MSU receives Mott Foundation grant to improve education in Flint schools

March 17, 2016
Educators in training

Educators from Flint Community Schools train with specialists from Michigan State University’s College of Education.

Michigan State University has received a $2 million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to help the Flint Community Schools improve the quality of education for children in Flint.

Up to 25 MSU specialists and professors have been working with educators in the district since before the school year began to implement systemic changes. The College of Education team also is collaborating with other departments and programs at MSU to mitigate the effects of lead poisoning from Flint’s recent water crisis.

The new partnership is the latest of MSU’s education projects in Flint over the past half century.

Barbara Markle

Barbara Markle

“We are providing on-the-ground support to effect educational change in a district that is committed to increasing student progress,” said Barbara Markle, assistant dean for K-12 Outreach. “We have been able to develop a high level of trust with the teachers and administrators, who are so dedicated to the children of Flint.”

The university’s Office of K-12 Outreach, led by Markle, has a proven record of turning around some of Michigan’s lowest achieving schools through coordinated support such as coaching for principals, professional development for school teams and assistance with using data to improve teaching.

MSU was already working under contract to help improve schools in Flint identified as “priority” schools by the Michigan Department of Education. With support from the Office of K-12 Outreach, one of them, Neithercut Elementary School, was recently removed from the state’s priority designation for making significant progress.

The Mott Foundation grant provides resources to expand that work and support change throughout the entire district, which is responsible for educating more than 5,000 students.

“We are grateful for this grant and our partnership with MSU, which will allow us to create sustainable improvements in student achievement,” said Superintendent Bilal Tawwab. “At Flint Community Schools, we are reinventing our schools and building programs with the goal of ensuring teachers can teach and students can learn.”

During the two-year project, MSU plans to focus on four areas of work:

  1. Student support, including a new pre-kindergarten and early elementary initiative and a system of supports for students at every stage until high school graduation.
  2. Curriculum and teaching, including strategies and training to improve achievement in all subject areas, align curriculum across the district and create professional learning communities for teachers.
  3. Leadership and organizational coherence, including coaching and training for administrators, supporting central office and assisting with data collection and evaluation.
  4. Community relations, including efforts to improve communication between central office, the school buildings and the community.

“Superintendent Tawwab has set a vision for increased accountability, higher student achievement and improved operational efficiency,” said Jennifer Liversedge, program officer for the Mott Foundation. “We are encouraged by the energy, focus, engagement and responsiveness being demonstrated by the new superintendent and his staff. We believe the groundwork has been laid for this new work and the district is well-positioned to utilize this grant to make meaningful academic and administrative changes benefitting students and their families.”