A community’s greatest asset is its children – and in an equitable society, all children have the opportunity to thrive. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in its founder’s hometown based on that premise. As Mr. Kellogg put it, he wanted the foundation “to help children everywhere face the future more confidently.” But in 2017, a New York University study commissioned by BCVision, a Battle Creek community engagement initiative, found that too many local children were struggling.
The challenges in Battle Creek mirrored those in other communities. After decades of public policy decisions and shrinking funding, city schools have more children of color and children living in poverty concentrated in their classrooms. In Battle Creek, student achievement gaps were widening.
The Battle Creek data became the motivation for a groundbreaking partnership with Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS). The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) made a five-year, $51 million grant in 2017 to the district to transform BCPS, prepare its students for success and share lessons with other communities. The partnership today is focused on three keys to transformation: Racial Equity, Community Engagement and Partnerships, and Excellence in Education.
This site shares learnings and achievements from the BCPS transformation. Battle Creek’s journey can inform equity-driven educational transformation nationwide. Explore this site for details, data and background on achievements, opportunities and lessons learned thus far, including the firsthand experiences and insights of students, parents, teachers, community partners and leaders in the district, city and foundation.
At the heart of the transformation of BCPS is racial equity. Racial equity is an aspirational pursuit insisting that all people, regardless of their racial/ethnic group identification, skin color or physical traits, will have equal opportunity to experience well-being, and that their skin color will not determine how they are treated or their life outcomes. Racial equity guides all aspects of the work of this transformation, including curricula creation, parent outreach and school culture. Through the partnership, the district has implemented new training protocols, new school climate and discipline policies and adopted a core value of running a trauma-informed district that sees every student by name, need and strength.
Nobody knows better than members of a community of what’s needed to improve the lives of children and families. Community Engagement is the process of working collaboratively with people to address issues they identify as priorities. When communities drive how problems are defined, how decisions are made and how solutions are created, long-term change is possible. We also know that the success of BCPS and its students is inextricably connected to the economic and general well-being of the city. With this in mind, the work of transforming BCPS has been a collaborative effort across the city, leveraging the best of the city and all its people.
To address racial disparities in student achievement, and to realize the vision of “every Bearcat graduating career, college and community-ready,” WKKF’s grant has supported intensive investments in academic achievement programming for students and professional development, engagement and retention efforts for teachers. Supporting capacity building efforts for teachers is especially important because working in a network or collaborative fashion is necessary to solve the most challenging problems.