Kalamazoo Public Schools is a district of about 12,000 students, the largest school district in southwest Michigan and the second largest on the west side of the state. Since the Kalamazoo Promise was announced in 2005, giving free college tuition for KPS high school graduates, KPS has improved its schools in a whole host of ways. We have gained more than 2,100 students since the announcement of the Promise, more than 1,100 additionally in the last four years after the 1,000-student increase of the Promise's first year. We increased the number of kindergarten students in full-day kindergarten from 176 in 2007-2008 to 883 students in 2008-2009, to 944 students in 2009-2010. Full-day kindergarten provides an additional 370,000 instructional hours for kindergarten students in KPS.
We have added a dual-language school, El Sol Elementary, and a middle school alternative learning program. Prairie Ridge Elementary School, which opened in the fall of 2008, was the first new school built in Kalamazoo in 36 years. Prairie Ridge was awarded LEED Gold Certification, the first K-12 school in Michigan to receive this prestigious certification. Linden Grove Middle School, the second brand-new building to open in the past several years, welcomed approximately 700 students on the opening day of the 2009-2010 school year.
We have worked in conjunction with partners throughout the county to add the nationally recognized OWL Curriculum to our preschool classrooms. Completely new K-5 math materials were recommended to and approved by the Board of Education in the spring of 2009. Completely new 6-8 math materials were implemented in the fall of 2010. New K-5 math curriculum guides were written by KPS educators in an effort to continue to align KPS curriculum with state standards. We've added a K-3 daily writing period, strengthened middle school courses, and increased Advanced Placement offerings in high school, among many other improvements.
At the end of the 2008-2009 school year, the Kellogg Foundation awarded us a $150,000 literacy planning grant to develop a seven-pronged literacy initiative. KPS and Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) were awarded two 21st Century After-School Grants in the spring of 2009. These grants, totaling $7.5 million, will serve approximately 1,000 students annually in ten schools over a four-year period. In December 2011, KPS and the Kalamazoo community implemented The Lift Up Through Literacy initiative, thus taking a big step forward toward becoming a literacy community, one in which children receive strong early language development, reading, and writing training throughout the community. The Lift Up Through Literacy initiative includes a family literacy program and two parent education programs: one for the parents of newborns and one for parents of preschoolers.
To continue the improvement, in 2009 the district developed eight specific components of a college-going culture. While many of these components had existed in particular classrooms across the district, we are now a district with a common district definition of a college-going culture. School staffs will be working to strengthen these components in their schools, with support from central administration.
The eight components are:
High expectations for students and staff
Higher education exposure
Meaningful and engaging homework
Literacy: Language development, reading, and writing
Substantial opportunities for meaningful parental involvement
Education that is relevant to, reflective of, and inclusive of students
Development of strong problem-solving skills
Development of success skills: meta-cognitive, note-taking, study, time management, organizational, and test-taking skills.
Our improvement as a district and community has received both state and national recognition, most recently with a long article in the national education journal Kappan, and the Kalamazoo community was recognized as the 2011 Champion for Children by the Michigan Association for School Administrators, the superintendents' state association. On its 2011 list of 100 Best Communities for Young People, America's Promise Alliance named Kalamazoo one of the top 100 places for young people to grow and live. The Kalamazoo Promise and the Kalamazoo Youth Development Network (KYDNet) are cited as examples of Kalamazoo's youth-educating culture in the announcement on the Alliance's website. Founding chairman and chairwoman of America’s Promise Alliance, Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma Powell, lauded Kalamazoo as a "world-class education community" when recognizing the 2010 100 Best Communities honorees.
For more information, visit: kalamazoopublicschools.com.