News and Resources

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News

Children who live in the Kalamazoo Public Schools district will soon have better access to opportunities that will have them ready for kindergarten thanks to a major grant from The Learning Network.

Kalamazoo County Ready 4s, in partnership with the Northside Committee, is receiving $542,412 for an early childhood initiative focusing on 3-year-olds and families that live in Kalamazoo's Northside and Douglas neighborhoods.

"We are confident that the work supported by this grant, with measurable impacts, will help change many lives," says Amy Slancik, community investment officer for The Learning Network at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

According to Tonia Smith, community advocate and co-chair of the Northside Committee, "Connecting with families from the beginning and building relationships will change families and the community. With these grant dollars, we are able to do more proactive work, instead of being reactive. I am so excited for these families; I can't stop smiling."

The Northside Committee/Kalamazoo County Ready 4s initiative will increase the number of children ready for kindergarten by providing high-quality developmental and educational opportunities. The grant will enable up to 60 3-year-olds to attend half or full-day pre-kindergarten; upgrade and equip facilities; provide transportation; and provide professional development for faculty and staff along with on-site teacher mentors. The grant also will provide additional resources for parenting programs.

Desired outcomes for the initiative include:

  • Establishing a minimum of two high-quality pre-kindergarten classrooms located in the Northside and Douglas neighboroods and achieving and maintaining high-quality standards in these classrooms;
  • Effectively implementing the adopted curriculum; and
  • Using research-based and best-practice instructional strategies in classroom management measured by fall and spring assessments.

Anthony Everson

Anthony Everson grew up in Miami, Fla. At age 14 he began working part time to help his single mother make ends meet. By 17 he was working nearly full time and going to high school. He couldn’t do both, so he quit school.

“We lived in a one-bedroom apartment. My mother worked as a maid and was always so tired. I helped pay the bills,” says Anthony, now 54. “I had to grow up quick.”

Anthony took warehouse jobs, drove a forklift and loaded ships at the Port of Miami. He worked hard, but he was never able to get ahead. In 1985, when he was 25, Anthony moved to Michigan to be near his father. He got married and had a son. Although his son has since graduated from high school, school remained a dream for Anthony.

Then he learned about adult literacy classes through the Kalamazoo Literacy Council, which is housed at Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Michigan. Last year, Anthony went back to school.

“I was really scared. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. But I told myself, ‘Man up. Whatever comes I can do it.’ And it turned out to be a great opportunity.”

When Anthony left school in the 10th grade, he read and wrote like a much younger student. As a teenager, he knew he’d fallen behind his classmates, but he was afraid to ask for help. The Kalamazoo Literacy Council paired Anthony with Carl Ill, a former high school English teacher and principal. That made Anthony even more nervous.

But Carl was nothing like Anthony expected. Carl knew that asking for help was an act of courage.

Says Carl, “You have to admire someone who’s 53 and says ‘I want to learn to read and write,’ and then puts in the time and the effort to make that a reality.”

“Carl was so nice,” says Anthony. “He started working with me the first time we met. He told me I could do it and he was right. Every time I get to a new workbook, he celebrates with me. I couldn’t believe anyone would be so kind.”

At the Literacy Council, the students are tested to determine their reading and writing abilities. Their goals depend on the individual. Some learn to read and write to perform their jobs better and to read to their children. Some go on to learn computer skills. Anthony wanted to improve his reading and writing to get a high school equivalency diploma. Students usually meet with a tutor once a week, but Anthony was so motivated that he met with Carl more often. In just one year Anthony was halfway to his goal. The experience helped him get a job at Goodwill Industries.

“I’m determined. I’m not going to let anybody or anything slow me down or stop me now,” says Anthony. And he means it. During much of the past year he held two jobs while studying. Then he had a heart attack. Once again, he found himself having to choose between work and school. This time, he quit his second job and now works only at Goodwill.

“You have to have an education to live in this society,” Anthony advises. “You need to get your diploma. If you’re motivated to do that, there is help right here.”

The Kalamazoo Literacy Council is part of the Adult Literacy Collaborative, which also serves as The Learning Network's Adult Learning Action Network.

Jacque Eatmon is the coordinator of Kalamazoo County’s Great Start Collaborative and the convener of The Learning Network’s Kindergarten Readiness Action Network. She shares with us information about Kalamazoo County Pre-K, a new program she’s helping to lead.

What is Kalamazoo County Pre-K?

Kalamazoo County Pre-K is an effort to provide every child in Kalamazoo County with a quality pre-kindergarten experience, so they can enter kindergarten socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually prepared.

