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Sat Sep 15, 2012, 07:20 AM

'The Kalamazoo Promise' - Why These Kids Get A Free Ride To College

According to census data, 39 percent of Kalamazoo’s students are white, and 44 percent are African-American. One of every three students in the Kalamazoo district falls below the national poverty level. One in 12 is homeless. Many of them are the first in their families to finish high school; many come from single-parent homes. Some are young parents themselves: Kalamazoo has one of the highest pregnancy rates among black teenagers in the state.

And yet, for the vast majority of the 500-plus students who graduate each year in Kalamazoo, a better future really does await after they collect their diplomas. The high-school degrees come with the biggest present most of them will ever receive: free college.

Back in November 2005, when this year’s graduates were in sixth grade, the superintendent of Kalamazoo’s public schools, Janice M. Brown, shocked the community by announcing that unnamed donors were pledging to pay the tuition at Michigan’s public colleges, universities and community colleges for every student who graduated from the district’s high schools. All of a sudden, students who had little hope of higher education saw college in their future. Called the Kalamazoo Promise, the program — blind to family income levels, to pupils’ grades and even to disciplinary and criminal records — would be the most inclusive, most generous scholarship program in America.

It would also mark the start of an important social experiment. From the very beginning, Brown, the only person in town who communicates directly with the Promise donors, has suggested that the program is supposed to do more than just pay college bills. It’s primarily meant to boost Kalamazoo’s economy. The few restrictions — among them, children must reside in the Kalamazoo public-school district and graduate from one of its high schools — seem designed to encourage families to stay and work in the region for a long time. The program tests how place-based development might work when education is the first investment.
more: (read the comments from students and others affected)

I have told people for years that if you have limited education dollars the two places to focus on are the early years and the education promise.

If you grab kids early enough to start them with a good foundation, they have a much better chance of success. Even if they have rough times, they have basic skills to rely on. You have to start as early as possible before they are behind in many areas.

The later years aren't ignored, but the emphasis should be on strengthening the basic skills. Yes I believe other areas are important, but if you are intervening to try to start changing a failing educational culture, you have to prove success that is tangible.

The kids should also be given some form of the Kalamazoo Promise. If kids have no end game when they graduate that gives them some hope, why bother? The promise can provide incentive for everybody through a system. Hope is like a light that people can follow through the darkest times.

Many will hang on through thick and thin following that light. As it is, too many school districts are devoid of real hope for those that need it most.

You will either build working schools or you will build prisons. We have already built far too many of the latter.

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Reply 'The Kalamazoo Promise' - Why These Kids Get A Free Ride To College (Original post)
Are_grits_groceries Sep 2012 OP
MichiganVote Sep 2012 #1
Are_grits_groceries Sep 2012 #3
MichiganVote Sep 2012 #4
gollygee Sep 2012 #2

Response to Are_grits_groceries (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 09:00 AM

1. Let me tell you a few things about this promise...


First off, disclosure-I work in this area, not for this particular school district but in another educational capacity.

Routinely--and I mean routinely, KPS encourages, strongly, students who are transient, receive special services or are delinquent to leave KPS and attend an adjoining school district. They do things like delay the start of attendance of special needs students on the basis that the parents did not walk in with the kid's IEP. People get fed up and leave.

KPS, like every single urban school district in the country, have significant problems with bullying or aggressive behavior on the part of students. The upshot is that parents get frustrated. Either their kid is the one being kicked around or the kids become so defensive that once they attend an adjoining district, they initiate aggression themselves in the belief that its every guy or girl for themselves. KPS often tells the parents of difficult kids that their child may do better in a "smaller district". Sometimes yes, usually no.

State testing. KPS also encourages parents of kids who are deficient on the state MEAP to attend a "smaller district". As the smaller districts have become school of choice, the previously KPS kids go to an adjoining district and predictably the smaller district's average yearly performance percentages decline. SO do the attendance measures.

Professionals surrounding the KPS district who work with special needs kids complain that when the kids with cognitive impairments enroll from KPS into the adjoining districts, they encounter parents and kids who are NOT going to be capable of completing a college curriculum. Period. They are not capable. But the parents, after years of hearing about the Promise, years of their kid failing with instructional methods that are not appropriate for their cognitive impairments-BELIEVE- that their child is going to college. Result-when the surrounding district employs teaching methods or curriculum that is a better fit for their kid, parents and the public complain schools are dumbing down the options for their kids.

The Promise is a great idea, in practice there are some real problems with it. For example, many of these marginal learners enroll in for profit colleges, rack up a ton of debt (the promise does not cover everything) and they end up in trouble with that. It is in the interest of KPS that they graduate as many students as possible as a part of this promise. Which is a good thing--but they lack any fall back program for the kids who just can't cut it.

Just sayin'.

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Response to MichiganVote (Reply #1)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 09:29 AM

3. Thanks

I still think it's a great idea, but it have to be corrections as problems develop.

I also think that the promise should be expanded beyond just a college education. If a student wants to go to a certified tech school or somewhere else to learn a trade, then that should be promised too. Junior colleges should be included.

There should be some structure set up that the students can reach out to when there are problems.

There are obvious problems that you have pointed out. It's still worth it to try a method of this sort.

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Response to Are_grits_groceries (Reply #3)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 02:45 PM

4. It does apply to community colleges. I'm not opposed to the Promise,


but its something that just doesn't pan out in some circumstances.

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Response to Are_grits_groceries (Original post)

Sat Sep 15, 2012, 09:20 AM

2. I grew up in this school district

and still leave nearby. I haven't heard anything negative from any of my friends and family who teach at the Kalamazoo Public Schools or anyone whose kids have attended the schools. It gives lots of kids an opportunity they wouldn't have othewise, and gives a real sense of hope. I'm a huge fan of the Kalamazoo Promise.

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