The need to obtain a quality education may be more pivotal than it has ever been in history. The significance is even more dire for certain subgroups, particularly, African Americans, as African Americans currently have the highest poverty rate amongst U.S. citizens. As a result, too many African Americans find it a struggle to provide the basic necessities in life: food, adequate housing, resources. Additionally, those that identify as poverty-stricken, also typically do not have access to the best options regarding education. However, all students deserve the opportunity to receive a quality education, despite their living conditions or socioeconomic status. Past and present research has indicated that education is the primary factor regarding being poverty-stricken or not. Therefore, essentially, for many African-American families, education is their “lifeline” to escape their current circumstances.
In the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), the idea of providing access to an adequate education seems to be fully understood and embraced. Over the course of a two-year time period, the District has made vital strides to increase the overall quality of the education their students are receiving, and the numbers prove it.
Starting in 2018, DPSCD began utilizing what is known as the Annual Stakeholder Survey, which solicits feedback and insight from district families, students, and staff to gauge their perceptions about the way DPSCD operates. Consequently, DPSCD has been able to receive data that informs them of the current satisfaction levels associated with the district, as well as how they can support student outcomes and should prioritize improvement efforts.
Last year’s survey findings unequivocally revealed there was improvement that was needed in the district. It indicated that 50 percent of teachers, support staff and instructional leaders were unlikely to recommend the district; 63 percent of central office staff were considered as detractors from the district; and 40 percent of parents were considered detractors.
When asked about what the results revealed to district leaders, Crystal Wilson, Assistant Superintendent of Communications and Marketing for DPSCD stated, “Last year’s results showcased that climate and culture were areas of improvement for the district.” Wilson added, “The survey tells us what is working and what is not working from the perspective of people that are doing the work, the staff.”
Based on findings from this year’s survey, it seems as though DPSCD district leaders really internalized last year’s survey findings and made a valid effort to improve. This year’s results showcased that 43 percent of teachers, support staff and instructional leaders are unlikely to recommend the district (down from 50 percent); 40 percent of central office staff are considered as detractors (down from 63 percent); and 36 percent of parents are considered to be detractors (down from 40 percent). Also, students in grades 3-8 showed a four percent improvement pertaining to rigor of their academic experience, noting they believed that teachers were more likely to assist them in understanding their classwork.
Wilson attributed much of the district’s progress to the “Blueprint 2020,” which is the three-year strategic plan Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of DPSCD, implemented when he arrived in Detroit in 2017. The plan is comprised of five priorities: Outstanding Achievement; Transformative Culture; Whole-child Commitment; Exceptional Talent; and Responsible Stewardship. Together, each of the five components help to propel DPSCD to the next level of success. Moving forward, Wilson asserts: “The district plans to build upon the momentum of this year’s improvements until all students receive the education they deserve.”