DPSCD pilot to aid child development, early literacy

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city’s public school district on Tuesday unveiled a new pilot program aimed at improving literacy and bringing more early childhood resources to Detroit families.

The three-year effort, being launched next month at the Detroit Public Schools Community District’s Munger Elementary-Middle School, will bring together more than a dozen partner organizations to help ensure everything from proper prenatal care to development tools for children from birth through age 8.

The program, organizers say, will target both children and parents in the literacy efforts.

“One thing we passionately believe is the city of Detroit is turning around and, at 70 years old, I never thought I’d live to see it,” said Maura Corrigan, who formerly headed up the state’s Department of Human Services, during a news conference inside the school’s library. “The city can’t turn around unless the schools turn around. That can’t happen if children don’t learn to read.”

Corrigan on Tuesday said the pilot has been in the works for months and is expected to serve 100 families and include 80 volunteers. Based on its outcome, the effort may later expand to other schools in Detroit, officials said.

More than $20,000 in private dollars has been allocated to fund the pilot, officials said.

The school is also among 90 in Wayne County offering a Pathways to Potential program onsite, with a full-time state health and human services caseworker. The Pathways approach targets attendance, education, health, safety and self-sufficiency, and it relies on support networks to assist the school’s children and families.

Third-grade reading has been a priority in Detroit. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Michigan was one of only five states with declining fourth-grade reading achievement between 2003 and 2015, according to a report released earlier this month by a coalition focused on improving city schools.

Detroit is last in the nation in early literacy for low-income students. In 2016 and 2017, only 9.9 percent of the Detroit district’s third-graders were proficient in reading, according to a December report from the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was among those in attendance Tuesday for the announcement. Calley, who announced late last month that he’s joining the 2018 race for Michigan governor, said this effort is about “going to where people are.”

“That’s what this launch here today is all about,” Calley said. “It’s going, literally, to where people are and providing services in ways that are more accessible ... and relevant to them.”

The literacy program, “Munger Leads when Munger Reads,” will kick off in January at the school.

The goal, organizers said, is to create a “literacy-focused community in the Munger neighborhood.” The pilot aims to provide parents with tools to strengthen language skills and ensure grade-level readiness when their children enter kindergarten at the school.

The effort will establish a collaboration of existing community groups and resources along with Munger’s staff.

Among them, Great State Collaborative Wayne will provide training for parents and community and will coordinate a neighborhood-wide language and literacy campaign.

The community organization Brilliant Detroit will host neighborhood-based programming, parent support and training classes for the early component of the effort, targeting children from birth to age 3, officials said.

The hybrid pilot also will make Brilliant Detroit an affiliate of the national Raising a Reader organization. The effort will bring books into the homes of school families and help connect them with local literacy services and events.

Munger’s assistant principal, Edith Carter, said Tuesday she’s hoping the pilot will lead to broader outreach in the long-term.

“We know the reality: life does not stop at third grade,” Carter said. “We would like it to spill over. The middle schools need support.”