“Race to the FAFSA Line” Challenge Returns to Boost Federal Aid Going to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County Students

Detroit, Mich. (Oct. 1, 2018) – Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual “Race to the FAFSA Line” challenge opened for school participation in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. The Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees initiative promotes the challenge to encourage high school seniors to apply for college aid and increase the regional completion rate.

The Chamber began the challenge in 2016, but despite the hard work of school counselors and local college access networks, Southeast Michigan students left potentially $167 million of federal aid on the table by not filling out the FAFSA. According to the National College Access Network, high school graduates who complete FAFSA are 63 percent more likely to enroll in college.

Any school in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties is eligible to participate in the Challenge led by the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degree’s initiative. The challenge is a collaborative effort involving the following partners: Detroit College Access Network (DCAN), Emagine Entertainment, Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU), Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), Oakland Schools, Wayne RESA, and several local college access networks. The challenge is supported by DTE Energy, Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office, Independent Bank and University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The goal is to increase FAFSA completion among high school seniors in the tri-county region to 65 percent and encourage them to take the next step to postsecondary education. One grand prize winner will be awarded an all-day senior class party and the four additional winners will receive VIP movie screenings, courtesy of Emagine Entertainment.

New this year, schools that sign up will also be registered for the College Cash Campaign through MCAN, the statewide FAFSA challenge that provides additional prizes to schools with improved completion rates across the state.

Schools can sign up and learn more about Race to the FAFSA Line at: http://www.detroitchamber.com/race-to-the-fafsa-line/register/.

About Detroit Drives Degrees

Detroit Drives Degrees works to improve education attainment to increase economic prosperity and social mobility in the Detroit region. An initiative of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Forward Detroit economic development strategy, it is dedicated to increasing access to college for the region’s students and adults currently without degrees, improving college graduation success, and retaining talent. The Leadership Council, formed through the initiative, mobilizes regional leaders in business, education, government and the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to increase the postsecondary degree attainment rate in the region to 60 percent by 2030. To learn more, visit detroitdrivesdegrees.com.

 About the Detroit College Access Network

The Detroit College Access Network (DCAN) is the coordinating body of cross-sector leaders and organizations in Detroit working together to ensure all Detroit students have the opportunity to attend college. It is a network of organizations – bigger than any one program or initiative – leveraging a collective impact model to align and connect existing programs, schools, businesses and community resources to improve college enrollment and graduation rates for all Detroit students. DCAN’s mission is to increase postsecondary readiness, enrollment and attainment so that all students in Detroit can achieve their educational dreams. To learn more, visit detroitcan.org.

About Emagine Entertainment

Emagine Entertainment’s affiliates currently own and operate luxury theatres in Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota.  Emagine operates theatres with a combined 24,500 seats and 208 screens. Later this summer, Emagine will open an 8-screen theatre in the Town of Lyons, Wisconsin.  Emagine has led the way in bringing luxury theatres to the metropolitan Detroit market.  Emagine enjoys the honor and distinction of being named “Best Movie Theatre” for several years running by the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, and WDIV-TV 4 television.

About Michigan Association of State Universities

The Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU) serves as the coordinating board for Michigan’s 15 public universities, providing advocacy and fostering policy to maximize the collective value these institutions provide in serving the public interest and the state of Michigan. MASU recently launched a new website and marketing campaign to support FAFSA completion and college-going across the state, GetMIDegree.org.

About the Michigan College Access Network

As the leader in the state’s college access movement, the Michigan College Access Network’s mission is to increase Michigan’s college readiness, participation and completion rates, particularly among low-income, first-generation college-going students, and students of color. For the seventh year in a row, Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate has increased – from 35.7 percent of 25- to 64-year-olds possessing at least an associate degree in 2008, to 39.4 percent in 2016. Additionally, it is estimated another 4 percent of Michiganders have a high-quality certificate, bringing Michigan’s official attainment rate to 43.7 percent. It is MCAN’s goal to increase Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate to 60 percent by the year 2025. For more information, visit micollegeaccess.org.

Detroit’s Adult College Students: ‘It’s Never Too Late to Go’

For the region’s 690,000 adults with some college education, no degree or credential, returning to school can seem daunting, especially for individuals saddled with debt. Recognizing the need to grow Southeast Michigan’s talent pipeline, Detroit Drives Degrees is working with regional leaders to increase access among adults to pursue postsecondary educational opportunities for high-quality credentials, two-year and four-year degrees.

