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Want to Change the World? Or Simply Suspend Your Curiosity? Or Both? Come Back to DPS on the Dr. King Day of Service
By Steven Wasko, Assistant Superintendent for Community Relations, Detroit Public Schools
- Read with and tutor elementary students.
- Play in a father-son basketball game.
- Reorganize a school media center in tribute to Coretta Scott King.
- Help students with science projects.
- March on Washington… well, actually, March on Mullane St. in southwest Detroit.
- Help out with a musical tribute.
- Help with diversity mentoring.
- Build a student café’ out of an unused Home Ec room.
Volunteer service projects are often of the paint/fix/clean-up type (and we have plenty of those in much deserved locations as well!). But this year’s new listings of school projects across DPS on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Monday January 21, 2013, have a lot of good options for the breed of volunteer (of which I am one) who has to know that when they serve, they’re doing something to change the world. Or, at least make a significant difference in their corner of it!
By: Kaniqua Daniel
The age-old saying, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” must be the mantra playing in the minds of many nay-sayers in Detroit when thinking of quality schools.
Since joining the DPS family three months ago, I’ve come in contact with numerous awe-inspiring schools—some of them being traditional general education programs like the beautiful Gompers Elementary-Middle School, on to application and audition schools like the African-centered Marcus Garvey Academy.
To the people who are unaware of these programs—some are unfortunately parents—I can’t help but wonder if they’ve seen what I’ve seen? (All within a mere three months!)
Because if only they knew—or rather took the time to learn—about ALL of the great programs offered to students of all ages, perhaps we could dismiss this mind frame and focus on the Great Things Happening in DPS.
So, your son or daughter wants to become a doctor? We’ve got that covered at the Dr. Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine. At Carson, students can engage in the “Future D.O.cs” program presented by Michigan State University-College of Osteopathic Medicine to kick-start their careers in the medical field.
Maybe you noticed your child loves writing short stories or poetry? Check out Chrysler Elementary School of Journalism where students in grades K-5 have already published—yes, I said published—11 books! Maybe I’m too old to remember, but I don’t recall publishing books at the age of 7.
And after publishing those books, your student can transition to Communication and Media Arts High School where 21st century, multi-media resources prepare students for careers in journalism, broadcasting, web design, video editing, public speaking, and more. Not to mention, the school boasts a 98% graduation rate.
With just about any career one can think of, there is a school or program specializing in that particular field right here within Detroit Public Schools.
To meet the needs of Detroit’s growing multicultural population, many of our schools provide dual language programs such as FLICS (Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School) for students in grades K-8, one of the only public immersion programs in Michigan offering dual language, partial immersion programs in French, Spanish, Japanese or Chinese.
If culinary arts is your calling, visit Breithaupt Career and Technical Center for a special tasting of New England Miniature Crab Egg Rolls with Ginger Honey Sauce, Oyster Rockefeller or Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Tomato Garlic and White Whine. Breithaupt also offers automotive programs, collision repair, cosmetology, electronics and much more.
Another school that prepares students immediately for the workforce is Randolph Career and Technical Center. Students are literally learning how to build houses; how to complete plumbing, pipefitting, and electrical repairs; and some are on their way to becoming certified interior designers.
If your child is less interested in masonry, and more in tune to playing the cello, enroll him/her into Detroit School of Arts. With over $6 million in scholarships earned by DSA band students since 2008, these individual student success stories speak volumes to what DSA has to offer.
Growing in demand across the district are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs offered at several schools, including the new East English Village Preparatory Academy set to open this fall.
The new $46.3 million school will accommodate up to 1,200 students in the 221,000-square-foot facility with four academic wings. It will include eight science laboratories, a high-tech media center, a performing arts wing, and an athletic complex with a community health clinic.
EEVPA offers three career-track pathways. The Career and Technical Education track focuses on Business Management, Marketing and Technology, Health Sciences, Engineering/Management and Industrial Technology. At the Middle College, students will have the unique opportunity to take college courses while they are in high school and earn an Associate’s Degree or enter a four-year university as a sophomore or junior. The Fine & Performing Arts career pathway includes Instrumental Music, Theater Arts, Choral Music, Dance and Visual Arts.
While this may all sound great, perhaps what’s even more important than knowing about all of the great things happening in DPS is sincerely knowing the interests of your child.
Parents, I strongly urge you to learn what your child enjoys and cultivate that joy into a future career.
We can offer every academic program under the sun, but if parents aren’t engaged, those programs are worthless. We’ve all heard it a thousand times before, but the educational foundation really does start at home.
As a child, I hated my mother for making me write my spelling words over and over again. I felt like I was being punished. Now as an adult, I appreciate her for caring. If only I knew then what I know now, I would have said thank you instead of complaining.
There is still time to enroll your child in a school suited to his/her individual interests. Open enrollment extends through April 16. To learn more about all DPS schools, visit www.detroitk12.org/enroll or call 313-240-4DPS (313-240-4377).
Inside Detroit Public Schools: More on the Citizen Patrollers and Their Work to Protect the Students
By: Steven Wasko
My first blog entry for HuffPostDetroit featured the MADE Men who provide the eyes and ears of citizens’ patrols around Detroit Public Schools’ Osborn, Brenda Scott, Turning Point and Fleming School buildings in northeast Detroit.
This morning I spent an hour with Calvin Colbert and four other “Brothers on Patrol” (actually, one was a sister) on the streets surrounding a square mile radius of the Cody High School complex, home to four small DPS high schools, plus a fifth Upper School which is phasing out this year.