Who is behind this effort?

It includes Kalamazoo County Ready 4s, Head Start, Kalamazoo RESA, the Great Start Collaborative/Kindergarten Readiness Action Network, all nine Kalamazoo County school districts and The Learning Network. We’ve pooled our resources for greater impact, improved communication and reduced duplication of services. 

Why is it important?

We want to make it easier for families to navigate through a sometimes complicated system. By working together, we can provide a high quality pre-kindergarten classroom experience for every child in the county. Every participating program is licensed by the State of Michigan and has achieved a common set of quality benchmarks.

How are you making this happen?

We are making this happen by sharing money, time and other resources. We meet monthly and use common technology. We have a single application form and common enrollment process, a shared recruitment effort and waiting list. We are developing a common brochure and will have a single phone number.

Brenda Pickett

The College and Career Action Network (CACAN) has received a grant for $171,784 from The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo supporting operational efforts through September 2014.

This is the second operational grant to support LNGK action networks. The Adult Learning Action Network received a grant in November 2013.

CACAN’s goal is to get more students from Kalamazoo County to attend and graduate from college. It focuses particular attention on helping students who are the first generation in their family to attend college, students of color and those from low-income families. CACAN uses the term “college” for any post-high school institution that offers certificates or other credentialed training and prepares students for a career, including two- and four-year academic degrees.

“We think of CACAN as wrapping our community’s collective arms around these students,” says CACAN director Brenda Pickett. “We help them recognize the value of a college education and we offer tools and support to help them succeed there.”

Currently, according to KRESA, 72 percent of Kalamazoo County high school graduates enroll in higher education after graduation. CACAN hopes to push that number to 82 percent by 2017. The network has identified three key measurements that drive college enrollment in Kalamazoo County: students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), those who apply for Michigan’s Tuition Incentive Program (TIP) and ACT scores.

“Research shows that students who complete FAFSA forms are more likely to enroll in college,” says Pickett. “Similarly, ACT scores are a strong predictor of college success.”

CACAN, like each of The Learning Network’s action networks and programs, strives not to duplicate local efforts, but to ensure that existing resources achieve the greatest results by addressing gaps and seizing opportunities.

“Our TIP goal is a good example of this,” says Pickett. “Participation removes a financial barrier, with funding already in place for qualifying students. Yet when asked,98 percent of Kalamazoo County’s eligible students didn’t know they qualified. CACAN works with existing programs and agencies now to ensure that all qualifying county students can take advantage of this amazing opportunity.”

History of CACAN

CACAN began as a Michigan Local College Access Network (MCAN) in 2010. There are currently 51 such organizations throughout the state (known as LCANs). The overall goal of each is the same — more students to and through college, with a particular emphasis on first-generation college families. How that occurs and how success is measured differs with each community.

CACAN continues to receive some state support along with its operational grant from The Learning Network. It also has received additional grants for specific program activities. This approach stretches each dollar contributed, leveraging financial support to achieve an outcome greater than that made possible through any single funder.

“Kalamazoo County is fortunate to have many individuals and organizations actively working to help high school students succeed, graduate and then have a positive college experience. CACAN helps coordinate these collective resources toward a specific and common goal. Ultimately the students benefit, but so does our community.” ~ Brenda Pickett | CACAN Convener

The Learning Network was launched in 2011 as a collaborative effort to get every child in Kalamazoo County ready for school, college and beyond.

Our Action Network conveners recently spoke with WMUK's Gordon Evans. Jackie Eatmon is the convener is the kindergarten readiness action network, Brenda Pickett convenes the college and career readiness network. Michael Evans is convener of the adult learning action network. 

Listen Here

Carly Wiggins is a member of The Learning Network’s Data Team. She is responsible for assuring the Efforts to Outcomes software fulfills its purpose to help monitor and track outcomes across different organizations.

The Learning Network’s new longitudinal data platform arrived this summer. Called Efforts to Outcomes (ETO), this software, provided through Social Solutions, is the data backbone of the Action Networks and the entire Learning Network effort.

Carly Wiggins is the data specialist for ETO and a member of The Learning Network’s Data Team. Based at KRESA’s headquarters on Milham Road, she is responsible for assuring that this highly sophisticated software fulfills its purpose.

The ETO software is designed to track service delivery at several levels: across individual programs, the organizations that run or sponsor those programs, and ultimately the entire Learning Network. According to Wiggins, the ETO database will finally give participating organizations and programs the ability to track and monitor their project outcomes in detail.

