To alleviate the racial disparities in outcomes for students, and to realize the vision of “every Bearcat graduating career, college and community ready,” Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS) has continued to make intensive investments in academic achievement programming for students and professional development, engagement and retention efforts for teachers.
Though early years of the BCPS transformation showed tangible progress in a number of areas, the COVID-19 pandemic caused deep disruptions to education across the nation. Academic achievement and attendance declined nationally, and BCPS was no exception, but the supports and innovations built by the district before the pandemic helped students and staff stay resilient. BCPS was able to avert severe learning loss because of transformation changes already in place, and community partners stepped up in unprecedented ways to help students and families cope with challenges.
Recognizing that improved instruction provides the biggest gains starting in early education, the transformation of BCPS includes significant support for the youngest students. BCPS has made significant investments in early learning and literacy, and data reflects that the benefits of these investments remain with children as they progress through the grades.
In fall 2019 for the third consecutive year, students who attended KSP scored higher DIBELS (a composite score estimate for reading proficiency) than their counterparts.
Data from October 2019 to January 2020 demonstrates that 68% of students who participated weekly in the reading buddies program achieved growth.
The launch of new programs and partnerships are tangible markers of progress, giving students access to more innovative and engaging learning models and boosting the district’s enrollment numbers.
To engage students intellectually and improve academic outcomes, BCPS has emphasized not only more time learning in school, but bringing in creative approaches to instruction that engage students’ interests and challenge their problem-solving abilities.
Personalized, caring relationships with teachers are proven to increase student performance. Yet, BCPS, like districts nationally, struggles with teacher retention, a challenge exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teachers have left education, resulting in a national teacher shortage crisis. According to a 2022 National Education Association (NEA) survey, a staggering 55% of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned.
BCPS is using creative strategies for recruitment and alternative certification pathways to build a stronger hiring pipeline. BCPS has also partnered with the city and other entities to offer incentives that draw teachers to the district and keep them here. Data reflects that these hiring and retention efforts are reducing teacher turnover.