GM gives $1M to boost literacy at Detroit high schools

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors announced a $1 million contribution to a literacy program in Detroit public schools that is expected to help 500 high school students reach grade-level reading proficiency.

Pamela Good, co-founder of the nonprofit Beyond Basics, made the announcement Monday at Mumford High school, saying it is the largest single contribution to the company's Be the Solution literacy campaign. 

"This investment goes wide. Illiteracy is connected to almost every social ill we have in America. Literacy reverses that," Good said.

Beyond Basics is trying to raise $33 million to send hundreds of literacy tutors to 10,000 students in high schools at the Detroit Public Schools Community District who are not reading at grade level. 

The company's tutoring methods, a one-on-one reading intervention program, can increase a student's reading by a grade level or higher in an average of six weeks, Good said.

Pamela Good, co-founder and CEO of Beyond Basics, talks about the $1 million donation from GM to help with the literacy campaign at Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Good said with the GM donation, they are about halfway to their first-year campaign goal of raising $6 million. The program is operational in five of the district's high schools 

Mark Reuss, president of General Motors, said the automaker wants to invest in organizations that make a difference in the city and among its workforce.

Mark Reuss, General Motors president

"Talent is distributed equally. Opportunity is not," Reuss said, "We believe all students should have access to resources. The goal is to reach grade-level literacy before they graduate from high school."

Reuss called upon other corporations and companies to support Beyond Basics and its mission, saying a strong city workforce depends on a solid education.

Good estimates that 10,000 of the district's 12,000 high school students would benefit from tutoring and that up to 50% of high school students are two or more grade levels behind.

Students spend an average of six weeks in the program. The average cost per student is $3,000.

The campaign calls for reaching 2,000 students this school year, 3,000 in the 2020-21 school year and 4,000 in the 2021-22 school year.

Nikolai Vitti, DPSCD superintendent, said the literacy program is research-based and has proven results.

Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District

"Beyond Basics is a leader in this field," Vitti said. "They are not just working with students, they are going to move the needle and implement an intervention model."

Teachers can now focus on the day-to-day work of educating students, Vitti said, while tutors can help bring many students up to grade-level reading.

"This is about our children. It has nothing to do with talent or potential. It's about empowerment," Vitti said, "Five hundred more students are going to get the intervention they should have received years ago."