Emergency Manager under the supervision of the District’s Chief Innovation Officer. These functions include the Offices of School Turnaround, Community Schools, Charter Schools and Self-Governing Schools, as well as Strategic Planning and Management.

As a part of this shift, all priority schools will now be supervised by the Office of School Turnaround, and all non-priority schools currently within the portfolio of the Office of School Turnaround will be transferred to the Assistant Superintendents of Schools.

DPS’ Chief Innovation Officer is Lamont Satchel, who holds experience in developing innovative frameworks for problem solving within organizations including the Detroit Medical Center, the City of Detroit and Detroit Public Schools where, during his 11-year tenure, he served in several executive leadership positions, including Interim Superintendent.

Chief Academic Accountability Officer

A lynchpin of the reorganization is the newly created position, which will report directly to the Emergency Manager, and is in the process of being filled. This position will be filled by a visionary leader dedicated to achieving the highest quality of teaching and learning and will have as its primary responsibility the creation of an enhanced performance management framework to monitor implementation and steady progress of improvement based on best practices among peer districts and national benchmarks. The Chief Academic Accountability Officer will play a key role in implementing the realignment of curriculum, instruction and school improvement initiatives, as well as developing school leaders and talent acquisition to support the long-term strategy to improve student achievement.

The Chief Academic Accountability Officer will also have direct supervision and responsibility for the Office of Adult Education and Office of College and Career Readiness, and collaborate closely with the Chief Innovation Officer and Superintendent of Academics in addressing academic issues related to student achievement.

Office of Research, Evaluation, Assessment and Accountability (OREAA)

Because this function plays a significant part in the objective evaluation of academic progress and programs, school-based operational issues, third-party research beneficial to the District and government-mandated reporting, it will now report directly to the Office of the Emergency Manager.

The new reporting structure will allow for improved objective assessment of District academic performance and school-based operations, eliminate any appearance of conflict of interest and provide the Office of the Emergency Manager a greater role and input in the evaluation and assessment of the District’s core mission.  This reorganization complements, supports and enhances the Office of the Emergency Manager’s increased oversight of the academic progress of DPS in conjunction with the creation of the new Chief Academic Accountability Officer position.

The Executive Director of the Office of Research, Evaluation, Assessment and Accountability is Dr. Sibyl St. Clair.

Pupil Population Management

Several functions of the Office of Pupil Population Management (PPM) will be relocated to the Office of General Counsel and the Division of Technology and Information Services.

Specifically, the Office of Student Code of Conduct will be supervised by the Office of the General Counsel in recognition of the historical relationship between these offices. The Office of the General Counsel has historically managed student expulsion hearings for the office and has provided assistance with professional development on implementing the Code of Conduct in schools. Many school districts locate this function within their legal operations to improve and align student disciplinary actions with state and federal law and school district policy. This realignment will provide for greater legal compliance and oversight of the implementation of restorative practices in schools. EM Martin has emphasized the need for the code of conduct to be implemented in a manner that is least disruptive to individual students’ educational pathways with an emphasis on in-school and alternative educational settings.

Additionally, the PPM Database, Student Records and the Archivist functions will now be supervised by the Division of Technology and Information Services as the nature of these functions have more commonality with traditional and current IT operations. Further, many of the processes and systems embedded in these functions are not operating at an optimal level and require the expertise and resources that the Division of Technology and Information Services can leverage to improve these functions.

This move also creates new opportunities to leverage 21st Century learning models, online learning opportunities and new instructional technology models through a closer link between Academics and Technology Support.

All other functions of PPM, including student attendance, and pupil accounting and auditing, will continue to report to the Superintendent of Academics.

“DPS’ ability to advance student achievement depends on significantly improving educational opportunities and outcomes for all of its students, particularly those being served in our priority schools,” said Martin.  “This reorganization will allow DPS to consistently and continually reexamine, expand and adapt our approach to the delivery of instruction and support of educational operations at the school level to meet this goal.”

The District will continue to implement the community-driven five-year Strategic Plan with a focus on 21st Century Learning environments, replicating successful academic programs, enhanced educational enrichment, customer service, safety, partnerships, nimble responses to population trends and a lean and leveraged business environment to support these in the context of reduced general fund resources.

DPS has seen academic successes during this time, with these strong indications of progress:

  • Since 2010, DPS student scores on the MEAP have increased in 14 of 18 subjects/grades tested. In the vital reading and writing assessments, DPS “closed the gap” (demonstrated increases in performance exceeding statewide increases) in 5 of the 6 grades tested.
  • DPS has also been successfully moving schools from priority (lowest 5%) status. DPS has: 1) decreased the number of schools on the Michigan Lowest 5% list; 2) increased the number of Reward Schools, 3) reduced the number of schools added to the Priority List; 4) increased the number of schools remaining off the Priority List; and, 5) has a significant number of schools increasing in percentile rankings.
  • DPS schools have comprised the majority of the top-rated schools within Excellent Schools Detroit’s report card rankings. In all of the recent report cards, DPS schools have represented a preponderance of the best schools: 12 of 18 were DPS schools in 2013, 18 of 31 were DPS schools in spring 2014, and 16 of 30 were DPS schools in fall 2014.
  • Since 2011, DPS students’ academic achievement on the MME has closed the gap with their statewide peers on all five subjects tested. For example, scores have shown an increase of 12 points in reading (versus six points statewide), 11 points in writing (versus 3.9 statewide) and 8 points in social studies (versus 2.7 statewide). And, DPS students’ college readiness scores increased.

Martin has served as DPS Emergency Manager since July 15, 2013. During his 18-month tenure (which is dictated by PA 436), he immersed himself in the complex operations of the school district, understanding the system’s strengths and weaknesses.

He stated that the organizational and administrative changes taking place were developed from this in-depth examination and will support a culture and climate that is mission-driven to accelerate academic progress and will be essential to the continued revitalization of the City of Detroit.

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