Detroit Drives Degrees hosted its Leadership Council meeting in June, bringing together leading representatives in higher education, business, government, philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. This meeting focused on adult talent and how adults can find their way back to and complete postsecondary education.

Working on a Dream

For Bob Ellis, a real estate agent and Macomb Community College (Macomb) student, returning to school was a big life decision. Raised in a working-class family, Ellis said college was never encouraged. But after a series of setbacks in his 40s, he realized he wanted to improve his life and follow his dream of getting a degree. Ellis returned to school to enhance his skills and follow his passion to help people.

Ellis struggled early on in college, as he lacked the necessary reading comprehension and study skills required at the college level. It wasn’t until he was placed into a student cohort that he was able to excel, learn study habits, and feel part of a community. Ellis transferred to Wayne State University (WSU), but faced higher tuition bills and a sense of uncertainty about his chosen degree path. He’s put his college attainment on hold while he saves money and further explores career opportunities after he obtains his degree.

Tiffany Treadwell returned to college after a career in retail with companies like Apple and Shinola. Treadwell said through her sales experience, she developed an interest in advocacy and human resources. Committed to return to school to obtain a bachelor’s degree but with few financial resources, Treadwell applied for a job with the university to take advantage of WSU’s tuition-free policy for employees. The transition back to school was challenging and although she used WSU’s tutoring programs, she didn’t meet the academic requirement for her first semester. Determined to continue, she used her advocacy skills and appealed her case to the Provost’s Office. She’s now back on-track, working and in school, as well as helping the university improve their systems for re-engaging adult students.

Both Ellis and Treadwell shared their story as part of a panel discussion moderated by David Scobey, director of the national initiative, Bringing Theory to Practice. Bringing Theory to Practice encourages and supports colleges and universities in developing sustainable campus cultures that support engaged learning and discovery, civic purpose, well-being, and preparation for a meaningful life.

A second panel moderated by Melanie D’Evelyn, director of Detroit Drives Degrees, featured Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management at WSU, Scott Anderson, vice president of human resources at Comcast, and Scobey. Focusing on the roles that institutional leaders play in an adult’s education, panelists discussed the importance of changing the learning practices that are in place, and rules that could potentially leave behind adult students due to grades or unpaid debt.

Finding Your Way Back to School

Businesses are encouraging adult education through tuition reimbursement. Comcast offers tuition reimbursement to employees and research by the Lumina Foundation showcases the return on investment for employers. WSU now offers one of the most innovative strategies in the country to re-engage adult learners. As announced at the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference, WSU created the Warrior Way Back program for returning students. Warrior Way Back relieves past student tuition balances of former students who did not graduate.

Detroit Drives Degrees is also working to improve opportunities for adults to further their education, by focusing on creating a community of leaders that can be used to learn from each other to continue to create opportunities for adults to continue to pursue their degree. Detroit Drives Degrees is also developing a formal compact among higher education partners and others to better track and measure components of the talent pipeline, like reducing the percent of the adult population with some college, no degree.

To learn more about the Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council visit: www.detroitchamber.com/detroit-drives-degrees/leadership

Southeast Michigan’s New Online Platform to Give Businesses the Tools to Attract Talent

Research shows that 36 percent of college students left Michigan within a year in 2017. For a region positioning itself to lead the world in technological innovation, the talent problem can no longer be ignored.

To stop the flow of individuals leaving and attract new talent, the Detroit Regional Chamber will launch a new strategy this fall. The strategy is a collaborative project of the Detroit Regional Chamber and Detroit Drives Degrees, an economic development initiative of Forward Detroit focused on increasing the number of adults in the region with a postsecondary degree or credential.

Gathering Best Practices for Talent Retention

This past year, Detroit Drives Degrees connected with more than 1,000 people within the region to conduct local surveys and interviews. Research revealed that half of employers recruit out of state but lack the tools to promote Michigan and Detroit. Additionally, Michigan rarely is on the radar of young talent. While young people’s perceptions of Detroit are changing, they rely heavily on feedback from peers.

