“We are building the best school district in the country” shared Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal during her sixth GRPS State of Our Schools Address last Thursday.
5 ½ years ago, when Spt. Neal assumed the helm, our school district was languishing- languishing in a vicious cycle of low test scores, dropping graduation rates, declining enrollment and an insidious perception of under-performing. But for our superintendent? That was not the GRPS she knew and loved. Armed with a simple rule to “always do what is right for our kids,” Superintendent Neal started her listening tour and embarked on an ambitious transformation plan.
And how far we have come in those five years! This year’s address was a celebration of success, for our students, for our schools and for our communities. Test scores? Up! GRPS has seen the largest ACT test score gains in West Michigan. Graduation rates? Up! Increasing an astounding 50% in five years. Declining enrollment? Not in GRPS. Our school district offers choices families of the City of Grand Rapids want and need for the 21st century. Failing schools? Nope. Not a chance. Seven schools were successfully removed from the State of Michigan’s priority list. And Innovation Central High School joined City High School as one of the best high schools in the state. Our schools are succeeding. Our students are succeeding. We are changing the commonly accepted trajectory of urban education to one of hope and possibility.
But the work is not done. Now, more than ever, GRPS needs our community. Superintendent Neal shared the next challenge. We need to go “deeper and wider.” The next phase of our schools’ transformation plan focuses on helping all students at all grades meet the educational benchmarks needed for lifelong success. These targeted benchmarks are: Third-grade Literacy, Seventh-grade Science, and Eighth-grade Math, 11th grade College & Career Readiness and 12th Grade Graduation.
The Student Advancement Foundation is proud to say that we will be there, alongside GRPS and you, every step of the way. It is only through your investment of time, resources and advocacy that GRPS has been able to meet so many benchmarks over the past five years. And it is thanks to you and your continued commitment that we know we will succeed in meeting these next goals.