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City leaders, community partners react to Grand Rapids superintendent's 'bold' transformation plan

City leaders, community partners react to Grand Rapids superintendent's 'bold' transformation plan | Social Media for Noobs |

Seventeen of Grand Rapids Public Schools 43 buildings are at or below 60 percent capacity.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - City Manager Greg Sundstrom said he respects and appreciates the bold leadership of Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal in putting forth a transformation plan focused on kids being college and career ready.


On Monday, Oct. 29, Neal introduced a proposal to the school board that would close 10 school buildings, consolidates schools and programs, and closes and reopens more innovative, appealing programs on the same sites. The building plan is meant to support her new academic plan, funneling money saved into improving teaching and learning.


RELATED: Grand Rapids superintendent unveils plans to close Creston, other schools as part of consolidation, reinvention plan


"I agree with Superintendent Neal that Grand Rapids Public Schools has a significant impact on the entire community. After all, they are training the workforce of tomorrow," Sundstrom said. "It is important for this community to have a well-trained workforce."


"A transformation plan means rethinking everything you do, not incremental change but bold change that can have significant impact."


Diana Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, said she thinks Neal is on the right track with her focus on putting dollars into improving achievement.


"The focus really needs to be on raising the graduation rate, reducing the dropout rate and preparing kids to be college and career ready," said Sieger. "When you are faced with financial challenges, you have to make some difficult choices."


The foundation is a key district partner, funneling a half-million dollars to Grand Rapids schools already to keep Northwest Side students on track to colleges or training for certification. Plans are to invest as much as $4.5 million this decade. Students at Harrison Park and teachers are receiving academic support through the Challenge Scholars Program, which expands to Westwood Middle next year and includes Union High School support. The group is also offering college scholarships to Harrison students graduating in Union's Class of 2020.


The district has a graduation rate of 47.6 percent, a dropout rate of nearly 20 percent, and less than 1 percent of comprehensive high school students are college ready based on Michigan Merit Exam and ACT. And 17 of its 43 buildings are at or below 60 percent capacity.

Neal says she can't run a district operating at a loss.


"I think the overall plan makes a lot of sense because No. 1, it's strategic, which is critically important," said Brian Cloyd, board chair of Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy and a district public-private partnership, and vice president of global corporate relations for Steelcase.

"I know that the lighting rod will be around individual schools closing, reopening, and where is my child going to school, but I think parents should be asking themselves two questions: Do I want a quality education for my child? Do I want my child to have the opportunity to be successful in life?"

He said funds going into operating and maintaining half-empty buildings can be focused on every child being successful.


"I think it’s a very gutsy plan," said Joe Jones, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Urban League. "I think there is a need to be bold. This seems to be well thought and most importantly, puts the district on the path to being competitive during a time when true choice in education is available in our community.".


Fritz Crabb, director of literacy initiatives for the Heart of West Michigan United Way, which partners with GRPS on its Schools of Hope program, said it is important the district concentrates on its academic challenges.


"We are happy to see the bold steps proposed by the superintendent to improve academics," said Crabb, who said they will work for the success of the plan ultimately adopted.


At Monday's school board work session, Neal told the board she thought the transformation plan was "thoughtful and creative" and asked they not pick it apart but vote it up or down.


The board is scheduled to vote Dec. 17. Five meetings are planned with the community beginning Thursday at Creston High School, 1720 Plainfield Ave. NE, one of the schools recommended for closure because its low-enroll and high operating cost.  The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m.


To read the plan, visit the district website. and follow her on Facebook and Twitter

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The Impact of Skipping School

The Impact of Skipping School | Social Media for Noobs |

It is estimated that seven million students (K-12) miss 18 days or more each year, and the concentration of that ...


 It is estimated that seven million students (K-12) miss 18 days or more each year, and the concentration of that absenteeism is in middle and high schools. In some states, as many as 1 in 3 high school students are absent on any given day.


Research shows that student achievement suffers after only five absences. Students who miss more than ten days of school are more than 20 percent less likely to graduate from high school than their peers and are 25 percent less likely of ever enrolling in any type of college. Those who drop out are two and a half times more likely to be on welfare than high school graduates. Those who do attend college are less likely to be prepared, more likely to enroll in remedial class, and more likely to leave college before earning a degree.