Greg Handel, the Chamber’s vice president of education and talent, shared that the strategy will help fill a void by establishing a centralized location for people looking for more information on the city and region. Through the strategy’s various components, it will better promote all that Detroit and the region has to offer – from a booming restaurant scene, to fun outdoor events. The strategy is focused on driving economic development by retaining and attracting talent across Southeast Michigan and aligns with Detroit Drives Degrees’ goal to increase the regional postsecondary attainment rate to 60 percent by 2030.

The recruitment strategy has three main objectives:

  • Improve the narrative and global perception of Detroit and Southeast Michigan
  • Promote “brain gain” by increasing graduates in Southeast Michigan by 1 percent annually
  • Cultivate an innovative, engaged and culture-focused business community

“Talent is the fuel for the region and contributes the most to economic growth and prosperity,” Handel said.

Showcasing Detroit’s Reinvention

A panel featuring three ambassadors for the strategy including Darvell Powell, president of Black Young Professionals of Metro Detroit; Tim Robinson, director of operations at Lenawee Now; and Dana Williams, manager of public affairs at DTE, agreed that giving prospective talent the ability to learn about the region and connect in an authentic way will pay dividends for businesses.

“When people aren’t connected, they aren’t going to stay around; they need to feel included and engaged in the city,” said Powell.

To learn more, contact Sarah Craft at scraft@detroitchamber.com.

Daniel Little Receives Inaugural Award for Excellence in Education and Leadership

The Chamber, through its Detroit Drives Degrees initiative, presented Daniel Little, outgoing chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn (UMD), its inaugural Excellence in Education and Leadership award during the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference. The award recognizes impactful leaders that play a role in growing the region’s higher education graduates.

The award was presented by Richard Rassel, chairman at Butzel Long and Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council co-chair. Rassel expressed his appreciation for Little’s legacy of higher education stating, “he brings a unique value to the students.”

Little, who has served as university chancellor since 2000, stepped down in June. Little also serves as a professor of philosophy at UMD and a professor of sociology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. As Leadership Council co-chair, Little raises awareness on the importance of developing the region’s workforce to grow the economy and positively impact the lives of Detroiters.

Rassel said Little is a selfless leader stating, “while he has always been passionate about raising the profile of his own institution, University of Michigan-Dearborn, he also has remained loyal to a vision of universities and community colleges collaborating together on behalf of the region. This is the spirit that undergirds Detroit Drives Degrees. Without any ego but with tremendous skill and a leadership style marked by inclusivity, Chancellor Little has left an enduring legacy.”

Prior to presenting Little with the award, Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent for the Detroit Regional Chamber, announced the award will be given every year and dubbed it the Dan Little Award in Excellence in Education and Leadership, adding that Little “set the bar very, very high for future awardees.”

On accepting the award, Little emphasized the important work of Detroit Drives Degrees and the value of higher education.

“It is an honor to have served as co-chair of the Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council. The work of the Chamber and its partners is critical for our state, region and the Detroit Drives Degrees students who now have a brighter future,” he said.

Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County Students Participating in FAFSA Challenge to Receive Nearly $54 Million in Student Aid

Detroit, Mich. (April 3, 2018) – More than 6,500 students in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties that participated in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual “Race to the FAFSA Line” challenge will receive an estimated $53.5 million in funding from completing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For the second year, the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees initiative held the challenge to encourage high school seniors to apply for college aid and increase the regional completion rate.

The Chamber launched the challenge last year, but despite the hard work of school counselors and local college access networks, Southeast Michigan students left potentially $167 million in federal aid on the table by not filling out the FAFSA. According to the National College Access Network, high school graduates who complete the FAFSA are 63 percent more likely to enroll in college.

The goal of the challenge is to increase FAFSA completion among high school seniors in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties to 65 percent and encourage them to take the next step to postsecondary education. The current completion rate for the three counties is 50 percent, and will increase through the open application period, which closes on June 30.

