A cutting edge teacher training program is coming to Detroit’s main district and Marygrove College

A new school run by the Detroit Public Schools Community District will be the laboratory for a cutting edge approach to teacher training, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a committee of school board members.

Details about the school, discussed publicly for the first time on Friday morning, drew praise from board members. Complete with a teacher training program modeled on training for doctors, the school is expected to open next fall on the campus of Marygrove College, Vitti said. Though it will start with only one or two grades, the idea is to create a program that will eventually include pre-K classes and an application-only high school.

“This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity,” he said, adding: “We’ve talked a lot about unique programming, we’ve talked a lot about trying to bring Detroit students back to Detroit schools.”

Convincing Detroit families to choose the city’s main district over schools outside the district is a key goal of Vitti’s administration, which has rolled out a broad effort to attract new students. More than 30,000 Detroit children attend school outside the city, and luring them back is viewed as necessary to help reverse the pernicious effects of declining enrollment.

Districts nationwide are beefing up their teacher training, but experts say the medical model could go even further towards combating the high teacher turnover rates that have plagued the state. Research shows that teachers are more likely to burn out and quit if they aren’t well prepared to enter the classroom.

The parties with a hand in the new school — including the University of Michigan, the Marygrove College conservancy and the Kresge Foundation — will make a formal announcement once the last practical hurdles have been cleared, Elizabeth Moje, dean of the school of education at the University of Michigan, said in an email. Moje started working on the concept of a teaching school after spending time with doctors in training at Beaumont Hospital-Dearborn.

Rip Rapson, president of Kresge, also said in a written statement that the plans are being finalized.

Facing enrollment troubles of its own, Marygrove eliminated its undergraduate programs this year and placed its northwest Detroit campus in a conservancy funded by the Kresge Foundation. The college now gives most of its classes online, but the new school could bring new life to the campus.

Vitti shared details with board members on Friday because they must approve the creation of a new school in the district.

Taken together, the details provide a first look at the still-unnamed school:

  • The campus is expected to open in the fall of 2019.
  • Teacher training at the school would be modeled after doctor training. After student teaching alongside veteran educators, new teachers will remain at the school for three more years to continue their training while helping other, newer teachers learn the profession. The concept comes out of the school of education at the University of Michigan, which is partnering with the district to create the new school.
  • The school would enroll only ninth-graders at first, and perhaps kindergartners as well, Vitti said. The goal is to expand it year-by-year until it serves students from pre-K through college.
  • DPSCD would run the K-12 portion of the school. Funds for the program would come largely from student enrollment, plus some federal funds earmarked for teacher training.
  • Classes would be held in the former Bates Academy building on the campus of Marygrove College. If the program outgrows the building, classes could be held elsewhere on campus.
  • Students would have to submit an application to attend the high school. Those who live in the neighborhood around Marygrove would get extra consideration.
  • A pre-K program at the school would be funded by the Kresge Foundation (which also is a Chalkbeat funder).
  • The school would be named by the Detroit school board.

The plan won high marks from members of the district’s finance sub-committee. Members Sonya Mays, LaMar Lemmons, and Angelique Peterson-Mayberry all voiced their approval.

“I think it’s really exciting,” said Mays, the committee chair. “I think it’s a really forward, progressive way to think about what we can offer in a neighborhood setting.”

Peterson-Mayberry said she’s already heard from teachers who “would love to be in the first group to go in” to the program. The selection process for teachers hasn’t been announced.