Educational partnership at Marygrove to serve Detroit children

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
A new cradle-to-career educational partnership announced September 13 at Marygrove College.

Detroit — A new cradle-to-career educational partnership announced Thursday at Marygrove College will include a modern early childhood education center, a new K-12 school and a teacher-education training program modeled after hospital residency programs.

The P-20 Partnership — one of the first in the nation according to organizers — is backed with a $50 million commitment from the Kresge Foundation. The partnership was reported by The Detroit News on Tuesday.

The investment will pay for construction of a new early childhood education center on the Marygrove campus in 2019 and to renovate the former Bates Academy, which originally served as Immaculata High School on campus, to house the K-12 school. 

The innovative educational campus will offer pre-K through graduate school studies with wrap-around services and community programs.

It is being jointly developed through a partnership including Kresge, the University of Michigan School of Education, Detroit Public Schools Community District, the Marygrove Conservancy, Marygrove College, Starfish Family Services and the Detroit Collaborative Design Center of the University of Detroit Mercy.

Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation, gives his remarks during Thursday's press conference.

“Kresge is extremely proud to announce a partnership that puts education at the center of all other revitalization work being done in this community,” said Rip Rapson, Kresge's president and CEO, on Thursday, when about 150 people came out for the announcement on Marygrove's 53-acre campus.

“We’re pleased to collaborate with all of our community partners who have come together to create a new model of neighborhood revitalization centered around investment in education right here in the heart of northwest Detroit."

The P-20 campus will also offer degree and professional certifications for teacher education students of the UM School of Education and graduate students of Marygrove College.

A new teacher “residency program,” offered by UM, will place undergraduate and graduate student teachers at the DPSCD school. When they complete their degrees, they will work at the school as supervised resident teachers in an innovative program modeled after the way doctors are trained, officials said.

Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, said DPSCD and UM are working on an agreement to have student teachers in the program commit to three years or more of teaching at a DPSCD school after graduation.

DPSCD superintendent Nikolai Vitti has been battling a teacher shortage in his district and praised the investment. The district's recent shortage was reduced from 200 to 90 vacancies this fall.

“The magnitude of this partnership is priceless in that it expands the city’s portfolio of high-demand, unique traditional public school options and develops a much-needed teacher pipeline with one of the top universities in the country," Vitti said.

Vitti added the teacher-training component has the potential to attract college students to the teaching profession, retain teachers who otherwise leave the profession in large numbers and improve district enrollment.

DPSCD and UM are working on an agreement to have student teachers in the program commit to three years or more of teaching at a DPSCD school after graduation, Vitti said.

Student teachers could begin working in the district as soon as the 2020-21 school year or the year after, he said.

"We are going to a model where we actually teach teachers how to teach with master teachers as their partners, no different than in the medical profession," Vitti said.

"This creates a pathway that invests in their development so they become lifelong teachers, not teachers for two years or three years or four years, but lifelong teachers. That's how we are going to rebuild the district and rebuild the city."

The early childhood education center, operated by Starfish, and the K-12 school are projected to serve more than 1,000 Detroit children and their families in the surrounding neighborhoods in the Livernois-McNichols district.

The first phase of the campus will include a ninth-grade pilot program to open in 2019, followed by the opening of the early childhood education center and kindergarten in fall 2020.

Successive grades will be added each year, and by 2029, all grades will be offered, alongside undergraduate and graduate studies and professional development courses and certifications.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel and UM School of Education Dean Dr. Elizabeth Moje outlined their vision for a teacher training school on the Marygrove campus that will be modeled after medical teaching residencies.

According to Moje, after completing teaching education studies, new teachers will remain alongside veteran educators in primary and secondary classrooms for three additional years to continue their training while helping newer student teachers learn the profession.

“For too long, universities have been largely separated from the pre-K to 12 settings for which they are educating new professionals,” Moje said.

“This is an opportunity for the School of Education to not only provide impactful teacher training but to also create programs that teach children using evidence-based instructional practices carried out by exceptional leaders," she said.

University of Michigan president Dr. Mark Schlissel said the new collaboration further builds on the School of Education’s longstanding partnerships in conducting research and working in concert with educators in Detroit.

The innovative approach through the P-20 model will allow UM — and other higher education institutions across the country that may replicate this concept — to improve its own practice while contributing to primary and secondary education.

Other UM schools and colleges will join the collaboration as the school and wrap-around services develop. Early partners include: College of Engineering; Stephen M. Ross School of Business; A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; School of Social Work; School of Nursing; and School of Dentistry.

“This new partnership is founded in our belief that a brighter future will emerge through the creation of different kinds of educational opportunities, and new knowledge, in ways that we could not do alone," Schlissel said. "It further builds on our School of Education’s longstanding partnerships in conducting research and working in concert with educators in Detroit.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan joined leaders from each of the partnering organizations for the public announcement, where they outlined their joint vision for the campus. 

The $50 million investment is expected to be a shot in the arm for the 90-year college, which last year announced it would cease its undergraduate offerings due to massive debt and falling enrollment.

The Kresge Foundation invested $16 million to help stabilize the college, restructure debt, finance academic and campus operations and support the college’s shift to graduate-level education.

Kresge then partnered with the college’s founders and sponsors — the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary — to create the Marygrove Conservancy to steward the campus and its mission.

The conservancy immediately began to explore partnerships that could preserve the campus and its historic role as an educational anchor in the city, officials said.

“Not long ago, we were faced with the prospect of this incredible campus going dark, which would have been a terrible setback to the revitalization that is taking place in this area of our city,” Duggan said.

“Instead, today we are celebrating a new beginning and a bright future at Marygrove, thanks to the Kresge Foundation, DPSCD, the University of Michigan and all the partners in this effort.  We owe them all a great deal of appreciation for recognizing the importance this campus has to our city and to the community.

Organizers said the P-20 campus at Marygrove College is a new approach to economic development centered on educating children and will serve as a model for urban communities around the country.

Similar campuses exist around the country — the Penn Alexander School in Pennsylvania is one — but none involve early childhood services through graduate level education housed on one campus, officials said.

Dr. Elizabeth Burns, president of Marygrove College and a college alumna who also attended kindergarten at Marygrove, said the college’s legacy as a teacher and social justice training center will continue under the program.

“One of the college’s pillars is a commitment to remain an anchor institution in this Detroit neighborhood and an institutional leader in the city of Detroit," Burns said. "The P-20 model ensures we continue that mission. We’re excited for the future of this campus and the impact this model will have on the city of Detroit’s rebirth.”