Eastsider (Warren, MI)
October 25, 2012
East Detroit Public School District is preparing to implement phase two of the talent development high school model after a successful launch of the program last year.
The program, an education model developed at Johns Hopkins University, was first launched last year after the district was one of seven awarded a $27.1 million grant from General Motors through the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
Under the model, the high school is divided into three separate academies: SLAM (Safety, Learning, Culinary Arts and Medical), AMMP (Art, Marketing, Media and TV Production) and the ninth-grade success academy.
The ninth-grade success academy was implemented last year. Per the model, the ninth-grade class is split into multiple teams, each with about 100 students and a group of core teachers that are required to meet as a team twice a week to discuss team planning, cross-curricular activities and more.
“It prevents students from falling through the cracks,” said Mary Finnigan, the incoming principal at East Detroit High School. “They don’t go from one class to another class with no conversations between teachers, like in a traditional high school. Basically, each group of teachers meets twice a week. One meeting a week is dedicated to team development, goals and celebration, and the second is for EWI, or early warning indicators.”
Each student is monitored in three areas: attendance, behavior and course performance. “If a student is deficient in any one area, they have a higher likelihood of failing or dropping out. But if we can identify those students early on, we can put interventions into place that will help those students be more successful,” Finnigan said. “It’s been going very, very well so far.”
So well that by the end of the academy’s first year, the freshman students in it were outperforming their sophomore peers on standardized tests. Finnigan attributes the success to the study help and life skills taught in freshman seminar and a double dose of math.
Each student is required to take Transition to High School Mathematics the first semester of their freshman year and a high school-level math course the second semester. “One of the things that the teachers have said is that with this program, they have gotten further into the curriculum than they have ever gotten before,” Finnigan said.
Phase two of the talent development model, beginning this year, will divide sophomores and juniors into two academies. Classes in the SLAM academy are focused on health and human services with an emphasis on law enforcement, medical careers, child development, culinary arts and educations. AMMP classes focus on technology, with programs for radio and television broadcasting, digital photography, marketing and creative arts.
The two academies will be expanded to 12th-grade students next year and could expand to include science, technology, engineering and math fields, as well as theatrical art and music.
“Personalization is huge in these programs,” Finnigan said. “When they went through the process of developing the academies, every student was talked to on a number of occasions, and each student went through Career Cruising. We are able to restructure based on the need. It’s a work in progress geared towards students being college or career ready when they leave East Detroit High School.”
Through the program, the district has been able to work out an articulation agreement with Macomb Community College that allows students to earn college credits while still in high school. They’re hoping to expand the program to include EMT certification in the next year so graduating seniors are able to leave school with the expertise and knowledge needed to start a career.
Still work to do
Finnigan is hoping continued success in phase two of the program will yield positive adequate yearly progress (AYP) results. The school was listed on the consistently low achieving list last year and as a priority school this year. “We did not make AYP, and the reason we did not make AYP is because of our special education subgroup,” Finnigan said.
“This past year our graduation rate was 78%. We were five students short of meeting graduation rate requirements in our special education subgroup. We have shown growth in every other area, and we are right at the cusp of the priority rating this year.”
For the United Way, the strong academic growth is a good indicator it made the right decision awarding East Detroit the GM grant. “East Detroit is doing a phenomenal job as (it) relates to working collaboratively with the transformation partners and talent development,” said Arlene Gibson, the director of high school success for the United Way.
“United Way has a scorecard where we measure success, and East Detroit is almost all green. The goal at the United Way is to assist the schools in raising the bar and increasing the graduation rate to 80%, and East Detroit is well on its way there.”
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