Sixty-five schools throughout Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties registered for the competition. The 2018 winners include:

  • Grand Prize Winner for Overall Most Improved FAFSA Completion: Frontier International Academy (Detroit) 45 percentage point improvement.
  • Most Improved FAFSA Completion for Medium Schools: Cesar Chavez Academy High School (Detroit) 31 percentage point improvement.
  • Most Improved FAFSA Completion for Large Schools: Fordson High School (Dearborn), 11 percentage point improvement.
  • Most Innovative FAFSA Completion Strategy: Voyageur College Preparatory High School (Detroit) 65 percent completion rate.
  • Highest Overall FAFSA Completion Rate: Trillium Academy (Taylor) 84 percent completion rate.

As grand prize winner, Frontier International Academy will be awarded an all-day senior class party and the four other winners will receive VIP movie screenings, courtesy of Emagine Entertainment.

The challenge was a collaborative effort involving the following partners: Detroit College Access Network (DCAN), Emagine Entertainment, Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), Oakland Schools, Wayne RESA, and several local college access networks. The challenge was supported by: Chemical Bank, the Detroit Pistons, DTE Energy, Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office, Independent Bank, Kerkstra Precast and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

 About Detroit Drives Degrees

Detroit Drives Degrees works to improve education attainment to increase economic prosperity and social mobility in the Detroit region. An initiative of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Forward Detroit economic development strategy, it is dedicated to increasing access to college, improving college graduation success and retaining graduates. The Leadership Council, formed through the initiative, mobilizes regional leaders in business, education, government and the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to increase the postsecondary degree attainment rate in the region to 60 percent by 2025. To learn more, visit detroitdrivesdegrees.com.

About Detroit Regional Chamber

Serving the business community for more than 100 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the oldest, largest and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. The Chamber’s mission of powering the economy for Southeast Michigan is carried out through economic development, education reform, regional collaboration and providing valuable benefits to members. For more information, please visit detroitchamber.com.

About the Detroit College Access Network

The Detroit College Access Network (DCAN) is the coordinating body of cross-sector leaders and organizations in Detroit working together to ensure all Detroit students have the opportunity to attend college. It is a network of organizations – bigger than any one program or initiative – leveraging a collective impact model to align and connect existing programs, schools, businesses and community resources to improve college enrollment and graduation rates for all Detroit students. DCAN’s mission is to increase postsecondary readiness, enrollment and attainment so that all students in Detroit can achieve their educational dreams. To learn more, visit detroitcan.org.

About Emagine Entertainment

Emagine Entertainment’s affiliates currently own and operate luxury theatres in Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota.  Emagine operates theatres with a combined 24,500 seats and 208 screens. Later this summer, Emagine will open an 8-screen theatre in the Town of Lyons, Wisconsin.  Emagine has led the way in bringing luxury theatres to the metropolitan Detroit market.  Emagine enjoys the honor and distinction of being named “Best Movie Theatre” for several years running by the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, and WDIV-TV 4 television.

About the Michigan College Access Network

As the leader in the state’s college access movement, the Michigan College Access Network’s mission is to increase Michigan’s college readiness, participation and completion rates, particularly among low-income, first-generation college-going students, and students of color. For the seventh year in a row, Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate has increased – from 35.7 percent of 25- to 64-year-olds possessing at least an associate degree in 2008, to 39.4 percent in 2016. Additionally, it is estimated another 4 percent of Michiganders have a high-quality certificate, bringing Michigan’s official attainment rate to 43.7 percent. It is MCAN’s goal to increase Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate to 60 percent by the year 2025. For more information, visit micollegeaccess.org.

Business Leaders: Education Reform and Job Creation Will Help Michigan ‘Live Long and Prosper’

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah and Education Attainment Manager Melanie D’Evelyn spoke at the Michigan Solutions Summit on Thursday, March 22 to share insight on the Chamber’s ongoing efforts towards education reform, job creation, and talent retention in metro Detroit. The event was hosted by Business Leaders for Michigan and Bridge magazine.

The More You Learn the More You Earn
D’Evelyn outlined Detroit Drives Degrees’ plan to increase the percentage of postsecondary degrees in the metro Detroit region to 60 percent by 2030. Currently, about 40 percent of Detroiters hold a postsecondary degree.

“Detroit Drives Degrees’ goal is to create an education compact and collaborate with different sectors (nonprofits, higher education, philanthropy) toward reaching a common goal,” D’Evelyn said.. “We want the public to hold us accountable.”

