Modeling the Way for Pandemic Recovery, Michigan Schools Honored for Growth

As educators and parents across the nation and world work tirelessly to ensure all students are recovering educationally from the pandemic, some Michigan public schools are demonstrating all students — of every imaginable background — can strive and learn at high levels despite great challenges at home and at school.


Four Michigan schools serving predominantly students of color and students from low-income backgrounds will receive the inaugural Building the Hope Schools awards from the Education Trust-Midwest for consistently demonstrating exceptional academic progress and growth for traditionally underserved students. The schools are in the top 25 percent for academic proficiency or above average student growth for all Michigan students, according to analyses by researchers from the non-partisan Education Trust-Midwest.


“At a time of global efforts to ensure all children catch up from their pandemic educational losses — especially vulnerable students — these Michigan public schools are modeling the way for all schools on how to strive to ensure all children are supported to learn at high levels,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, a data-driven education policy, research and advocacy organization that works to close gaps in opportunity and achievement for all children, particularly those from low-income families or who are students of color.


“These schools show that it’s possible not only that learning for students of color and low-income students can soar, but also that public schools can be culturally- and linguistically-affirming places for children from all backgrounds,” said Arellano.


The four 2021 Building the Hope Schools are: Bennett Elementary, a Detroit Public Schools Community District school; Discovery Elementary, a Kentwood Public School located outside Grand Rapids; Hamtramck Academy in Hamtramck; and Thomas Jefferson Elementary in the South Redford School District.


Their subgroups of students — Black, Latino, low-income and English Learner students in particular — also are performing in the top 30% among Michigan’s high-growth public schools where data is available.  In addition, they have culturally and linguistically responsive school-wide practices — including instructional practices — that facilitate students’ outstanding academic progress and growth, making them true outliers in the state of Michigan. All of the schools are Michigan public schools.

Researchers from The Education Trust-Midwest conducted a comprehensive quantitative analysis of each school’s performance. The Ed Trust-Midwest analyses examined data for the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years.  Analysts and team members also conducted qualitative analyses, through visits and interviews, of the schools’ learning environments before selecting the award winners.

School leaders will speak on their innovative work on Nov. 10th during the Ed Trust-Midwest’s inaugural Education Summit 2021: Building a Movement, Building Hope. Each of the Building the Hope Schools will receive a $2,000 honorarium, in addition to the award.


This summit — which is virtual this year — will bring together leaders from business, civic and philanthropic sectors, along with educators and advocates. The goal is to inspire, build knowledge, and showcase best practices from across the country around what works to improve outcomes for underserved students. The summit is open to the public, and registration can be found at:


“Together, we will learn, strategize and build the hope on what’s possible for Michigan’s schools and districts to make real progress to improve student achievement and access to opportunity for all students,” Arellano said.


Bennett Elementary School was selected as a BTH school because their English Learners showed exceptional academic growth as demonstrated by exceeding the statewide above-average growth rates in both ELA and Math for 3 straight years. Bennett Elementary teachers employ targeted and differentiated instructional strategies to ensure their English Learners have the quality instruction, supports, and tools to grow in proficiency year after year. Additionally, the school engages families through a variety of linguistically-responsive communications, including an app that provides translation for monolingual parents and caregivers. An EL Interventionist is also on staff to further assist students towards growth in English fluency and content mastery.

Discovery Elementary School was selected as a BTH school because most subgroups of students, including Black, Latino, and students from low-income backgrounds, showed exceptional academic progress as demonstrated by exceeding the statewide proficiency rate in both ELA and Math for 3 consecutive years. Discovery Elementary has demonstrated consistent commitment to their diverse school community by addressing language barriers, hosting cultural celebration days, and advocating for a culturally-responsive curriculum. In support of their belief that all children are capable of high achievement, students learn in groups tailored to their levels and teachers utilize small learning groups to support students who are struggling. Moreover, the school schedule is optimized and designed to allow for deep student learning.  Parents also report that their children are known and engaged in their unique strengths and needs.



Hamtramck Academy was selected as a BTH school because multiple student groups including Asian students and students from low-income backgrounds showed exceptional academic progress as demonstrated by exceeding the statewide proficiency rate in both ELA and Math for 3 consecutive years. Hamtramck Academy effectively uses data on an ongoing basis to track student progress and inform individualized instruction. Teachers pay special attention to the differences between state assessment performance and day-to-day performance and utilize daily “exit tickets” to determine needs for further intervention and focused, small group instruction. Students at Hamtramck benefit from a robust team of specialists, interventionists and paraprofessionals, and intervention groups are varied to reduce stigma and promote an inclusive class environment. Hamtramck Academy faculty and staff demonstrate a commitment to engaging families and honoring the many cultures represented in their school community by providing Arabic and Bengali translators, engaging in diverse reading materials, and using culturally-responsive communication.

Thomas Jefferson Elementary School was selected as a BTH school because multiple student subgroups, including Black students and students from low-income backgrounds, showed exceptional academic growth as demonstrated by exceeding the statewide above average growth rate in both ELA and Math for 3 consecutive years. School leaders at Thomas Jefferson value students’ growth and efficacy, and demonstrate this by helping each student understand their current academic situation and encouraging goal setting. Teachers and leaders have a strong belief in students’ potential and have changed practices and policies over the last few years to eliminate barriers for students and create conditions for academic success. Some of these changed practices and policies include increasing attention and teachers’ skill towards accelerating students’ learning, decreasing suspension and discipline rates, and pulling all students for targeted instruction to limit the stigma of remediation.

The Education Trust-Midwest is thankful for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, PNC Bank and the DTE Energy Foundation for their commitment to all Michigan students and their support for the summit and the 2021 Building the Hope Awards.


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