The fact that we got in the flashing-yellow-lighted minivan, with the Brothers on Patrol’s magnetic sign on the doors, in the shadow of the same driver’s education track I practiced on — uh, XX years ago — and that we drove repeatedly past the Catholic Church that remains my home every Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m., and my other ties to this particular northwest Detroit neighborhood notwithstanding, the brief tour felt hugely significant. It was like a piece of a seemingly too-complicated puzzle about how this community comes together to wrap its school children in all the support, protection and care that we can muster to ensure their success.
Patrol Brother Colbert described how the group’s volunteer members know when each school bus arrives and when each D-DOT bus stops at the corner of West Chicago and Faust during an hour-long period each morning. They know the faces of the students walking down the blocks of Penrod and Greenview from Joy Road to the schools’ entrances, and they keep count on the still-growing number of vacant, abandoned homes along those routes and within sight of the school.
They communicate with the school’s administrators about pending issues and prepare for the afternoon volunteer tour of duty each day with knowledge of events and happenings that may cause trouble. The efforts that they stress are proactive succeed because of the continuity of their commitment and the regularity of their patrols. Colbert chafes at the multitude of agencies and leaders who descended on the neighborhood a few years ago when a number of students were shot in a highly publicized after-school incident at a nearby gas station bus stop. Everyone came, stayed a few days, then left, the patrol captain notes. He and his crew are here five days a week, morning and afternoon.
The Brothers, MADE Men, the M.A.N. Network and other men’s patrol groups who are watching routes and bus stops are joined by a group of volunteers called the Detroit Public Schools Parent and Community Academy, who “wear yellow jackets and act as safety volunteers, monitoring youth traveling to and from school, in school hall ways and lunch rooms, and around the school.”
DPS expanded citizens’ patrols and also issued a call for additional volunteers this year. That, plus a multi-agency effort, resulted in safer schools and safer routes to school that I wrote about back in December.
The strong trends continue. Here’s the updated crime stats: The data was gleaned from the CRISNET report, the official written report used by the DPS Police Department and the Detroit Police Department to manage and store police information regarding criminal activity within Detroit.
Overall, the DPS Police Department reports a 13 percent reduction in reported crimes when compared with the same period last school year. Specifically, concealed weapons violations were reduced by 45 percent, felony assaults by 43 percent and armed robberies by 58 percent. Other reductions included larceny (down 9 percent), misdemeanor assaults (down 10 percent), vehicle thefts/B&E’s (down 7 percent), arson (down 12 percent), and ordinance violations (down 40 percent). Building B&E’s were down 12 percent year to year including a 41 percent reduction in incidents at open school buildings. Increases were registered in alleged sexual assaults, narcotics violations, and thefts. Felony arrests obtained increased by 42 percent during this time period.
Schools are still seeking volunteers for new eyes-on patrols at schools and other locations. To volunteer, call (313) 748-6008.
By: Steven Wasko
In the half-week since Detroit Public Schools announced school changes for the 2012-13 academic year, some attention has centered on the plans to move achieving school programs, intact, into larger, better facilities, renaming the program at the new site after the successful school.
This fall, Ludington Magnet Middle School will move 2.4 miles west to the current Langston Hughes Academy building where there will continue to be both an application and neighborhood component to the enrollment, all under the Ludington framework. On the other side of town, Mason Elementary School, strongly supported by its community, will relocate about a dozen blocks east along E. Outer Drive to the current Farwell School, where Mason’s successes will have an impact.
In these cases, the transitions will take careful planning, some of which is starting even today with parent leaders and organizers. Like any factor of change, it will not be necessarily easy. But in both cases, the school district is able to reduce its overcapacity in classroom seats and square footage, saving dollars for the classroom.
The moving, “lifting up and moving down the street,” of strong school programs is one of the success stories of recent school closure and consolidation programs undertaken by DPS. Examples include Marcus Garvey Academy, Dixon Educational Learning Academy, John R King Academic and Performing Arts Academy, Burton International School, and Hutchinson at Howe.
I asked the principals who managed those successful moves about their strategies and lessons learned. These are indeed good lessons.
Principal Ora Beard oversaw a move of the respected Dixon School from a small brick building at Tireman and Auburn to the expansive Lessenger Middle School campus in the Summer of 2010. Enrollment is now approximately 750 students. This past Friday, she stated that establishing the right climate and culture are paramount. “When I received the news that we were merging with Lessenger, I knew I had to do something… I invited the Lessenger children to be a part of the summer program at the old Dixon School even though I knew we were moving into the old Lessenger School. I needed the children to bond as one moving to the new building… I met with both schools’ parents to ensure the expectation that “ALL” children were part of the new plan. At the end of summer school I had a big family style barbecue outside of the old Dixon.”
Principal Beard says that on September 6, 2010 when the school opened in the new building with an enrollment of 800 strong, “no one even mentions the old Dixon or Lessenger, we are a community of learners, the ‘Dixon Educational Learning Academy.”
James Hearn, this year’s Coleman A. Young Foundation Educator of the Year Award recipient, moved his 266-student school into the former Butzel Middle School building, opening the new Garvey School on the first day of classes in the fall of 2009. Now 600 students are educated there.
He said at the time, “We had a clear plan and mission and vision and articulated that to parents and staff.” Reflecting this past weekend, three years after the move, he said, “Once a relationship of trust is built and mutual respect shown consistently, a dramatic change in school culture will occur.”
At JR King, a great little elementary school that moved into the old Cerveny Middle School, the school brought its curriculum along, worked with the district to make a number of bond-funded capital improvements, and today enrolls more than 1,000 students nearly requiring a wait list.