“Each program or organization will have its own self-designed small database in the ETO software, with data fields customized to fit its particular needs and structure,” she explains. “At the same time, there will be enough in common in the data fields that we’ll be able to compare apples to apples. We’ll be able to confidentially share data across programs and activities for monitoring, research and evaluation purposes. Long term, we’ll be able to produce confidential aggregate outcome measures for the community scorecard across the entire Learning Network.”

ETO is in the pilot phase of implementation at this point. Wiggins notes that they needed to start small to learn how to best implement the software. “We decided to start with nine service providers in Kalamazoo County that are running home visitation programs for parents who have 0-3 year olds,” she says. “These providers have been collaborating for some time, and they’re eager to enhance their programming with data-based decision making. We’ll begin entering their data in January and then will make whatever changes are needed before we bring another Action Network group on board.”

If all continues to go as planned, eventually service providers, teachers and school administrators, health care providers, program funders and the general public will be able to access data about program outcomes.

“As a community we’ll be able to know what is working well, for whom and why,” Wiggins concludes. “We have the data platform in place and we can move forward on being highly data-informed in decision making. We want to use data to empower organizations to make great decisions that lead to better outcomes for Kalamazoo County.”

The Adult Literacy Action Network (ALAN) is the first of the three action networks to receive an operational funding grant from The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo.

Why is a grant necessary? The grant process requires each network to establish a plan of action with measureable goals and objectives. The plan describes how the network will achieve its goals and what funding it needs to do so. This assures that the networks are moving in a clear direction toward individual goals that meet with the overarching cradle-to-career objectives of The Learning Network. ALAN received $125,200.

Michael D. Evans, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Literacy Council and convener for ALAN, says the funding leverages existing support for adult literacy, stretching both the efforts and dollars to meet the needs of adult learners. Just as significantly, it connects the work of those engaged in adult literacy to The Learning Network’s continuum of education, which ultimately contributes to a vital and thriving community.

“It also gives us an opportunity to impact other aspects of the continuum, including K-12,” Evans adds. “Directly at the adult level and indirectly across the continuum, this funding will greatly enhance our collective effectiveness.”

The money pays for staffing and support to programs established through previous grants to the Literacy

Council to support the Adult Literacy Collaborative, which now serves as the Adult Learning Action Network of The Learning Network.

“It wasn’t money that drove our collaboration around adult literacy; it was a shared, county-wide concern. When The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo was formed, it made sense for us to align our collective work with that cradle-to-career initiative. Now, with the grant funding we’ve received as the Adult Literacy Action Network, our efforts are strengthened, we’re impacting the whole of the continuum, and we have exponential opportunity for impact with each adult learner we serve.” Michael D. Evans, Adult Learning Action Network Convener

“Our work to this point has been supported by program grants,” Evans says. “Those have allowed us to build community literacy centers, start a parent literacy program, pilot a computer class and start development of a writing curriculum. The Learning Network’s grant allows us to fill in an infrastructure of support around those centers and programs.”

The grant provides for an Adult Learning Services Navigator who coordinates the adult learners’ learning experience across available services. This position also helps facilitate information and activities between the programs — as it relates to the adult learner — to assure seamless coordination through what can be a complex process. The navigator is from the LISC AmeriCorps program. Because of ALAN’s association with Goodwill Industries — Evans’ office is housed at Goodwill —  the navigator works in tandem with two navigators provided by that nonprofit who serve much of the same population and provide coordination around employment and income supports.

“This navigation capability gives us a greater ability to serve our adult learners and also make a better connection between the adult learning service providers: to better assess what type of needs we have in the community; identify gaps and to identify resources to fill those gaps,” Evans says.

The navigator is aided by a student services coordinator, and a marketing and development coordinator who assists in data management and communications, also provided in part through the grant funding. It also pays for Evans’ time as the action network’s convener.

Brenda Pickett is coordinator of the College and Career Access Network at KRESA, and convener of The Learning Network’s College and Career Action Network.

Don’t our high schools prepare students for college and career success?

This work requires vast resources beyond school. And yes, many organizations already provide this. Part of CaCAN’s goal is to assure that existing resources achieve the utmost results — and where gaps or opportunities exist, help identify and implement improvements.

How do we know that CaCAN’s efforts are working?

We know how many students enter college their first year after high school, persist from year one to two, and receive certificates or degrees. By Oct. 1, 2017, our goal is to increase the number of high school graduates who enroll in college or post-secondary institutions from 72 to 82 percent.

