Put a Fork In Him; He's Dunn

Via the NCTQ blog, a dispatch from Western Michigan. Someone who's done with status quo:

Western Michigan University President John Dunn wants the university’s education program, which was recently downgraded to an “at-risk” status by the state, to be among the best in three years.

“I’m not trying to ignore we have work to do; let's do it,” said Dunn during an interview at WMUK 102.1 FM on Wednesday that included the Kalamazoo Gazette/MLive. “All hands are on board; this is an opportunity to think different and to challenge ourselves."

Okay then. Now what? They'll raise GPA required to enter the teacher prep program. Also

....(Dunn) said education programs need to be based on results.

“Is it appropriate to think that one could be successful with 25 and 30 kids if you haven’t demonstrated you can be successful with one, two or three?” Dunn asked. “We need to demonstrate change in learning one-to-one and then can you do that in triads. It’s about a change in behavior and learning outcomes.”

Our teacher residents spend 140 full-time days working with kids 1-on-1, 2-on-1, or 3-on-1 as part of their preparation, both in English and math, irrespective of what subject they ultimately want to teach.

President Dunn: feel free to visit us in Boston. Your colleague, University of Michigan's Deborah Ball, enjoyed her visit some months back.

WM is in Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo high school grads all get offered free scholarship to college! From the NY Times Magazine, a long story by Ted Fishman:

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.

So how is it going?

Seven classes covered by the Promise have graduated, but fewer than 500 students have received their college degrees so far. That figure reflects the difficulties students have faced in trying to complete college in four years. The first cohort of students, especially those from low-income families, has had an especially hard time finishing. It is not just that they are underprepared academically, though some are. Attending college — free or not — also imposes other opportunity costs, like delayed wages, that can be hard to bear.

Let's connect the dots. If WM-minted teachers arrive as better rookies, kids will learn more; if they learn more, they'll be better prepared to take advantage of the Kalamazoo Promise, and actually earn college degrees.