Pearl Lean recognized for outstanding academic progress

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published December 19, 2022

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WARREN — Pearl Lean Elementary in the Warren Consolidated Schools District was one of five Michigan public schools the Education Trust-Midwest recently recognized through its 2022 Building the Hope Schools program.

The Education Trust-Midwest is a data-driven education policy, research, and advocacy organization that works to close gaps in opportunity and achievement for all children, particularly those from low-income backgrounds and students of color.

“Building the Hope Schools truly represent what it means to provide opportunities for all students, demonstrating that our public schools can make great strides for our most underserved students while serving as culturally- and linguistically-affirming places for children from all backgrounds,” Jen DeNeal, director for policy and research at The Education Trust-Midwest, said in a prepared statement. “We can learn so much from these schools and their educators. Their successful pre-pandemic strategies can provide a roadmap, particularly as schools work to help our most underserved students who were most impacted during COVID-19 recover from the pandemic.”

Pearl Lean was selected as a Building the Hope School because its students from low-income backgrounds and English learners demonstrated growth above the state average in both English language arts and math for three straight years.

Pearl Lean also stood out with its intentional language support and instruction, its dedication to its school community, and attention to celebrating diverse communities. For instance, the media center has books with diverse characters in them, so the students see themselves, know they matter and feel connected to the community. According to staff, that will encourage them to read more.

“Building the Hope Schools had been looking at data. They sought us out,” Pearl Lean Principal Kerry Keener said. “It was a lengthy process. They interviewed parents, students and staff and visited our school.”

Keener credits the strong working relationship between the Pearl Lean classroom teachers, English learner teachers, and Title I teachers to help the students be successful. Forty percent of the school’s students are Bengali and are learning the English language.

“There are 25 different languages at our building. We really have a really strong English language learners program. We pull students out of the classroom and they work in small groups with their teachers,” Keener said. “It gets the kids who are new caught up to speed a little more quickly. Working with these small groups helps tremendously. Our English language arts scores have made some nice gains.”

Keener said the English language learners are in the regular classrooms but are pulled out of class three times a week for 40 minutes to work on their English-speaking skills.

“I am so, so proud of our team while trying to provide a better education for our kids,” Keener said. “The students have made great strides and we’re working really hard.”

Because of the recognition, the school will receive $3,500. At this time, staff is still deciding how to best utilize the money, but one suggestion is to make more learning spaces for the students.