I grew up in the old Lessenger attendance boundary, and have lived for the past 26 years within blocks of old Butzel/new Garvey, and as a result have a pretty good sense of the conditions evident at the schools under their former construct. The former Cerveny’s reputation was consistent with both schools. The three former middle schools were arguably among the worst schools here or anywhere in terms of preparing students for the 21st century and in terms of keeping them safe and secure at the present. The results of having moved a good school program to these sites have been remarkable, and credit is due the strong building leaders who carried it out. Parents at Mason and Ludington should have great hope that results will be equally as strong, if not more so given lessons learned, this time around.
Good stories, along with troubling ones, come across our desks each week. Some have the potential to make one laugh, others, cry. And every now and then Detroit Public Schools announces something for which a silly little grin comes across my own face. That expression usually takes a while to go away. Sometimes, it doesn’t.
That grin keeps edging back to a full-blown smile when it comes to the Detroit Children’s Museum, which DPS is reopening for thousands of our students for field trips and classroom lending kits. Last year more than 11,000DPS students benefitted from the services, watching space through the “touch the stars” planetarium; moving from station to station in the Live, Learn, Play Center; visiting the Science All Around, Travel Through History and Up North exhibit galleries; and wandering through other hands-on art and activity stations. During that same time, another 15,000 children from across the region benefitted from these services.
The road to reopening has been a winding one. Rightly determining that it could not support the general fund drain of fully operating the exhibits to the general public, Detroit Public Schools two years ago planned to vacate the structure, but then partnered with the Detroit Science Center in what was believed to be a win-win equation for all parties. The Science Center’s own well-publicized struggles put the locks back on the building a month ago, even though DPS’ secure revenue stream of federal funding for its own student programs there remained intact. Now, we’ll use that funding ourselves to restart programs for DPS students, thankfully, with the same highly qualified — and even more highly committed — staff, and work to find another partner to fully operate the museum for students and families enrolled elsewhere. That will take a little more time.
This little former electric substation at 6134 Second Avenue features a collection of more than 100,000 artifacts ranging from dinosaur bones to dioramas, masks, costumes and dolls from around the world, an extensive collection of rocks, fossils, crystals, and more. When the announcement of its second closure took place, it was, like, “Gasp. We can’t keep announcing the closure of this place again and again.” Driving by many times over these past weeks, it seemed that even Silverbolt, the metal horse out front, seemed to have lost his swagger, if not his smile.
For all the value in hands-on science and technology education for these students, the Children’s Museum produces smiles. I’ve yet to stop in there, whether it’s during a DPS event or accompanying a young family making a Saturday visit, when the place hasn’t been filled with as much education as happiness. There are larger and better-resourced museums throughout our area. We should be thankful for that too. But on a per capita basis, I’m not sure any place produces as many smiles per square foot.
For more information on the Detroit Children’s Museum, the nation’s third oldest children’s museum, call (313) 873-8100. You can also find the Detroit Children’s Museum on Facebook and Twitter.
And, if you want your children to have another reason to smile before the expanded programming to all families can be offered again, you’ll just have to enroll them in DPS. An easy link is always located on the top left corner of our website, detroitk12.org.
By: Jennifer Mrozowski
Last week I went to my daughter’s first-ever preschool parent-teacher conference, and it was an eye-opener.
I learned that she is a leader in the classroom and was given the important job recently of helping a new student learn all the tenets of her Montessori classroom. I learned that she can’t write her name without her “name card” and she mixes capital and small letters. (I also learned that it’s ok, and I shouldn’t panic, because some 3-year-olds can’t write any letters.)
I learned she is a great rule follower, and that she also tries to enforce rules on all the other kids in her class. “So she’s bossy?” I asked Mrs. Sue. “Not bossy,” Mrs. Sue said kindly. “She acts more like the kindergartners. They tend to act as the policemen in the classroom.” I appreciated that answer but knew I would work on quelling that “bossiness” at home.
I worried a lot before the conference because I didn’t fully know how she was doing, even though I review her worksheets every night, talk to her about school and chit chat with the teacher when I can.
The bottom line is that I learned a ton about how Madeleine is doing. That parent-teacher conference also reiterated how important those meetings are. I went home with a lot of homework, as all parents should.
In Detroit Public Schools, we struggle with getting all parents to value the importance of parent-teacher conferences, even as we recently have shown gains in increasing parent engagement. I talked to one school principal who said attendance was 20 percent at a recent parent-teacher conference. 20 percent?!
I spoke to another school principal, Ronnie Sims of Brenda Scott Academy, who had a pretty darn good turnout of nearly 75 percent recently, amounting to about 635 parents. Mr. Sims used some innovative tactics to encourage parents to come to the 4 p.m. conference in October.
“One of the reasons that the participation was so high was because we had an event called “Trick or Trunk,” Mr. Sims said. “This event afforded the students the chance to receive candy out of Harvest- and Halloween-decorated car trunks, including mine.”
The vehicle participants were staff, parents or administration, and the best-decorated trunk received a prize. A parent won!
“The event promoted a safe way for the students to trick or treat. It was a record turnout—standing room only,” Sims said. “The students received their entry passes to the Trick or Trunk area in the back of the school only after the parents had a conference with the teachers.”
What a great idea! And we welcome every brilliant thought to get parents involved in their children’s learning.
Still, I know the criticism will flow from here. I can hear it already: “Why should we have to incentivize parents to attend parent-teacher conferences?”
But here’s the thing: It worked. And it was awesome. And it got parents engaged.
As a district, we have been improving parent engagement, thanks in part to our performance-based contract with Detroit Parent Network…and the efforts of principals like Mr. Sims. In the first year of the contract, parent engagement levels increased by 37% when comparing same-month participation levels for the end of the 2009-10 school year with the current school year. And 77% of schools increased their parent involvement by 10% or above.
As administrators, we need to continue to do our part to encourage parents to be engaged in their children’s learning because we know it impacts student achievement. And part of that is attending parent teacher conferences. Not just occasionally. All the time.