How do you address those who say “college just isn’t for everyone?”

We use “college” for any valuable postsecondary credentialing beyond high school. For individuals to compete in the labor force — earn a living wage, support themselves and their families, and develop personally and professionally   — education beyond high school is no longer an option, it is a necessity.

How will the community look different because of CaCAN?

The number of Kalamazoo County residents with degrees will be at 60 percent by 2025. Currently, it is at 36.4 percent in Michigan. As a result, we’ll have a highly educated workforce, enabling business and the community to thrive.

The Learning Network's three Action Networks are groups of individuals, parents, students and practitioners working together to identify and implement practices that impact our community.

Kindergarten Readiness

Jacque Eatmon, coordinator of Great Start Collaborative at KRESA, is the convener for the Kindergarten Readiness Action Network. This Action Network has:

Secured funding for and distributed 57 scholarships for three year olds to private child care programs.

Provided initial planning and funding for a Quality Rating Improvement System for Kalamazoo area child care programs and providers to reach high quality programming.

Established a partnership with the Kalamazoo County Clerk’s office to provide birth certificates to programs to allow children to enter into early childhood education programs.

Joined a collaboration of community agencies (hosted by the Great Start Collaborative) to present the 4th Annual Early Childhood Rocks Conference for 300 early childhood education providers.

College and Career Readiness

Brenda Pickett, coordinator of the Kalamazoo Area College and Career Access Network at KRESA, is the convener of the College and Career Readiness Action Network. This Action Network has:

Connected more than 800 students to free tuition and fees at community colleges and universities in Michigan through the Tuition Incentive Program.

Collaborated with school districts, the Department of Human Services and the KRESA truancy officer to provide free office space for DHS workers in schools on a daily basis to help families and students with daily problems and issues that affect student attendance and success.

Held six Free Application for Federal Student Aid events to help families complete and submit their FAFSA applications, increasing county-wide completion rates from 40 percent to 59 percent.

Started to assess what products and services are available to students and which ones are effective  in helping students improve ACT scores (a student’s ACT score is one college readiness indicator). The action network also is surveying parents to assess what parents know and understand about the ACT test.

Adult Learning

Michael Evans, executive director of the Kalamazoo Literacy Council, is the convener for the Adult Learning Action Network. This Action Network has:

Grown from 14 to 24 adult education, workforce development, English as a second language, adult literacy, college/university, churches and other community groups working to ensure all adults in Kalamazoo County have the skills and educational level to be successful at work, at home and in the community.

Leveraged its resources to bring more than $60,000 in in-kind support from network participating agencies and more than $50,000 in grants from national foundations.

Reached nearly 1,700 adult learners who were reading below sixth grade reading level, serving more than 150 through one-on-one tutoring. 

Audrey Jeromin

The Learning Network includes partners from all walks of life –– from educators to business people to nonprofit professionals, to students and parents. Audrey Jeromin is a 2013 graduate of Kalamazoo Central and a Kalamazoo Promise recipient. She is now a freshman at Western Michigan University.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in graduating from high school?

Making up lost credits was the toughest part of getting through high school for me. I wanted to have a balance between school, work and friends. However, I had to prioritize my goals. This meant putting schoolwork first and missing out on having fun on weekends or going somewhere over winter/spring break.

What were the most significant events that happened to help turn things around?

First of all, I had a wonderful counselor who helped me with different credit recovery opportunities. Secondly, I would say that the help I received from the The Learning Network’s College and Career Access Network workshop on filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (known as the FAFSA), reduced a lot of my stress as I prepared for college. I also benefited from a mentor outside of school who helped me organize my goals and overcome personal obstacles as I pursued these goals. Not to mention that there were many caring teachers who helped me over the years with my school work.

How could systems improve to help people in your situation?

I would like to see more information reaching students about all the resources that are available to help them and their families. It would be nice to see printed and online information that asks the question, “What do you need help with?”

What would your advice be to students who are struggling?

I would encourage these students to reflect on their lives and ask what they want out of life. They should take the initiative and let a teacher or school counselor know if they are struggling. There are so many resources available, but many students don’t know there are people ready to help them. 

Data Team members Bridget Timmeney and Michelle Miller-Adams, both of the W.E. Upjohn Institute, are helping The Learning Network integrate evidence-based decision making and accountability into its work.

One of The Learning Network’s core values is that accountability matters and that accurate metrics are critical to measuring its successes and failures. Metrics can also serve as the “glue” holding together the community partnerships that are essential for meeting the needs of students throughout their educational careers. 

