Development, People

New Detroit high school opens door to academic and future success

When the doors of the new Diplomas Now Detroit High School open this fall, the 160 freshman who will make up the inaugural class will notice that it is not your typical high school.  With a student to teacher ratio of 27:1, a near-peer tutor from City Year Detroit in every classroom and calls from a guidance counselor after three absences in a quarter, this high school promises to be a unique experience in Detroit Public Schools. 

While those facts are an important part of what makes this high school different, it is the attitude that principal Ricardo Martin wants to infuse the school with that seems to resonate most.

Ann Crowley, supervisor at Palmer Park Prep Academy, Ricardo Martin, principal Diplomas Now and Jessica Lovy, City Year Detroit senior corps member of year 2011

“I want to build a school where teachers teach students like the students are their own kids,” he stated.  “This will be a caring, nurturing environment where the kids know that people care about them.”

Martin has a zeal about making sure this high school works.  In fact, the former assistant principal at Mumford High School says that this is his dream job because of the partnerships involved in creating the high school.  When he first heard the high school would use Johns Hopkins’ Talent Development reform model as a guide, Communities in Schools to provide necessary learning supports like case management and City Year to provide mentors, he was excited.

He noted that the Johns Hopkins’ Talent Development model was successful in helping schools in cities like Chicago to outperform other schools in the same district with a 50 percent higher graduation rate. The model is set up to help students complete high school college ready.

Part of this talent development model is a skills camp that will be taking place August 17.  There students who will be attending Diplomas Now will have individual skills assessments and then faculty will work on developing an individual learning plan for each student.  Basic college prep courses will be required and students needing additional support will receive the help they need.

Some of that support will come from Communities in Schools case managers who will make sure that little things do not hold the students back, like not having the money for the right uniform.  In the classroom, the City Year Detroit corps members will provide tutoring and homework support.

As Martin points out, this is not just to help the students graduate, its also an effort to make sure they are college ready.  The commitment he and his staff is making to the community is to graduate 90 percent of their students and to have 90 percent of those graduates enroll in college, ready to learn without remediation.  His staff will even be paying attention to what colleges their students will be attending and when they graduate.

So who is the ideal student for this high school?

“This model is designed to help all students, the way the supports are in place make it successful for anyone,” says Martin.  “Good candidates are students who are motivated.”

This school will be located in the east wing of Northwestern High School on West Grand Boulevard.  Applications for this Detroit Public School high school can be found at http://diplomasnowdetroit.org

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