As students return from summer break, the Detroit Public Schools Community District is heading into the new school year with a bit of momentum.
Recently finalized results of the 2019 Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) show that Detroit students in grades 3-8 improved their reading test scores. It comes at a time when statewide averages saw a decline in the category.
District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the numbers validate curriculum changes made by the district in grades K-8 one year ago.
“It shows when our children are exposed to the right kind of curriculum they shine,” says Vitti. ”That just hasn’t been the case with consistency in previous years.”
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Despite the upward trend, M-STEP scores revealed only about 15 percent of Detroit public school students meet the state’s mark for reading proficiency. Vitti says he expects that number to improve going forward.
“Last year was a foundational year. Now we’re just smoothing out the rough edges and making sure that we’re implementing [the curriculum] at scale with consistency.”
The district is introducing a new high school curriculum for this year, with an updated lesson plan that aligns with the recent changes made in lower grades. It also updated its behavioral rulebook, introducing a new demerit point system to help enforce its conduct policy.
The system awards points based on severity of the offense. A student who accumulates 16 demerit points will earn an automatic referral to an alternative school.
After introducing its official code of conduct one year ago, Vitti says district officials spoke with teachers, students, and parents about ways to further improve the policy.
“There was a belief that we had to take a firmer stance against fighting,” he explains. “This code of conduct states that if a student is involved in three fights then they would automatically be referred to an alternative school.”
Vitti says the new guidelines will help the district take a stronger stance on student conduct, while simultaneously moving away from out of school suspensions.