To help implement an evidence-based accountability system, staff from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research are leading The Learning Network’s Data Team. Michelle Miller-Adams, research fellow, and Bridget Timmeney, special projects coordinator, are the two individuals primarily responsible for the Upjohn Institute’s ongoing efforts with The Learning Network. The Institute’s president, Randy Eberts, sits on The Learning Network’s Executive Team.

“What is most important is not simply collecting data,”says Miller-Adams. “Our goal is to help integrate evidence-based decision making and accountability into the work of The Learning Network. Bridget and I are members of a larger team that works closely with organizations to help them understand how data can support better client service and to show how the community can better leverage its resources.”

“The Upjohn Institute has significant expertise with data,” Timmeney adds. “We know how to collect it, how to analyze it, and how to integrate it into an organization’s operations. But we also know how data can tell a story. So one of the assets we bring to The Learning Network is not just data management, but our collective ability to share meaningful stories that emerge from the data.”

The Data Team’s Roles

Upjohn Institute staff have specific tasks that contribute to the Data Team’s role in The Learning Network. For example, early on it performed a “landscape assessment” to map community resources serving youth and assess existing collaborative efforts and data capacity. The Upjohn Institute also designed a community scorecard, which became the blueprint for The Learning Network’s Action Networks. The staff have an ongoing role in providing support for the data needs of the individual Action Networks. And they are working closely with the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA) to purchase and help maintain a longitudinal data platform that will assist programs with tracking their outcomes.

Community Scorecard

According to Timmeney, the community scorecard is based on The Learning Network’s cradle-to-career and lifelong learning continuum. “We looked at research regarding critical points along that developmental continuum,” she explains. “Among the key points that really make a difference for a child are kindergarten readiness, third- and sixth-grade reading and math proficiency, the high school transition and high school graduation. These markers have strong predictive value for future success, so the community scorecard is set up around those key indicators. In fact, the whole idea of Action Networks is to collectively move those indicators.” 

“For example,” Miller-Adams adds, “people working with kids zero to five are now networked around the specific goal of kindergarten readiness. The idea of The Learning Network is for organizations and individuals in Kalamazoo to continue to do their good work, but to do it in better alignment with each other. One way we assess whether that’s happening is if we see positive progress on some of the scorecard’s community-level indicators.”

Action Network Support

The Upjohn Institute’s support for the Action Networks focuses on helping those networks understand their data and examining how their interventions work. One example of its work can be found in the network involved with high school graduation and college/career readiness.

Timmeney says, “Research shows that if students complete and submit the federal form for student financial aid, they’re more likely to attend and stay in college. So part of this Action Network’s goal is to increase the percentage of students completing this form. We have helped the network gather both baseline and follow-up data around events designed to help parents and students with this task. Ultimately, we will use data to see if those kinds of interventions drive up successful post-secondary enrollment and completion rates.”

Data Platform

The longitudinal data platform is in its very early stages, but it will eventually become the backbone of the Action Networks within The Learning Network. “The data platform is at the core of what The Learning Network is all about,” says Miller-Adams. “It’s about tracking the progress of individuals involved in specific programs so that program managers can provide the most appropriate, effective programs to meet the needs of our children. It’s about assuring that our children are making the progress they should along the educational continuum — and if not, finding out why and what we can do to help. And it’s about evidence-based decision making to help program managers improve their programs. This is the same data platform used by the Harlem Children’s Zone, and we know how successful that legendary initiative has been. We want to do the same for this community.”

“The Learning Network’s developmental continuum is about individual children moving successfully from stage to stage,” Miller-Adams concludes. “But The Learning Network has two faces: one individual and one collective. Ultimately, what we’re doing is for and about individual kids, but all of those kids being successful adds up to success for our community.”

Michelle Miller-Adams and Bridget Timmeney explain how The Learning Network and The Kalamazoo Promise relate to each other.

Kalamazoo has historically had many resources in the community devoted to serving youth and promoting education. When it was created in 2005, The Kalamazoo Promise proved to be a particularly strong catalyst to reorganize those resources within Kalamazoo Public Schools. It is a generous, powerful scholarship program that assists one subset of youth in the county — those in the KPS school district.

The Learning Network and The Promise are both part of Kalamazoo's larger efforts to become "the education community."

The Learning Network, which was formed in 2011, grew out of the efforts of some community leaders to shift the local conversation from “How do I earn The Kalamazoo Promise?” to “How do we assure that the kids in all of the school districts in our county are ready for school, reading on time, graduating from high school, and ready to pursue some kind of post-secondary degree?”

