By Dr. Michael F. Rice, Superintendent
Kalamazoo Public Schools is a vibrant, growing district, with an increase of 2,500 students in the last 14 years and 1,300 students in the last 12 years. Using the Kalamazoo Promise as a springboard, the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS), its staff, parents, students, and community organizations continue to improve student achievement in a profound way.
We are KPS, the largest, most diverse district in the region, the second largest and the most diverse district on the west side of the state. We appreciate and value our diversity and view it as part of our richness. We are approximately 38 percent African American, 36 percent white, 13 percent Hispanic, 11 percent multi‐ethnic, less than 2 percent Asian American, and less than 1 percent Native American. We are 1,596 special needs students. We are 1,058 English language learners, of which 165 are refugees who have enrolled in the district in the last three years. We are hundreds of young people who have struggled with housing instability over the last year.
Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our teachers, support staff, administrators, parents, grandparents, and community, our children have greater opportunities each year to pursue their promise and their dreams. We continue to make improvements in our schools each and every year.
Below are selected school district and community accomplishments:
· Every major academic board goal area has shown significant growth in the last several years.
· From 2007‐08 through 2018‐19, the number of KPS students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses increased by 156 percent.
· During the same period, the numbers of African American/multi‐ethnic students, economically disadvantaged students, and Hispanic students taking AP courses increased by 313 percent, 402 percent, and 1212 percent, respectively.
· From 2007‐08 through 2018‐19, the number of AP courses taken by our students increased by 226 percent.
· From 2007‐08 to 2017‐18, the number of AP tests earning college credit increased 10 consecutive years, from 143 to 566 tests (a total increase of 296 percent).
· KPS graduation rates are up 12 percentage points since President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at the Kalamazoo Central graduation in 2010 as the prize for the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.
· KPS graduation rates (4‐year cohort) have risen from 65.2% in 2013 to 75.2% in 2018 (the highest 4‐year rate in the district’s history under the current federal graduation rate formula).
· KPS graduation rates (5‐year cohort) have risen from 72.4% in 2014 to 80.4% in 2018 (the highest 5‐year rate in the district’s history under the current federal graduation rate formula).
· More students graduated in 2018 than in any year post‐Promise. In 2005, 454 students graduated. In 2018, 692 students graduated, a 52 percent increase.
· The KPS Board of Education expanded the number of Early Middle College programs with Kalamazoo Valley Community College from 8 to 35 three years ago and dozens of students have begun to take advantage of these outstanding programs.
· In April 2017, the KPS Board of Education adopted a new K‐5 math series, for implementation in two stages: grades K‐3 in 2017‐18 and grades 4‐5 in 2018‐19.
· At the same time, the board adopted a new K‐5 writing series, also for implementation in two stages: grades 4‐5 in 2017‐18 and grades K‐3 in 2018‐19.
· Last year, 413 staff and community members mentored 1,168 students in 9,572 weekly mentoring sessions.
· Since 2010, Lift Up Through Literacy, our parent education and family literacy programs at community sites throughout the district, has trained thousands of parents and grandparents to help support their children and grandchildren around literacy.
· KPS voters have approved three bonds in the last decade that total $220.6 million. Additionally, KPS spearheaded a countywide special education millage in 2015.
· KPS has engaged hundreds of community partners, many of which have long‐standing relationships with the district. Communities in Schools‐Kalamazoo has a strong presence in 20 of our 26 schools.
Bridge Magazine named 54 Michigan high schools as 2017 Academic State Champions. Both Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix made the list. For high schools in the state with more than 55% free or reduced‐price lunch eligibility, Loy Norrix was ranked first and Kalamazoo Central fourth in the state.
Yet to paraphrase Robert Frost, we have a long way to go before we sleep.
One final thought: Every time a child learns to read, every time a child learns to write, every time all members of a family can read well, every time a student graduates from high school, first in his or her family to do so, every time a young man or woman goes to college, first in his or her family to do so, every time a tutor tutors, a mentor mentors, a church, temple, or mosque steps up to serve children, every time a person comes out of retirement to help a child rise up, we get one step closer to a community culture, a college‐going culture, a literacy community, which we will be proud to leave to and for our children.