Simply put, you learn a heck of a lot about your child. It seems obvious, but that’s obviously not a priority for everyone. That may be shocking but true.
In 2010, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy even floated the idea of jailing parents who missed a certain number of parent-teacher conferences. DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts is meeting with Prosecutor Worthy soon to explore that concept, as well as other ways to encourage parents to attend parent-teacher conferences.
As those details are worked out at a higher level, I have a challenge for every parent reading this and for every teacher and school administrator: Do whatever it takes to raise engagement and participation in parent teacher conferences in your school. Get creative. Form a committee. Have a “Trick or Trunk” event. Steal ideas from other schools having success.
“Conferences allow the parents to receive specific feedback on their children’s progress in each of their classes,” Sims said. “Many times, parents do not have the opportunity to chart their children’s progress because of so many other obligations. This is the time to receive updates and information pertinent to the growth and welfare of the students. Conferences also allow teachers to provide strategies with the parents that can be used at home to aide in continuous student academic and social growth. It also makes the parent aware of their need to support the child in areas that show weakness as related by the teachers.”
Right on, Mr. Sims!
Look, had I not attended my daughter’s preschool conference, I wouldn’t know that she was struggling to write her name without her “name card.” I also would have had no idea she was considered a rule enforcer, but also a leader in her classroom. Those were invaluable things to learn and were points that I took home to both work on and celebrate.
That preschool conference took about an hour of my time for information that was truly invaluable. Time utterly well-spent.
Later on that day, I talked with my daughter about her progress. I also gave her a little incentive for doing so well – a “congratulations” packet with stickers, fruit snacks, and some other dollar-bin items. I know that left an impression on her. The things I learned that day — and the big hug I got in return from my little girl — was worth a thousand hours of my time.
Inside DPS: Just How High Can DPS Students Get?
By: Kaniqua Daniel
The first thought that crossed many minds when seeing this headline probably involved students using marijuana or narcotics.
I would beg of those shallow-minded individuals to think again.
The answer to this question is 5,000 feet above sea level—while flying a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. And did I mention that students (yes, students!) are the ones doing the flying?
At Davis Aerospace Technical High School, I had the pleasure of accompanying Student Pilot Taylor Grant, a 17-year-old senior at the school, on a flight across downtown Detroit. Cliff Miller, the school’s Aviation Advisor & Flight Instructor, joined us as a safety precaution.
We started the day with a flight simulation where Taylor helped me to fly an imitation air craft. Needless to say, I almost crashed. So I was eager, and a little anxious, to see how well a h igh school student would do with flying a ‘real’ plane.
Taylor was excited (and not the least bit nervous) to show off his piloting skills. And from take-off to landing, it was evident that this young man will become a very successful pilot one day soon.
‘Small to a Giant’
As we flew over the Belle Isle Bridge, he pointed out how the popular “Giant Slide” looked so tiny. Viewing the breath-taking skyline of the Motor City from 5,000 feet in the air may be just what nay-sayers need to change their viewpoint of Detroit Public Schools.
From this moment forward, I challenge anyone to say DPS doesn’t have great programs. We are literally teaching students to fly!
This type of training would typically cost $12,000-$14,000, according to Cliff Miller. Upon completion of all in-school training, students must pass a written, oral, and practical exam administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is also offered at the school. After earning a Private Pilot license, students are ready for training as a Commercial Pilot, and next as an Airline Transportation Pilot (ATP).
As the only high school in the country to have a pilot training program and mechanic school all in-house, the Davis Aerospace Flight Training program allows students who successfully complete all flight-training requirements to achieve their Private Pilot license prior to graduation.
The program is also one of only a handful of flight programs available to public school students in the United States that has an approved FAA curriculum coupled with an in-house fleet of aircraft that are owned, operated, and serviced by its students and staff.
Last bragging point: The school’s graduation rate is 96 percent.
After graduation, Taylor said he’ll continue to pursue his ATP License to pilot for major airlines like Delta, and he’ll utilize his training in engine repair and building planes (all acquired at Davis Aerospace Technical High School) to further his career.
STEM Programs at DPS
Davis Aerospace is one of MANY gems within the DPS STEM Education Programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). As the North American International Auto Show kicks off, we thought it would be nice to tout our own horn regarding the exciting programs that we have for students including:
- Detroit International Academy for Young Women (the only all-girls’ K-12 public school in Michigan, with an emphasis on mathematics, science, technology, and leadership development)
- Netbook computers are available for every student in grades K-12
- Hundreds of students participate in programs such as the Chess League, Academic Games™, and Robotics
- Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship has 38 STEM-field fellows from 4 universities under mentorship of DPS teachers at 14 schools
- DPS has an ongoing participation in “A World in Motion” (AWIM) for 3rd and 5th graders (an SAE competition that is sponsored by GM)
- DPS partnered with the Engineering Society of Detroit and the DPS Foundation, allowing middle school students to participate in Future City, a competition promoting engineering and design skills as students create cities of the future
- DAPCEP (Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program), which requires Science Fair participation and operates middle school-level programs in over 20 schools
Just to name a few…
To learn more about our exciting programs, visit www.detroitk12.org.
By: Jennifer Mrozowski
I’ll bet you think you know a lot about Detroit Public Schools from reading the headlines and watching the nightly news, right? Well, I’m about to surprise you with some things you don’t know.
The genesis of this topic comes from a wonderful series WDET did on “What Would It Take To Get You To Move To The City Of Detroit?” Assistant Superintendent Steven Wasko, DPS Communications Officer, was in the studio for another topic and pitched the idea of having several of our principals on a show to talk about what’s working in neighborhood schools.
