The Detroit school district sets the stage to improve in key areas such as enrollment, absenteeism

Detroit school officials are looking to aim high with ambitions to increase enrollment, reduce chronic absenteeism, and increase the number of students showing academic improvement.

Those are among the many goals the district will monitor regularly, according to a plan presented to members of a school board subcommittee Thursday.  The goals are crucial to the district’s overall turnaround efforts: Boosting enrollment, for instance, would bring the district about $8,000 per student from the state. 

The plan lists specific targets the district would aim for. However, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti cautioned that those actual targets likely will change between now and when they’re presented to the full board for a vote.

For now, the plan sets a goal of increasing enrollment by 500 children a year. The district’s data shows enrollment declined by 316 students between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, after a gain in the previous year. About 50,000 students are currently enrolled.

Chrystal Wilson, spokeswoman for the district, says there is confidence in the district’s ability to increase enrollment. 

“This year, we were intentional about parent engagement,” Wilson said, pointing to door-knocking initiatives to inform parents of neighborhood schools, and pop-up enrollment centers where parents come to learn more about the district. “By those different mechanisms, we’re hoping to attract more families.”

The overall plan, which included goals in a number of other areas that are tied to the district’s strategic plan, was approved by the school board’s curriculum subcommittee. 

Here are some of the other preliminary goals the district is reaching for:

  • Chronic absenteeism: The district wants to reduce the rate of chronic absenteeism by 4.5 percentage points. During the 2018-19 school year, 63% of the district’s students were chronically absent, down from 72% in the previous school year. Chalkbeat earlier this year wrote about the district’s wide-reaching efforts to address absenteeism. Shortly after, the school board approved a plan to purchase passenger vans that will in part be used to pick up chronically absent students and bring them to school.
  • Teacher attendance: The district wants to increase the percentage of teachers with excellent or moderate attendance by 3 percentage points annually. During the 2018-19 school year, it was 72% — meaning that more than a quarter of teachers have less than ideal attendance.
  • K-8 academic growth: The district wants to increase the percentage of K-8 students who meet their annual improvement targets on district assessments in math and reading by 4 percentage points.

This isn’t the first time the district has set goals. Early into the tenure of Vitti, who arrived in 2017, the board approved a set of measurable goals. At the time, officials said the goals would be updated as more data became available. 

The district will produce quarterly reports to update the board and the public on progress towards reaching the goals.

To see a full list of the goals, go to: