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Survey: Fewer are down on the Detroit district, and younger students are more engaged than last year

Anthony Lanzilote

Teachers, families and especially central office staff in the Detroit school district are more likely than they were last year to recommend the district as a place to enroll or work, according to new survey results.

That may bode well for the district’s recruitment efforts, given last year half or more of the teachers and central office staff in the district were considered detractors, meaning they wouldn’t recommend the district.

There are fewer detractors, but the results show there’s significant room for improvement in a district where increasing enrollment and recruiting staff are crucial to efforts to improve academic achievement in the district. “If DPSCD employees aren’t promoting the district, then who will?” Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said when he released the survey results during a recent school board meeting.

Nearly 55,000 students, families, teachers, support staff, instructional leaders, and central office staff completed a survey on topics ranging from bullying and school safety to teacher evaluation and staff engagement.

Last year was the first time the district conducted such a wide-scale survey. Among the responses this year, and how they compared with last year:

  • 43% of teachers, support staff and instructional leaders are unlikely to recommend the district, down from 50%.
  • 40% of central office staff are considered detractors, down from 63%.
  • 36% of parents and guardians are considered detractors, down from 40%.

Vitti said he was proud of the improvement seen nearly across the board in the survey results. The biggest increases were among students in grades 3-5. He attributed that to the district’s launch of a new curriculum in English language arts, and math in grades K-8.

“Overall, students felt more engaged. They felt the overall material was rigorous. It led to better student to teacher relationships.”

At the high school level, fewer students were engaged, and fewer had positive views about rigorous expectations, teacher-student relationships and school climate.

“We’re seeing stagnation,” Vitti said of the high school results, which were flat from last year. “That’s where the least reform has occurred.”

Vitti said he believes the high school results will improve after the district launches a new curriculum in English language arts and math for grades 9-12 for the coming school year.

Results for teachers, too, showed a need for improvement, particularly in areas such as career progression, academic expectations and evaluations.

Several district principals spoke during the public comment period of the meeting about what they see as progress.

“I like where the district is going,” said Tonya Norwood, principal at Noble Elementary-Middle School. “It’s changing the whole dynamics of our school.”

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