We weren’t looking to showcase Cass Tech or Renaissance or Bates Academy. Those are schools that almost everyone has heard of.
We wanted to shine a spotlight on great available offerings in neighborhoods across the city, and WDET built a fantastic segment around it. (To listen, gohere, and to hear Craig Fahle’s program on listeners’ survey results on what it would take them to move to the city, go here.)
The DPS schools and principals featured on the Craig Fahle show were: Gwendolyn Frencher from Mann Elementary, Todd Losie from the Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School, Beverly Hibbler from Detroit International Academy for Young Women and Sharon Lee from Thurgood Marshall Elementary.
I thought everyone pretty much knew about those innovative and high-performing schools, too, but I was way off base. What the show fully reiterated to me is that people have a lot of misperceptions about DPS and our schools, and that we have way too many (unfortunately) well-kept secret gems, despite our many and vast attempts to get the word out.
So without further ado, here are 10 things you may not know about DPS:
- Detroit Public Schools’ Detroit International Academy, 9026 Woodward, is the only all-girls’ K-12 public school in Michigan. It offers a college preparatory curriculum, with an emphasis on mathematics, science, technology, and leadership development. It has an all-girls robotics team.
- The Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School for grades K-8, located near Renaissance High at 6501 West Outer Drive, is a dual-language program where students leave 8th grade not only proficient in English but in a second language of French, Spanish, Chinese, or Japanese. FLICS students leave the program ready to excel at the country’s leading rigorous, college-preparatory high schools.
- In fact, within DPS, nine different languages are offered (Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Latin and Sign Language) while our Office of English Language Learners supports teachers teaching over 8,000 students, speaking up to 44 different languages
- Detroit Public Schools is a volunteer powerhouse. The district has more than 1,200 volunteers from across Metro Detroit and beyond who volunteer to help our preschoolers read as part of the Volunteer Reading Corps. More than 200 businesses, like Sams Club, Compuware, Fifth Third Bank, PNC and others have signed on to the Volunteer Business Corps to support our schools with the goal of helping raise student achievement. We had more than 150 volunteers for our Holiday Learning Fest when we kept 18 schools open during break.
- DPS offers a school for special needs students ages 20-26. The new Charles R. Drew Transition Center is housed in the former Drew Middle School, which recently underwent a $5.2 million renovation. The renovated school combines the best programs of DTC East and DTC West in a bright, well-equipped facility that features a Main Street retail promenade that includes a new wheelchair-accessible theater, along with a working bank (through a partnership with First Independence), laundry facility, beauty salon, retail clothing store, convenience store, gym and post office.
- Mann Elementary School serves approximately 375 students in grades K-5 in the neighborhood near Cody High School. Excellent Schools Detroit (ESD) lists Mann as the seventh highest performing elementary school (of any governance structure) and one of the highest performing neighborhood (non-application) schools in the City.
- Thurgood Marshall is a neighborhood school on the Northwest side of Detroit with high and rigorous standards for academic achievement. The school exceeded the state of Michigan’s average passing rates for reading and math, according to the 2011 Excellent School Detroit Report card. The school made AYP for 2010-11.
- Davis Aerospace Technical High School is a uniquely specialized Detroit Public School that services high school students in grades 9-12. In fact, it is one of a few schools of its kind in the entire United States and the only public school in the State of Michigan that has an approved Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) curriculum coupled with an in-house fleet of aircraft that are owned, operated, and serviced by its students and staff. The graduation rate is 96 percent. We are teaching kids to fly!
- DPS believes that having actively engaged parents is critical to improving student achievement. We have offered hundreds (maybe thousands) of workshops in our eight Parent Resource Centers to help parents be better parents. We have a performance-driven partnership with Detroit Parent Network to increase parent engagement. And it’s working! We saw a 37 percent jump in parent participation through our Parent and Community Engagement 2.0″ initiative. In the first year, we saw more than 10,000 visits to our Parent Resource Centers.
- Every single one of our students eats free every single day for the first time ever this year. And they’re eating healthfully. DPS emphasizes “baked, not fried.” Betti Wiggins, Executive Director of Food Services tells me we have an “R.I.P.” sign on the fryers. True story. We serve whole wheat buns, turkey burgers, Michigan-grown apples and more.
Eek. I’m stressed. I didn’t get to mention Breithaupt Career and Tech, where students cater Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and run buffets in their school restaurant and operate a Meat Shop. Oh no! I didn’t mention our outstanding Detroit Public School League, where we offer baseball, swimming, golf, and so much more. Ack. I didn’t even get to the Netbooks, which we have available for every student in grades 6-12.
Ok. Another blog another time. I’ll keep trying to get the word out about the Great Things Happening in DPS. If I missed any great points about DPS, please post them on our Facebook page.
Ann Crowley is the kind of teacher and teaching professional that the distance she will go to assist children isn’t likely to surprise anyone who has met her. But even by her high standards and buffered by some advance notices, it was a sight to make you stop and take a deep breath on the first morning of DPS’ new Holiday Learning Fest at Beard Early Childhood Center this week.
And while it’s tempting, and deserving, to blog further just about this one committed educator, the scenes assembled by the teacher leaders at all the other school sites were undoubtedly similar… some 150 Reading Corps, Business Corps, other corporate or community volunteers, representatives from community, higher education, elsewhere who stepped forward for some holiday season service in a new form. If a tweet quoting a Harms Elementary School dad was any indication, the resulting program was and is a big hit: “I bought games&toys 4 Christmas but my daughter wants 2B here @ Harms!”
