WCS, Winning Futures part of PBS special

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published February 26, 2014

 In August 2013, Charity McDonald — with Braxten, baby Avery in the stroller and grandma Vera Snyder — leave Siersma Elementary School after dropping off Alyssa, who entered second grade. Siersma is one of three Warren Consolidated Schools elementary schools that went to the year-round schedule this year. The year-round program will be featured on a Detroit Public Television special that will air at 9 p.m. Feb. 27.

In August 2013, Charity McDonald — with Braxten, baby Avery in the stroller and grandma Vera Snyder — leave Siersma Elementary School after dropping off Alyssa, who entered second grade. Siersma is one of three Warren Consolidated Schools elementary schools that went to the year-round schedule this year. The year-round program will be featured on a Detroit Public Television special that will air at 9 p.m. Feb. 27.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS — The spotlight will shine on Warren Consolidated Schools’ year-round concept implemented at three of its elementary schools this year and also on the Warren-based Winning Futures program.

Both are among many local educational programs that will be featured on a Detroit Public Television special to air at 9 p.m. Feb. 27.

The one-hour program highlights strategies designed to increase the graduation rate of high school students. The American Graduate Community Town Hall was taped previously for the station’s work in “American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen.” Detroit Public TV is WTVS Channel 56.

Prior to the town hall meeting, station representatives hosted community conversations with various local educators and community members to determine the discussion points for the broadcast, including safety, transportation, technology, and student mentorship.

“This Town Hall continues our commitment to working with our community to use the power of public television to take important steps toward solving the most important issues in and around metro Detroit,” Rich Homberg, president and CEO of Detroit Public Television, said in a prepared statement. “We hope families and educators will watch and learn about how schools are working to combat the dropout crisis with innovative thinking and action.”

Holden and Fillmore are located in Sterling Heights and Siersma in Warren. Holden Principal Cheryl Priemer is interviewed in the PBS special.

Year-round, also known as a balanced calendar, includes the same number of school days as traditional schools, but the days are organized differently. Year-round schools are based on the 12-month calendar, rather than the traditional nine-month calendar from September to June. Summer vacation, for instance, is approximately six weeks long in the year-round setting, as opposed to 12 weeks in a traditional calendar. Year-round classes begin in August, rather than September.

Year-round supporters say the concept will improve student achievement because it will reduce the time teachers spend during the first part of the school year reviewing curriculum from the previous year. Children also will retain what they learned over the summer because the break is much shorter. Students are engaged in their education all year long, proponents said. WCS officials had to apply to the State of Michigan for a waiver from the requirement to start school after Labor Day.

Siersma, Holden and Fillmore families not in favor of the year-round calendar were able to “opt out,” and families at schools not chosen to become year-round were able to “opt in.”

Winning Futures is a nonprofit organization that offers school-based mentoring programs and workshops for middle school and high school students at local schools, including Warren, Sterling Heights, Madison Heights, Detroit, Harper Wood and Pontiac. The program focuses on life skills, goal setting and career preparation.

Also featured on the special is Clintondale High School’s flipped school model of instruction. In its fourth year, CHS’s flipped model takes on a different approach to teaching and learning. Students do their homework in class with their teachers present, and listen to lectures and review materials while at home via computers, cellphones and other electronic devices.

“It was a very positive experience,” CHS Principal Greg Green said of the show. “They talk about our school in a community forum and how different people are addressing different ways to keep kids in school. We talk about how to best meet the needs of our students. There are lot of factors involved.”

Detroit Public TV is working closely with the PBS NewsHour on production of the town hall and is one of many community town halls being held nationwide.

Lincoln Park Middle School, Excellent Schools Detroit, Livonia Public Schools, Southgate’s Adult & Alternative Education Program, Detroit PAL and Girls on the Run are among the many other programs highlighted in the series.

The public media initiative was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps communities explore solutions to America’s high school dropout crisis.

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