The compact’s work has already begun. Wayne State University (WSU) Provost Keith Whitfield announced at the summit that the university is creating a program that allows adults who left college to re-enroll without paying back the full amount of educational debt they accumulated. The idea is that the university will absorb some of that debt to encourage adults to focus on completing their degrees.

Whitfield also announced that WSU is investing in academic advisors to help current students succeed and building partnerships to offer more paid internships to students. Both Whitfield and D’Evelyn are hoping that other universities will see the benefits of these innovations and create similar programs.

Regional Collaboration Will Drive Job Creation
After D’Evelyn’s discussion on educational reform, Baruah, along with Dave Egner, President and CEO of the Ralph Wilson Foundation, and Kim Trent, Wayne State University Board of Directors sat on a panel to discuss how job creation and talent retention fit into the regional improvement puzzle.

Baruah addressed several roadblocks that currently hinder business growth and investment in the region that would, in turn, produce prosperous jobs to retain educated Michiganders. One such roadblock is a lack of connected, reliable regional transit.

“What is preventing regional transit? Essentially, two things: one, change is an issue of culture. People in Michigan love cars and grew up in the auto culture, and they don’t want that to change,” Baruah said. “And the second big issue is a lingering sense of distrust between Detroiters and suburbanites. People don’t want to pay higher taxes for a system they don’t think they’ll use.”

Aside from transit, the lack of qualified talent was another issue Baruah cited as preventing Detroit from attracting new business. He emphasized the region’s need to invest in talent, encourage people to go into the skilled trades, and repurpose money used to incarcerate non-violent criminals to reintroduce these individuals into Michigan’s workforce.

Both D’Evelyn and Baruah emphasized that collaboration between the public and private sectors is what will drive education reform, job creation and talent retention for the state and region. By working together, Detroiters can create a region where everyone can prosper.

Press Release: MCAN College Access Impact Awards Recognize Three Metro Detroit Organizations and Individuals

Detroit Regional Chamber, Hazel Park adviser and Chandler Park adviser awarded for contributions to increasing postsecondary attainment

LANSING, MICH. – The Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) held its eighth annual conference in Lansing and recognized numerous outstanding college advocates from across the state on Monday at the annual College Access Impact Awards dinner, including Britteny Mitchell, a Michigan College Advising Corps adviser at Chandler Park High School, Moussa Traore, a Michigan State University College Advising Corps adviser at Hazel Park High School, and the Detroit Regional Chamber. Seven award categories recognized the hard work and dedication of 12 individuals and organizations that have gone above and beyond to improve postsecondary educational attainment in Michigan.

Mitchell and Traore are both recipients of the Ombudsman award, for their service at Chandler Park Academy and Hazel Park High School, respectively. The Ombudsman Award recognizes individuals whose passion for college access helps them persevere over challenges while engaged in their year of service as an AmeriCorps member through one of the college advising programs within the state.

The Detroit Regional Chamber earned MCAN’s Beacon Award because of their strong leadership in the college access and degree completion space, their innovative FAFSA Challenge, their long-­‐term and ongoing support for the Detroit College Access Network and Detroit Drives Degrees, as well as their support of the Detroit Promise. The Beacon Award recognizes those that work to unite programs, activities and/or operations in support of postsecondary attainment through partnerships.

“Our annual conference celebrates the individuals and organizations who work tirelessly to improve postsecondary attainment in Michigan,” said Brandy Johnson, executive director of MCAN. “Congratulations to Britteny, Moussa, the Detroit Regional Chamber and all of our outstanding award winners. Their commitment to creating a college-­‐going culture in Michigan is making a difference in the lives of countless high school students.”

In addition to the award ceremony, the Michigan College Access Network hosted hundreds of college access professionals and education leaders during the two-­‐day conference. The conference theme, “Cultivating Tomorrow’s Talent,” emphasized the important role  talent development plays in improving   the future  of  Michigan.  MCAN  supports  initiatives  to  help  students  as  they  pursue  postsecondary education  in Michigan.