The comments from Beard School volunteers (posted along with other HolidayFest tidbits) spoke of being cheered to spend the holiday in the company of other members of the community and in the spirit of the large grins on most of the pupils’ faces. However if you were there, you saw in their eyes more than the spirit of giving; in fact, on their faces they wore a true sense of making the world a better place… if not the world, then at least this short block of Waterman Ave. alongside southbound I-75 in southwest Detroit.
Roy Roberts has said, and I have long believed, that Service should be conducted as if the future survival of our nation and our community are dependent upon it. Many talk about the need to “give back,” to provide something to the city or community which helped raise them. That’s a noble goal. But service should be viewed as an opportunity to change the world, or at least your part of it. I think these volunteers at Beard got it.
Overall, volunteerism is kind of like parental involvement in Detroit Public Schools. On the one hand, too many paint that one broad stroke that there is no meaningful family or community in these schools, which is so wrong given the ever increasing numbers of parents entering the schools (see Dec. 12th blog entry, “What Does Parental Involvement In A Big City School District Really Look Like?“), and the roster for such organized endeavors such as the Reading Corps (1,200+ citizens) and the Business Corps (some 200 strong in less than 11 months). On the other hand, we have a long, long way to go and can never be in a position to believe that there’s such a thing as too much parent or volunteer involvement.
Look a Reading Corps volunteer in the face, or catch the grin on Tom Watkins’ cheeks, or see that familiar red CityYear jacket, or stumble upon the dozens of Quicken Loans staff who have adopted Chrysler School, now or at any time in a Detroit Public School, and you might catch the volunteer fever yourself. It’s not too late, even, to join in Week 2 of the Holiday Learning Fest. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in that.
To learn more or to become a Reading Corps tutor, to sign your business up for Biz Corps, or for that matter to get involved with alumni activities, the DPS Foundation, the citizen patrol groups, go to detroitk12.org and click on the “Get Involved” tab.
Your service will indeed change Detroit’s world.
By Jennifer Mrozowski
Arlyssa Heard, a completely engaged and very involved Detroit Public Schools parent, was at her wit’s end recently on two occasions with her two children who are vastly different ages and have vastly different learning styles.
Her youngest son, now a first grader at Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy, was struggling with spelling and rhyming last year as a kindergartner, and Heard felt like she was running out of ways to help him. He’d also been undergoing learning evaluations for his inability to focus.
Meanwhile, her oldest son, an eleventh grader at the Cody Academy of Critical Thinkers, who is into everything “hip hop, iPod, and things like that,” said his mother, was increasingly thinking mom and dad were “old and uncool.” Engaging him a conversation was sometimes tough.
If you’re a parent or guardian or even an uncle or aunt, you may not have been through these exact situations, but you know the feeling of helplessness when you are at a loss for helping your child or children grow and succeed.
Maybe your daughter is having out-of-control temper tantrums, and you just can’t figure out why. Maybe your son is starting to neglect his homework when he used to be a straight-A student. Maybe your oldest child just can’t understand Trigonometry (and you can’t either).
Heard was right there. Feeling helpless.
She remembered hearing about the academic toolkits that Detroit Public Schools and Detroit Parent Network created for parents to use with their children over holiday breaks last year. The toolkits were billed as something to engage your child in lessons in fun and engaging ways during school breaks.
There are a variety of toolkits that are age-appropriate by various subjects, like Word Study, Comprehension, Writing, Numeration, Geometry and Measurement. They are based on the state’s academic standards and developed and vetted by academic experts. Parents can even “check them out” like you check out books at the library by going to any one of DPS’ 8 Parent Resource Centers.
Heard was skeptical. She’d seen the kits and they seemed like a waste of time.
But Heard is an explorer when it comes to parenting. And she believes in “differentiated instruction,” which basically means that kids learn in different ways and need a variety of different ways to be taught.
“Sitting at a desk for 6 hours just doesn’t work,” she said of her first-grader. Still, she was at a loss. “And it makes me cry to say this, but sometimes you just don’t know how to help your child.”
So Heard decided finally to give the toolkits a try. She was surprised at some of the items in the toolkit geared for teaching reading and letters. Many of the reading kits contain books, as well as other interactive items geared at a particular age group, like Junior Scrabble for the middle school set. One of the kits for kindergartners contained a metal cookie sheet and the kind of magnetic letters that you typically see on the fridge.
Heard took the toolkit home and got down on the floor with youngest son. He quickly became engrossed with arranging and re-arranging the colorful letters on the cookie sheet. Heard started with the first word — “pan.” Then she worked with her son to exchange the first letter for another. “Ran.” They did that repeatedly. “Tan.” “Man.” “Can.” “Fan.” “Van.” His eyes lit up!
“He had so much fun doing it,” Heard said, and she marveled that he was spelling and finally “getting it.”
With her high schooler, the story was different. He was not communicating with mom and dad like he used to. As parents, this is an awesome fear. We all love when our kids are little, and they think we are the center of their universe. And we absolutely fear the time when they grow up and mom and dad are so uncool that they won’t even talk to us.
So Heard tried another toolkit, and she was completely fully skeptical about this one. It had toothpicks in it and the user was required to make shapes with only a certain number of toothpicks. The skill was to practice spatial reasoning.
“It was a high school kit and I almost didn’t check it out for that reason because I wasn’t convinced. But you had to use a certain number of toothpicks to complete each of the diagrams, and it was NOT as easy as it looked,” she said.
Her eleventh-grader and his father worked on the project together.
First, no talking. Then a little talking. Before long, through their frustration of figuring out the puzzles, dad and son were talking and laughing and sharing. Unintended consequence: a conversation starter.
“That just jump-started my interest,” Heard said. “I thought, ‘You should never shut down a strategy.’”
Heard is taking that interest to a new level. During DPS’ first Annual Holiday Learning Fest, when the district is going to have 18 schools open for academic enrichment academics (using the toolkits and other strategies) and offering free meals to students, Heard is going to volunteer.