In a recent report from the Get Schooled Foundation, Skipping to Nowhere, more than 500 teens in 25 cities were given in-depth interviews to get an accurate picture of truancy in America. The report found that skipping school is behavior developed by the end of 9th grade. Of current sophomores, juniors and seniors who skip, nearly three quarters of them started skipping in middle school or during their first year of high school. Class cutting transcends socioeconomic, racial, and geographic backgrounds.


The interviews revealed that most students face few or minor immediate consequences for skipping school, and many do not think missing class impacts their grades, their chances of graduating, or whether they’ll attend college. According to the report, more than 80 percent of students who skip school once a week believe it is unlikely they will fall behind in class. Nearly half of skippers are absent at least part of the day about once a week or more and 42 percent of students said their parents “never” or “rarely” know when they skip school. Young people are often unaware that skipping even a few days of school can dramatically affect their grades and even decrease their odds of graduating.



The Get Schooled Foundation’s report supports past research that shows a direct link between family engagement and student achievement. Parents are the most important defense against absenteeism. Following are some tips on how parents can prevent their child from cutting class:


Be involved with your teen’s school. Attend Parent’s Night and other school functions. Volunteer within the school. Get to know your teen’s teachers. Be aware of your child’s grades and attendance record. The more involved you are in your teen’s school the more likely your teen will perceive education as important and the less likely they are to skip class.


Encourage open communication. Allow your teen to vent about a teacher, a certain class, etc. without providing any judgment. Everyone needs to feel heard and understood. If you believe your child is facing a challenge at school, talk to their teacher.


Explain the importance of attendance. Give your child a vision for their future and then explain how skipping school impacts that vision. Tell them some of the statistics from this report and explain that skipping school significantly changes their ability to have a bright future.


Live in the real world. Students surveyed expressed a desire for a connection between their ‘real lives’ and what they learn in school. Too often there is a complete disconnect between their lives outside of school, their dreams and hopes for the future and how they spend each day. Draw the lines for them so they can see the usefulness of what they are learning.


Repeat the message. When the message to avoid skipping only comes from the school principal, it’s not as effective. Having the message about the importance of attending school come from several sources – parents, teachers, neighbors, the local truancy officer, police, celebrities, athletes, etc. – can have a dramatically stronger effect on student decision-making.


Establish consequences for truancy. Tell your teen that skipping school is not acceptable in your family and provide a consequence if you discover they have skipped. Parents should also inform their teens of their local area’s laws for truancy.


Final Thoughts…

According to the US Department of Education, skipping school is one of the first signs of trouble in a young person’s life. When young people start skipping school, they are telling their parents and teachers that they are in trouble or are giving up. Students are truant for different reasons. Yes, some just would rather hang out with their friends than go to school, but others may skip a day of school because they were concerned for their personal safety or did not want to take a test for which they were unprepared. It’s important to find out the reason they are skipping and address it directly. If they are bored, show them the correlation between what they learn and what they want to do in the future. If they are avoiding a test, determine the reason and help them with their studying or provide a tutor. If they are scared for their safety, work with the school to stop bullying. Do not ignore their cry for help… skipping school or cutting class means there is a problem to solve in your teen’s life.

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A Shared Vision for Youth: Common Outcomes and Indicators

Do America's youth-serving organizations and afterschool program providers agree on the outcomes they should seek for young people and the indicators they should use to measure progress? Increasingly, the answer is "yes," and an important new publication helps organizations of all types align their goals in order to increase their collective impact.


A Shared Vision for Youth: Common Outcomes and Indicators, created by the National Collaboration for Youth in partnership with the Forum for Youth Investment, identifies a common set of youth outcomes and indicators that cut across youth work, providing a framework to guide programs, organizations and communities. That framework is built on Ready by 21 principles, including the target of making sure youth are healthy and safe, connected and productive.


Common outcomes and indicators help to move the field towards a shared language on youth development, which can foster greater collaboration and impact.  Afterschool and summer learning program providers can use the outcomes to:


Articulate program goals.

Develop logic models and evaluations.

Develop communication materials.

Identify commonalities and common measures with other youth-serving organizations.


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