DEPSA Early College of Excellence

Our Michigan Future Schools initiative is designed to launch new high schools serving students from the City of Detroit that not only will graduate nearly all students, have them enroll in college, but most importantly earn a two or four year degree. Across the country, and in Detroit, we have high schools that are meeting the first two standards. The third has proven to be quite difficult. (As it is for many suburban and rural high schools across the country.)

By next fall we should have helped launch nine new high schools. Five are open today. I want to focus in this post on our first investment : the DEPSA Early College of Excellence.

The school is in its third year of operation. Current enrollment is about 275 students in the 9th, 10th and 11th grades. The school will add a 12th grade next year. The high school is an expansion of a successful k-8. The two schools are located near Detroit’s Eastern Market.

Obviously there is a long way to go before the first DEPSA students can graduate from college. Its first high school graduating class will be in June 2014. But so far the school has made terrific progress towards its goal of preparing Detroit students –– who are admitted to the school without regard for academic achievement –– for admission into selective four year universities. (A higher bar than required by MFS.)

DEPSA students are making substantial progress as measured by ACT aligned tests. Substantially better than the other MFS supported schools and quite likely other non test-in schools serving mainly Detroit students. What makes DEPSA special is for them doing better than other Detroit schools is irrelevant. They are committed to their students meeting the standards of the best universities in the country. Nothing else is acceptable.

With our help DEPSA students can enroll at the University of Michigan Dearborn if the college deems them college ready starting in the 11th grade. About one third of their 11th graders are taking college courses and doing well. The estimate is by the 12th grade two thirds of their seniors will be taking courses at UMD. Last week it was my honor to participate in a ceremony at UMD where more than 20 9th graders were awarded Wade McCree scholarships that guarantee them full four year scholarships if they graduate from DEPSA with at least  a 3.0 GPA and 21 on the ACT.

DEPSA Early College of Excellence is on track –– but not there yet –– to prove what the founders of Michigan Future Schools believed. That the reason so few Detroit kids earn college degrees is not because of the kids or their families, it is because of the schools. That if we could organize and support great schools and great educators who expected their students –– no matter what their background or their academic proficiency when they were admitted to high school –– to succeed in the college that students could and would meet that standard.

Its hard work. (Not just for Detroit kids, or other urban kids around the state and country, but for most kids growing up in households without a college educated adult). We all have a lots more to learn on how to achieve our goals. But what DEPSA is demonstrating is that Detroit kids and schools ––two groups the region, state and nation have largely given up on ––can succeed without lowering the bar or expectations.

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