The Annual Conference included numerous breakout sessions and three keynote speakers: Michele Siqueiros, president, of The Campaign for College Opportunity, Laura Owen, director of the Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success at American University, and John Fox, head of Mopar sales and operations at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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About Michigan College Access Network

As the leader in the state’s college access movement, MCAN’s mission is to increase Michigan’s college readiness, participation and completion rates, particularly among low-­‐income students, first-­‐generation college going students, and students of color. For the seventh year in a row, Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate has increased — from 35.7 percent of 25-­‐to-­‐64-­‐year-­‐olds possessing at least an associate degree in 2008, to 39.4 percent in 2016. Additionally, it is estimated another 4 percent of Michiganders have a high-­‐quality certificate, bringing Michigan’s official attainment rate to 43.7 percent. It is MCAN’s goal to increase Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate to 60 percent by  the year 2025. For more information, visit micollegeaccess.org.

So, You Think You’re Ready for College?

By: Afrkah Cooper

I had been preparing for college my whole life, but I still felt unprepared when I got there. The two most important members of my family, my mother and my grandmother, both have their associate degrees but, unfortunately, sharing their college experience with me didn’t prepare me for mine.

I remember being in the second grade and my grandmother made me promise her that I would go through school and earn a master’s degree. I had no clue what a master’s degree was, but I promised her. I loved school and, more than anything, I wanted to make my family proud. At the time, however, I didn’t know that I was agreeing to the struggles of all-nighters, parking tickets and student loan debt. Although we talked about going to college, we never talked about what came with college.

Although I had limited resources, my parents and counselors insisted I go to college and they supported me in numerous ways. Application fee waivers were a major resource my counselors shared with me and, through their effort, I did not have to pay any fees for my college applications – a huge burden lifted off my shoulders, as it sometimes costs as much as $40 just to apply.

I had a lot of college options to choose from. However, most were options I couldn’t afford and “applying for more scholarships,” as my counselors told me, was harder than it seemed. With acceptance letters but little financial support, I turned to community college.

Although lame to my peers who were going away to school, community college was in my comfort zone. This was a place that most of the members in my village had attended so they could offer me the support I needed during my transition. Plus, I could afford it. My family knew they wanted me to go farther than an associate degree, but since they never navigated a four-year university system, they couldn’t prepare me for it.

When I transferred from Macomb Community College to Wayne State University, I experienced difficulties that I had to figure out on my own. These struggles may have set me back a little but learning to navigate the challenges just made me stronger.

I am not a first-generation college student by the typical definition. But I will be the first in my family to receive a degree from a four-year university. And, one day, I’ll be the first to receive my master’s degree.

Readers: My guess is that you’ve reached your success and know what it takes to be a four-year degree student. I encourage you to reflect on the people in your village who helped you achieve your goals and consider reaching back and mentoring a student. With your experience, you can help them understand the details of college. You can teach them that college is about managing and adjusting. Maybe you’ll be able to help them achieve their own graduation dreams, with as few bumps in the road as possible.

Afrkah Cooper is a Detroit Drives Degrees intern.

Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Says District Is ‘Primed to Get this Right,’ Just Need Time

All students will have the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to thrive in the city, nation, and world. That is the vision Nikolai Vitti, superintendent for Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) shared with the Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council, comprised of high-level regional stakeholders representing education, business, philanthropy and government.

Vitti, a native of Dearborn Heights, returned to Southeast Michigan this spring from Jacksonville, Fla. as one of the preeminent superintendents in the country, to help solve many issues facing DPSCD.

“What I inherited… is a system that didn’t have systems and processes in place to support teaching and learning and scaling the pockets of excellence that existed in Detroit Public Schools,” explained Vitti. “That’s everything from curriculum, to hiring principals, to training principals, to intervention materials for students who are behind in reading and math, to wraparound services that need to be integrated and aligned.”

Moving forward, Vitti explained that change at scale is happening, and it is being driven by the schools. In the past, the district was not able to move strategically in any one direction. Instead the district lied dormant because it was being managed like a business in bankruptcy. Today, the district is progressing and is focused on creating college and work-ready paths for students.

Three top priorities Vitti shared with the Council to ensure students graduate and have options after high school are:

  1. Make sure every high school has access to rigorous curriculum and accelerated programs.
  2. Make sure every high school has a career academy with different programs like manufacturing, nursing or engineering.
  3. Create a college-ready culture through the implementation of the Common Core curriculum and provision of SATpreparatory classes for 10th, 11th and 12th grades.

These are just three priorities that fall into his “Blueprint 2020” plan that Vitti developed to “educate and empower every student, in every community, every day” to build a stronger Detroit. Read more about the strategic plan for rebuilding Detroit’s public schools here.

