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GRPS is asking the public to share their views on a plan to ensure that all students receive qualitative education

GRPS is asking the public to share their views on a plan to ensure that all students receive qualitative education

GRAND RAPIDS, MI Grand Rapids Public Schools is seeking public input on the district's proposed strategic plan, which focuses on implementing equitable practices and eliminating barriers to ensure all students receive a high-quality education.

The district has enlisted the help of consulting firm Greenway Strategy Group to lead the strategic planning process, which began this spring and will continue until March 2022. The firm has developed an initial GRPS Strategic Plan Framework, which is accessible on the district's website.

The district said this month that GRPS will host a number of community input sessions over the next month, allowing parents, students, staff, and community members to express their opinions to the proposed plan.

In the following weeks, community input sessions are planned on five dates, with two separate sessions scheduled on each day.

A staff session from 4-5:30 p.m. and a session for students, parents, and the community will be held from 6-7:30 f.p on each date. The dates and locations for each of the sessions are shown below:

  • At Ottawa Hills High School, 2055 Rosewood Ave., on Tuesday, September 28th, at the Ottawa Hill High Schools, 20055 Rosenwood Avenue.
  • GRPS University, 1400 Fuller Ave., on Wednesday, October 6, at 450 Fullerton Ave, SCHPS State University.
  • Southwest Middle High School, 327 Rumsey St., is hosting a lunch on Tuesday, October 12th at the Southwest High High school, 3327 Humsy Street.
  • a virtual input session on Thursday, Oct. 14, is held at grps.org/strategic-plan.
  • Union High School, 1800 Tremont Boulevard, on Thursday, Oct. 21th, at Union School on the Thursday of Oct 21st, 21nd at 216 Tremount Boulevard Union.

During each of the sessions, Childcare and language interpreters will be available on site.

School leaders are calling the strategic planning process an iterative process, which implies it will be continuously refined and improved as the district receives community feedback, according to district spokesperson John Helmholdt at a Grand Rapids Board of Education meeting on Monday, September 20.

According to the GRPS website, the 2021 strategic plan will based on the successes of the district's 2012 GCPS Transformation Plan, which was spearheaded by former Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal and sought to restructure the area to improve student achievement and save money.

Martha Greenway, the founder and president of Greenways Strategy Group, stated that the new strategic plan should be based on equity. Greenway stated that district stakeholders are skeptical that GRPS has a two-tiered system, and that some students don't have the same chances as others.

The consulting firm conducted an investigation of focus groups comprised of more than 120 students, staff, parents, guardians, business leaders, and community members.

According to Greenway, some students and parents see the district's neighborhood schools as a "lesser choice" than the theme schools, and there is recollection of theme school accessibility among students of color, students with disabilities, or economically disadvantaged students, according to the analysis.

That notion is reinforced by the district's own data, which indicates that a significant number of white students attend the theme schools, according to Greenway.

Im just going to say this in the way it was stated to us (by stakeholders), is that this concept includes elements of a white supremacy mindset that come along with the theme schools of exclusion, higher academics and rigor, and higher levels of academic focus over and above other types of student needs, Greenway added in dna presentations to the school board on Sept. 20.

The perception of the two-tiered system relates to this notion of neighborhood schools being a lesser choice than the theme schools, and that the way the district markets the themes schools implies that this is what one should go after, that is where the excitement occurs, as well as the neighborhood school are actually the default if theresnt an opportunity for you to go to another choice.

One of the numerous areas identified by stakeholders as something the district may improve on is the perception of a two-tiered system. Other improvements opportunities include inequity in funding and resources, college and career preparation, dealing with issues of racism, diversity, and inclusion, barriers to student success, or defining student achievement.

GRPS stakeholders also highlighted some of the district's most valuable assets, including community partnerships, community pride and support, teachers and staff, school choice program, innovation, general academics, facilities, and parent engagement.

The consulting firm identified several high-quality student outcomes that could be prioritized in the district's strategic plan in connection with discussions with stakeholders. Those priorities include:

  • Increased literacy and math proficiency. Third grade math and English language arts proficiency (ELA) proficiency in third grade has increased significantly over the previous five years, however proficiency levels in fifth, seventh, and eighth grade remained low over time. Math proficiency in grades 5, 7, and 8 was considerably lower than ELA.
  • Reduceing academic disparities for Black and Latino students. Comparative to white students, students in ELA with significantly less proficiency levels in black, white, and Native American. According to the consulting firm's analysis, the same pattern existed for math, and the gaps for Black students were more significant.
  • Reduceing the discrimination of Black students by reducing the discipline of the exclusionary classes. GRPS data showed that black students are disbanded and expelled in a large way, comparable to white and Hispanic/Latino students. While Black students represent 32 percent of the GRPS student population, they account for 55 percent for the district's suspensions and expulsions in 2019-20.
  • Increasing student empowerment, belonging, and agency Stakeholders stated that the district could improve on meeting the needs of all students and ensuring fair student opportunities. They also stated that GRPS may improve on recruiting and retaining teachers of color. The district's teacher demographics do not match the student population, 89 percent of GRPS teachers are white, while only 21 percent students are.
  • Increasing successful transitions from high school to college or career. In recent years, the GRPS college enrollment rates have not fluctuated significantly, with roughly 50% of students enrolling in college within six months of high school graduation. The GRPS college enrollment was also lower than the Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Detroit school districts, as well as the state and national average.

Greenway stated that the consulting firm will test these student outcomes priorities over the next month by getting feedback from community members.

consultants will move on to developing a detailed action plan that will identify how to accomplish those initiatives once the firm agrees on the specific initiatives and measures that the district wants to achieve through the strategic plan. Finally, in March, the group will develop a monitoring and review process for the plan.

Visit www.grps.org/strategic-plan for additional information about the district's strategic planning process, including a video recording of the Sept. 14 stakeholder design session.

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