Her reasons are two-fold. First, she hopes to learn more learning tactics for her children while there volunteering.
“What I found is that a lot of parents are struggling like I was. Some of us don’t know how to help our children effectively. But sometimes, it just takes getting on the floor with your child and trying something.”
Secondly, she wants to help other parents.
“What better testimony can you have than someone who has been through it and tried something?” she said.
Heard plans to devote three days to the DPS’ brand new Holiday Learning Fest, a program sponsored in part by the Office of Food Services. Schools will remain open to students for six days (December 27, 28, 29, 2011 and January 3, 4, 5, 2012) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to provide learning, fun activities and nourishment for students.
DPS needs more people like Heard to volunteer their time for this first-time effort. The district is only seeking volunteers who have already undergone a criminal background check with fingerprinting and can show proof. To volunteer, call 313-873-7490, fax the registration to 313-873-7446 or email email@example.com
But we also need more parents like Heard to get engaged in their children’s learning. (Heard also regularly uses the DPS Learning Village, one of two online parent portals. More on that later.)
Parenting is an awesome responsibility. Sometimes , like Heard, we just don’t intuitively know all the answers. A little bit of expert help can go a long way. To learn more about DPS’ parenting programs, go to www.detroitk12.org/parents
By Steven Wasko
So you think you have your mind made up about what parent involvement looks like in a big city school district? Have you convinced yourself that it’s the lack of parental engagement that will inhibit even the most courageous educational reform platforms?
It’s mid-morning on the first really cold Saturday in downtown Detroit and more than 550 parents along with 400 students have just finished a full breakfast and are engaged in questioning a panel of educational leaders who run some of the most innovative educational alternatives in the city — Dr. John Covington from the new Education Achievement System and the leaders of Cornerstone Schools, Excellent Schools Detroit, New Paradigm and, yes, DPS.
(With five newly authorized charters, a brand new Office of Innovation and the unique opportunity to work closely with EAS on both which schools are transferred into this new district and sharing new systems and platforms, DPS is at the heart of creating new schools and supporting its high achieving ones.) See @detroitk12 on Twitter for some of what the various leaders said on Dec. 10.
Detroit Parent Network organizes this annual meeting, but that’s very far from all it does to organize Detroit’s parents.
I’d hold a decision I had something to do with two years ago to engage DPN to engage DPS parents through a competitively bid performance-based contract as the best move I’ve made as an education executive.
Together we started down a path to move the focus of parent involvement in DPS from the Board of Education chambers to the neighborhoods, and to dwell less on political involvement than on answering the very basic question, “How can we help Parents to be better Parents?”
We soon opened eight (HuffPost Detroit exclusive — soon to be nine) regional Parent Resource Centers, brought on board a dozen and a half energetic souls to go out and organize parents within individual schools, scheduled a hundred-plus workshops on some very basic parenting topics and also teaming with partners on serving related needs for education on finance, employment, and time management.
Parents were trained in Leadership. Parent participation rose 37% the first year and continues to grow. 33 new Local School Community Organizations were started. 17,000 parents walked through the doors. Organizers knocked on 15,000 doors including those of parents affected by school building consolidations. We even went into homes to “Makeover” Homework areas to make them more conducive to home learning.
Surveyed parents reported by an 82-18 margin that they are more involved in school than the year before. The first steps on a long and continuous road.
By Steven Wasko
Two years ago, the entire city came together when the news was released that Detroit students scored a record low on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the NAEP. NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.
For too long Detroit leaders and defenders had stated that things were somehow different in Detroit… It was believed that everything from adult illiteracy to substance abuse in the home, to single family households, to incidence of lead-based paint poisoning made any comparisons between Detroit students’ academic achievement and those in surrounding communities meaningless. However, once measured against students in other communities that themselves face all of these challenges, it was indeed a wake-up call for Detroit.
At the time, Michael Casserly, the Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools, whose member districts encompass 65 of the nation’s largest urban school districts, said it simply: “What (this test) is telling us, more than anything else, is that, frankly, this city has no viable future if this is allowed to stand.”
Almost like America immediately post 9/11, everyone was on the same page, rooting for the same team, our city’s youth. Within days the publisher of the Detroit Free Press reached out and shortly thereafter printed a front-page plea for community help.
A few weeks later, on a Saturday morning in January 2010, more than 3,000 potential volunteers from more than a hundred communities packed the rooms at Renaissance HS for the Reading Corps Rally. At this time more than 1,000 Reading Corps tutors show up in the schools on a weekly basis to provide one-on-one assistance to pre-kindergarten and kindergarteners.
One year later, in January 2011, the district launched Volunteer Business Corps, a new initiative to create partnerships between schools and area businesses to improve academic achievement in the district. Partners include banks, a hotel, major university and many more companies. Every school has established at minimum one new corporate “adoption” as companies including most of the big name Detroit corporations have signed on.
Mr. Casserly said today: “The people of Detroit should be encouraged by substantial improvement in the reading and math scores of its public school students on the latest edition of the nation’s toughest test, NAEP. In the face of flat statewide performance and a difficult economy, the Detroit Public Schools have shown a positive step forward.”
As signs of those positive steps forward:
- Of the urban districts participating on the NAEP in 2011, Detroit was one of only six districts nationally to show increases in student test scores.
- Detroit’s scores trended up in all grade levels and both subjects tested.
- Detroit Public Schools exceeded the state of Michigan in gains in mathematics.
- Detroit had the highest gains in any city in any subject on mathematics.
- Detroit also exceeded the state in gains in reading.
Like the budget deficit, it will not be eliminated overnight, but there is real progress.
