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And Miles to Go Before We Sleep
Linda Mah
/ Categories: Communications

And Miles to Go Before We Sleep

KPS Continues to Improve, to Work on New Goals

President John F. Kennedy used to like to end speeches with the last lines of Robert Frost’s famous poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”: “And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep.”

Each November, near the anniversary of the Kalamazoo Promise, I share about the progress made by KPS and where we are as a district. I share about the goals that the board has set out for the district. And, I often end with a paraphrase of the same Frost quote: “And miles to go before we sleep/And miles to go before we sleep.” In other words: We’ve made considerable progress; we have considerable progress still to make.

KPS has made progress on all its board goals over the last several years and has improved in every major academic indicator.

In reading between 2016 and 2018, KPS students narrowed the gap with the state in all state M-STEP grade levels tested (third through eighth grade) in elementary and middle school. KPS increased the percentage of students at or above grade level in reading on the national NWEA-MAP test from 42 percent in spring 2015 to 49 percent in spring 2018, compared to a national average of 50 percent.

In math between 2016 and 2018, KPS raised its state M-STEP results and narrowed the gap with the state in all grade levels tested in elementary and middle school. KPS increased the percentage of students at or above grade level in math on the national NWEAMAP test from 38 percent to 43 percent, again compared to a national average of 50 percent. Last year marked the first year of the board-approved Eureka Math series in grades K-3, while this year the series was expanded to students in grades 4 and 5.

In writing, we began implementation last year of new board-approved writing materials, Being a Writer, in grades 4 and 5. This year, we have started using Being a Writer in kindergarten through third grades. Since the state switched from MEAP to the M-STEP in 2015, there is no longer a separate state writing test. However, from 2008 through 2013, KPS students improved their writing achievement on low-bar and high-bar state MEAP tests at rates faster than state increases.

KPS has demonstrated substantial progress in Advanced Placement (AP) courses, high school classes that are the equivalent of introductory college classes. From 2007-08 through 2018- 19, the number of KPS students taking AP courses increased by 156 percent. During the same period, the number of African American/multi-ethnic students taking AP courses rose 313 percent; the number of economically disadvantaged students increased 402 percent; and the number of Hispanic students jumped 1,212 percent. During the same period, the number of AP courses taken by KPS students increased 226 percent. From 2007-08 until last year, the number of AP tests earning college credit increased 10 consecutive years, from 143 to 566 tests (a total increase of 296 percent). In each of the last six years, the percentage of AP tests earning college credit increased, with last year’s percentage at 49 percent. After a number of years of this percentage increasing, the board raised the district goal for this metric from 50 percent to 55 percent.

Graduation rates have also risen in KPS. In the summer of 2005, a few months before the announcement of the Kalamazoo Promise, 454 KPS students graduated. Last summer, 692 KPS students graduated, a 52 percent increase. In 2010, when President Obama spoke at the Kalamazoo Central High School graduation as the prize for winning the first Race to the Top Commencement Challenge for work in the creation of a college-going culture, the KPS four-year graduation rate was 63.1 percent. Seven years later, in 2017, the KPS four-year graduation rate was 10 percentage points higher, at 72.9 percent. Our five-year graduation rate was 76.5 percent. The state has yet to release 2018 graduation rates.

Yet we clearly have considerable progress still to make. Our four-year African American male graduation rate rose four consecutive years from 46.7 percent in 2013 to 54.3 percent in 2017, but is still too low. Our five-year African American male graduation rate is 63.0 percent, 2.5 percentage points behind the state’s rate for African American males of 65.5 percent. Both Michigan and KPS can do better.

In terms of service improvement, KPS has increased its prekindergarten slots by 89 percent in the last several years. We almost quintupled the number of full-day kindergarten students from 176 in 2007 to 862 students in 2008. In the last decade, we passed three bonds, built the first three new schools (Prairie Ridge, Linden Grove, and Washington) in the district since “New Central” was opened in 1972, and replaced a 1921 northern part of Milwood Elementary and renovated the southern part. We have done capital work in all district buildings and have added approximately 970,000 square feet of air conditioning since 2007, more than in the district’s entire previous history.

In 2010, we began Lift Up Through Literacy, parent education and family literacy programs at sites throughout the community, in partnership with churches and other community partners. In the last decade, we have trained thousands of district parents. In the same year, in partnership with the Kalamazoo Public Library, we started taking all of our first-grade students to the Kalamazoo Public Library (KPL) three times a year. In collaboration with Western Michigan University, we started taking all of our sixth graders to WMU to give them a taste of life on a college campus.

In the last two years, we have done professional development in several areas, including but not limited to trauma-informed care, restorative justice, elementary writing, elementary math, ALICE security training, sexual harassment, and multi-tiered systems of support. In collaboration with the Michigan Department of Education, MASA, MASB, Middle Cities, MASSP, KRESA, and the Reading Now Network, we spearheaded a conference on diversity in children’s literature at Western Michigan University entitled “Mirrors of Me: Children Seeing Themselves in Their Literature.” We have expanded our mentoring program, in which staff and community mentors provided 1,168 students with 9,572 weekly mentoring sessions last year.

This year, in addition to the establishment of the KPS-KPL OneCard to permit all KPS students access to KPL libraries, we are purchasing collections of diverse classroom libraries for second and third grade classrooms throughout the district. We also began a more balanced calendar at Washington Writers’ Academy and Woodward School for Technology and Research, which had students and staff begin school on July 23.

In terms of the improvement of career awareness, exploration, and development, we partner with KRESA and other local school districts in the county on MiCareerQuest Southwest, an event that exposes eighth graders to a range of career possibilities through hands-on activities organized by dozens of local employers. In collaboration with Kalamazoo Valley Community College, we have added 35 Early Middle College programs ranging from computer science to culinary arts, from accounting to auto brakes, from criminal justice to welding, from machine tool technology to network manager. Early Middle College allows high school students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously and to graduate with a high school diploma and a college certificate or degree.

We know that we haven’t arrived. We know that we have more growth to undertake, more progress to make. We’ve grown by 2,500 students since the beginning of the Kalamazoo Promise, but we know that we can grow additionally, just as we know that we can continue to improve as well. But it would be wrong not to pause periodically to praise the progress and the accomplishments of our students and to thank our teachers, our support staff, our administrators, our parents and grandparents, and our many community partners.

And miles to go before we sleep.

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