With that question in mind, The Learning Network was designed to be much broader than The Kalamazoo Promise. It is not a scholarship program, but a dynamic, growing collaboration of individuals and organizations embracing a vision that every child in Kalamazoo County will be ready for school, post-secondary education and the world.

The Learning Network was inspired by The Promise, but it is designed to support all of Kalamazoo County’s children on their journey from cradle to career. And ultimately, both The Kalamazoo Promise and The Learning Network are part of Kalamazoo’s larger regional economic development efforts to become the “education community,” investing in human capital to assure future vitality and growth.

Michael D. Evans

Michael D. Evans is Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Literacy Council and convener of The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo's Adult Learning Action Network.

What is the goal of the Kalamazoo LIteracy Council?

The Kalamazoo Literacy Council is a nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the lives of adults by improving their reading, writing, spelling and comprehension skills. The KLC is the only organization in Kalamazoo County with the exclusive purpose of providing free basic literacy instruction to adults.

What is the focus of the Adult Literacy Collaborative in Kalamazoo County?

The Adult Literacy Collaborative is a group of nearly 20 agencies and community organizations that meets monthly to determine adult literacy priorities, identify and expand resources, and align services and programs in the county.

How do the LIteracy Council and the Collaborative fit into the work of the Adult learning action network?

The common goal of serving more struggling adult readers in the community is consistent with the mission of the KLC. By engaging with The Learning Network, this work is greatly enhanced by bringing more partners and community resources to join the ALC’s efforts. We want ninth grade reading proficiency for all adults in Kalamazoo County.

Your action network is launching an effort for adults to complete their GED.

After December 2013, students will no longer be able to take the “paper and pencil” GED test. The Adult Learning Action Network has the goal of informing the community about the need for adult learners to complete the GED before the end of the year and providing information on where to go for classes, tutoring and support to take the GED and to prepare for the new test.

Resources

On August 21, 2013, we hosted a workshop led by Katherine Prince, an authority on trends affecting K-12 American education who helps people see how they can shape the future of education in their community through creative thinking and dynamic collaborations.

Download the slides >

On June 7, 2013 U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined President Obama's High School Redesign initiative during a roundtable event at Aviation High School in New York City. This fact sheet highlights how the High School Redesign initiative will challenge high schools and their partners to rethink teaching and learning and put in place learning models that are rigorous, relevant and better focused on real-world experiences.

Go to the fact sheet >

New Tech Network is a nonprofit school development organization dedicated to ensuring all students

develop the skills and acquire the knowledge necessary to thrive in post-secondary education, career and civic life.

Download the report >

If backers of Battle Creek’s “whole child” initiative are ever feeling lonely in their work, they need only look to their neighbors immediately to the west. For two years, a number of schools, churches, businesses and service providers in Battle Creek have been involved in a holistic look at families, especially families with young children, as a way to improve academics. Kalamazoo County’s The Learning Network was announced just months after Battle Creek’s initiative, and, besides geography and some of the day-to-day specifics, it could be hard to tell the two apart. Learn more in this article from The Battle Creek Enquirer.

Go to the article >

Many Kalamazoo elementary and middle schools increased the percent of students rated proficient in math, and improved their reading results in 2012. Kalamazoo Public Schools also showed improvements for each of the major demographic groups. However, the so-called achievement gap –– the gap between white and middle-class students compared to low-income and minority students –– widened slightly. Learn more in this article from The Kalamazoo Gazette/Mlive.

 Go to the article >

A federal grant program in the works to help states jump-start kindergarten-entry assessments is renewing debate among early-childhood educators about the benefits and pitfalls of evaluating young children. Learn more in this article from Education Week.

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How many citizens does it take to improve Michigan's schools? There may be no sure answer to that question but the Center for Michigan is working to get as many involved as it can. Learn more in this article from Southwest Michigan's Second Wave.

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Michigan College Access Network's mission is to increase college readiness, participation and completion in

Michigan, particularly among low-income students, first-generation college going students, and students of color. 

Download the report >

Bridge Magazine, in collaboration with the Lansing-based research firm of Public Sector Consultants, recently created a ranking system measuring a school’s test scores adjusted for student family income, which is often a predictor of academic achievement. Learn more in this article from The Kalamazoo Gazette/Mlive.

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From The New York Times, this story of three friends from Galveston, Tex., seems less a tribute to upward mobility than a study of obstacles in an age of economic inequality.

Go to the article >