DETROIT – The General Motors Foundation is making a quality preschool education possible for 256 children in Detroit’s most challenged neighborhoods through a $500,000 grant in support of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) of Michigan.
“Early education is a critical factor in the long-term success of our children. This very generous gift from the GM Foundation will make a huge difference in the lives of our children, and we are very grateful for the support,” Education Achievement Authority Chancellor John Covington said.
Established in 2011, the EAA took over and is turning around 15 persistently failing schools in Detroit. The GM Foundation funding enabled the EAA to expand its reach into early learning and create 16 new “GM Foundation Early Learning Classrooms” within the following six Detroit elementary schools:
- Nolan Elementary-Middle, 1150 E. Lantz St. – 5 classrooms
- Law Academy, 19490 Carrie St. – 3 classrooms
- Burns Elementary, 14350 Terry St. – 2 classrooms
- Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary, 8145 Puritan St. – 2 classrooms
- Brenda Scott Academy for Theatre Arts, 18440 Hoover St. – 2 classrooms
- Phoenix Multicultural Academy, 7735 Lane St. – 2 classrooms
The 16 classrooms, each comprising 16 students, are served by one teacher and one paraprofessional. Each student in the program is now in class four full days each week. Fridays are reserved for parent conferences and home visits to give students and families critical support. The Michigan Department of Education’s Great Start readiness program is funding staffing for 12 of the 16 classrooms, and the EAA has requested staffing for the four additional rooms.
According to United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Detroit has an estimated population of 738,223, with 51,872 children ages 4 and under. It is estimated that 41,093 of these children are from families of high need. Of the 222,655 children age 3 or older enrolled in school, 5.3 percent attend nursery or preschool and 4.8 percent attend kindergarten. The unemployment rate among adults is 26.4 percent, well above the statewide rate of 12.3 percent. The mean family income of $39,327 is notably below the state average of $64,478.
Only one in 20 Detroit children evaluated, or 5.3 percent, scored in the 75th percentile on all five scales of the Early Development Instrument, and 16.3 percent scored in the 75th percentile on four or more scales – the key benchmark associated with overall kindergarten readiness.
“Given these facts, it is imperative that we continue our work with the Education Achievement Authority, United Way and educators to do all we can to reverse this startling trend,” said GM Foundation President Vivian Pickard. “We are determined to reach students at their earliest years to be sure they have every opportunity to succeed in school, and in life.”
The Michigan Education Excellence Foundation supports specific opportunities and initiatives to develop the educational success of Michigan students, including the startup money for the Education Achievement Authority and other initiatives that promote innovative and transformative solutions that can improve Michigan’s underperforming schools. This partnership of volunteer business, foundation, nonprofit and government leaders are engaged in raising more than $100 million to support these initiatives. Foundation Chair Steve Hamp said the organization “is excited about the General Motors Foundation’s ongoing support of education and its funding of the early childhood classrooms, which may be a life changer for the most vulnerable among us.”
The GM Foundation Early Learning Classrooms will foster a student-centered approach to teaching and learning focused on mathematics, science, social studies, critical thinking, social-emotional development, language/literacy and creative development. In addition, the rooms will be infused with technology to help prepare students for the learning platforms they will experience in kindergarten and beyond. United Way’s “Living Social” program will be incorporated into the schools to provide performing arts lessons and feedback to students twice per week.
Measurement is also a hallmark of the initiative. The Early Development Instrument will be used to measure the effectiveness of the Pre-K programs, allowing Detroit educators to compare strengths and weaknesses in child development and school readiness across communities. It takes into consideration important factors such as poverty rates, resident mobility, and the availability of preschools, family support providers, libraries and health providers.
“The GM Foundation has made a commitment to fundamentally improve the lives of our children and the larger community,” said Michael J. Brennan, president and CEO, United Way. “This investment will go a long way in laying the foundation for success for some of Detroit’s youngest children. We applaud the type of corporate leadership the GM Foundation has shown time and again.”
In December 2010, the GM Foundation pledged its largest grant ever – $27.1 million to United Way – to establish a “Network of Excellence” in seven Detroit-area high schools and raise graduation rates from roughly 50 percent to 80 percent over five years. Nearly three full years into the Network of Excellence initiative, attendance rates at all seven schools exceed 90 percent, and ACT scores are rising. These are promising early indicators for increased graduation rates.
Two of the high schools – Henry Ford and Central Collegiate – are operated by the EAA.
General Motors’ teamGM Cares volunteers are active in the Network of Excellence schools and served more than 1,200 hours last year mentoring and supporting the schools and students.
The grant also supports 65 Early Learning Centers in 10 of Detroit’s most challenged neighborhoods to ensure that children start kindergarten ready to learn. Additionally, the funds are invested in key Detroit hospitals, where new mothers who agree to read to their child can receive a book per month until their child is 5.