Despite the progress, there is much, much work to do. Detroit students’ scores remain the lowest although the gap is closing. If you’re a Reading Corps volunteer or a Business Corps partner, you should know now more than ever before that you are making a difference. We need more of you.
To volunteer for the Reading Corps, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To volunteer for the Business Corps, email email@example.com
By Jennifer Mrozowski
I didn’t go to Cass Tech. Let me just start by saying that.
But I did grow up in Detroit, and no matter where I have lived — New York, Greater Chicago, Paris — I have always been a Detroit booster, defending and celebrating my hometown.
Therefore, like so many Detroiters, I have felt steeped in “green and white” this past week after Cass Tech became the first-ever Detroit Public School League football team to claim a state title for the largest-schools’ No. 1 division.
After all, there is something about the Detroit spirit that causes us to stick together and rally around each other and our city.
At DPS, we have seen that time and again this week as people from far and wide have emailed Cass Principal Lisa Phillips and Coach Thomas Wilcher to express their support after some crackpot tried to take over the spotlight of Cass’ historic win by sending a hateful letter to the team.
But instead of focusing on that for long (as the media unfortunately did), the school’s parents, alumni, students and teammates have shown tremendous grace, and quickly moved back to the task at hand — celebrating this huge victory for one of our hometown teams. And people from all over the country have shown their support.
An email from Georgia credited Cass for being the solid foundation upon which the writer built her life.
Another Metro Detroiter wrote that more people are supporting Cass than we realize and thanked Principal Phillips and her staff for their time and commitment.
And then there was the Macomb County writer who really wanted DeLaSalle to win but was so impressed with the way the students and coaches handled themselves on the field and acknowledged that Cass deserved to win. The writer wanted Ms. Phillips to know about the huge number of Macomb County supporters.
Like so many of those supporters, we hope others show their hometown (and greater Detroit) spirit by turning out for the Cass Tech Celebratory Parade down Woodward Avenue for our winning team Monday Dec. 5. The Parade steps off at Grand Circus Park at 1:30 p.m.
After all, there is so much to be proud of about Cass and our DPS students. Did you know Cass is a nationally recognized “School of Excellence? Out of 2,184 students, Cass celebrated 1,084 Technicians at last year’s Honors Ceremony in May. The graduating senior class of 2011 earned more than $18 million in scholarships with 85% of the school’s students receiving scholarships. The class of 2011 had a graduation rate of 97%. The school’s four-year cohort grad rate for 2010 was more than 93 percent.
And Cass is a parent involvement powerhouse. At Cass’ incoming 9th grade orientation, the school welcomed over 2,000 parents and students, including 300 students coming to DPS for the first time from private, charter and/or other school districts.
So please join us at the parade Monday. You don’t have to wear Green and White. Just wear your Detroit Pride because this is a moment to celebrate one of our own — the first-ever Detroit Public School League football team — to claim this title. This is a tremendous win not only for Cass, but for our city. Go Detroit!
By Steven Wasko
This isn’t just another complaint about the mainline media, or maybe it is.
But the continual portrayal of this city in images and verse as one with flames ripping from rooftops, bodies dumped in fields and hopeless conditions for its youth, adults, and any leaders ever courageous to do something about it, by its own resident media outlets, is one of those uniquely Detroit phenomena that deserves some courageous conversation in its own right if we have the chance to break free and make that full recovery so long promised.
Take for example the crisp sunny morning on the day before Thanksgiving, in a lot behind a northeast Detroit public school for students with special needs, where indeed a body had been dumped in an unrelated incident. TV trucks staffed by individuals sent by bosses none of whom had likely ever seen the intersection of Dresden and Linnhurst before were drawn there by voices from a police scanner. They covered the story fairly, largely due to our efforts to get the word out quickly that students and staff were safe and that proper precautions had been made to ensure that education would take place in that school that morning despite the adjoining crime scene investigation.
But the story not told, as far too many others in this neighborhood in the Osborn community that has its share of significant civic, non-profit and foundation-funded programs in the schools and neighborhoods, was one about the two men sitting in a small SUV at that same corner. The vehicle’s magnetic sign, “M.A.D.E. Men,” would have provided a clue that there’s more stories in this little community, as there are across the city, than dead bodies by schools.
The two gentlemen in the vehicle are members of this community patrol force whose primary focus is ensuring safe passage for students at our schools. They are not alone. At the far other corner of the city in the neighborhood surrounding Cody High School, the Brothers on Patrol do the same volunteer work each day. The M.A.N. Network does the same in areas including near Denby High.
Highly active men’s patrol groups have been watching routes and bus stops near schools for the past two years. The district also has a group of volunteers called the Parent and Community Academy, who wear yellow jackets and act as safety volunteers, monitoring youth traveling to and from school, in school hall ways and lunch rooms, and around the school.
DPS expanded citizens patrols and also issued a call for additional volunteers this year.
The MADE Men told me that morning that they are expanding their efforts beyond patrolling to include tutoring and mentoring. Wow.
By the way, the added citizen patrols as part of the larger multi-agency effort paid off this fall with dramatically lower crime stats for our schools: Decreases were reported in the number of larcenies (down 50%), armed robbery (down 81%), unarmed robbery (down 14%), misdemeanor assaults (down 13%), felony assaults (down 66%), narcotics crimes (down 57%), disorderly conduct (down 33%), violation of school ordinance (tresspass/fights) (down 57%) and B&Es (down 13%) although the number of incidents to open school buildings decreased 40 percent.
The corner visited each day by the MADE men: http://tinyurl.com/79hh74j
Schools are seeking volunteers for new eyes-on patrols at several large high schools and at other locations. To volunteer, call (313) 748-6008.