“We are primed now on behalf of the students to get this right. Emergency management did not work. We now have an elected and powerful board, that hired a superintendent with a track record of reform, and I’m from metro Detroit; I want to be here,” Vitti urged. “Give us time without the interference and politics to get this right. We will get it right. We have a good board that’s very focused on policy, a superintendent that has implemented reform, and a union that’s buying into the reform. All the components are there from strong nonprofits like The Skillman Foundation that is stepping up and wanting to work with the district, to businesses that are getting involved, and a mayor that’s invested. All the pieces of the puzzle are in place, we just need time to put it together.”

Vitti’s presentation and goals for the district align with the Chamber’s goal of improving education attainment to drive economic prosperity and social mobility.

Detroit Drives Degrees, an initiative of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Forward Detroit strategy, is focused on increasing post-secondary degree to 60 percent across the region by 2025. For more information on Detroit Drives Degrees, please visit detroitdrivesdegrees.com.

 

Chamber’s Work to Grow Region’s Educated Workforce Backed by Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren

Last week, the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren endorsed the Detroit Regional Chamber’s plan to establish a regional Education Compact, a key step in ensuring that the region is educated, healthy and employed to compete in the 21st century global economy. The Compact will be led by the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees initiative, with the support of a grant from The Kresge Foundation.

The endorsement was part of the Coalition’s action items under six priorities it released in a new report titled “Our Schools, Our Moment.” The report highlights areas that can be acted upon immediately by leaders across the public and private sectors to ensure success for all students.

Under the Chamber’s direction, the Detroit Drives Degrees Education Compact  will establish long-term goals and set key benchmarks in bolstering postsecondary readiness, access and success for Detroit students. This initiative represents a collective commitment by leaders in education, business, philanthropy, government and the nonprofit community to address an ongoing barrier to regional economic development – a lack of residents with higher education credentials or college degrees compared to peer regions across the country.

Currently in the beginning phases, Detroit Drives Degrees has begun to identify baseline data, create the Compact framework, and conduct economic analysis to determine education attainment needs through 2030. Steps to finalize the Compact agreement will take place over the next 18 months, with a signing ceremony slated for 2019.

“The goal of the Detroit Drives Degrees Education Compact will be to facilitate partnerships between K-12 stakeholders and postsecondary education institutions with a shared goal,” explained Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent for the Chamber. “It is needed to drive collective action in helping more students achieve their postsecondary goals. The Coalition voicing its support is an important step forward in this endeavor to increase student success.”

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, comprised of a diverse cross-section of business, civic, education, philanthropic, religious and community leaders, make the case that these six priorities ensure Detroit’s youth are educated to career- and college-ready standards. The Chamber’s Forward Detroit Strategy has aligned with the goals of the report and the Chamber is a key partner and business voice for the Coalition. Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah serves as a steering committee member of the Coalition and has been involved from its inception.
The Coalition’s priorities outlined in the report include:

  1. Get Serious About Attendance – Students have to show up to learn.
  2. Choose Detroit – Getting students and educators to our schools.
  3. Learn to Read, Then Read to Learn – Reading by third grade is essential.
  4. Keep Pace with Detroit’s Economic Recovery – Give students multiple college and career pathways after high school.
  5. Fully Fund Special Education – State and federal action required.
  6. Expect Improved Cooperation and Accountability from Our Leaders – Shared responsibility means all schools working together.

Read and download the full report here.

Michigan’s economic growth is sustained by an educated workforce, which is why it is critical the business community be engaged and have a voice in the Coalition. Among the five co-chairs of the Coalition representing the business community are Chamber Executive Committee member John Rakolta Jr., president and CEO of Walbridge; and Mark Reuss, executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain for General Motors Co. Additional co-chairs include: Tonya Allen, president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation; Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit branch for the NAACP; and Angela Reyes, executive director of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corp.

This report is the second released by the Coalition since its formation three years ago. The first report, “Choice Is Ours,” is targeted toward Lansing lawmakers regarding reforming Detroit Public Schools Community District.

For more information about Detroit Drives Degrees, an initiative of Forward Detroit, visit detroitdrivesdegrees.com.