EducationRacial Equity

Exciting launch to the school year at BCPS: More opportunities than ever for students & staff


While the students entering kindergarten this year at Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS) are focused on making friends and learning to read, their families can send them off knowing that college is already within their reach. The Bearcat Advantage scholarship, announced this spring, will cover up to 100% of tuition and fees at any four-year Michigan college or university or Historically Black College or University across the country for BCPS high school graduates — including these youngest BCPS students embarking on their exciting academic journeys.

These early learners will be the district’s first cohort to go through primary and secondary education knowing that finances will not be a barrier to higher education. They can explore the myriad opportunities throughout BCPS as a springboard to launch them into bright and exciting futures.

“The Bearcat Advantage takes our district transformation to the next level. With this scholarship, BCPS graduates can take on the world and thrive in any field they choose — with fewer financial barriers holding them back,” said BCPS Superintendent Kimberly Carter. “At BCPS, we’ve always believed that equity is about opportunities. Now, more Bearcats have the opportunity to go forth into this world and let their light shine.” 

The Bearcat Advantage is just one of the latest offerings for BCPS students and families that the district has implemented with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. As the new school year begins, BCPS is a stronger district than ever.

 In a school system where, just a few years ago, student outcomes were the poorest among Battle Creek’s four districts due to systemic inequities and declining enrollment, there are now more exciting opportunities than ever to achieve the goal of 100% success for every Bearcat. 

And those opportunities are becoming an increasing draw throughout the community, helping bring families back into the district who may have previously transferred out of BCPS using Michigan’s school of choice program prior to the transformation. In the 2021-22 school year, BCPS enrollment increased for the first time in over a decade, and has continued to grow since then. District leaders also hope the Bearcat Advantage scholarship will continue to boost enrollment numbers in the year to come.

Key developments that are making this upcoming year so special include: 

  • Historic salary increases recognize teachers’ role in student success. Thanks to increasing student enrollment, the district now has the financial resources to substantially increase teacher salaries starting this school year by an average of more than $10,000 at every level. In announcing this to BCPS staff, Superintendent Kimberly Carter acknowledged the pandemic’s strain on teachers over the last few years, and shared that she next aims to increase salaries for other BCPS staff who have also contributed to the transformation and student success. These salary increases are in addition to several other great compensation opportunities for staff, including paid professional development and mortgage and rental assistance. Last school year, for example, 132 teachers took advantage of paid professional development sessions, totaling up to $149,500 in additional compensation for teachers. 
  • Fremont International Academy elementary school is now officially authorized as an International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) school. After four years as an IB candidate school, Fremont has been officially designated as an internationally recognized member of the worldwide network of IB schools, the first in Calhoun County. By nurturing inquiry-based learning, critical thinking and holistic development in young learners, Fremont prepares students to become active, compassionate global citizens. For example, in the 2022-23 school year, every Fremont student had at least 63 hours of Spanish instruction, and of the 5th graders taking the Spanish 1 proficiency exam, 86% earned high school credit. These efforts have attracted new students to join the Bearcat family: Fremont is expecting record-high enrollment for the 2023-24 school year at 364 students. 
  • IB learning will soon continue through middle school. Springfield Middle School is now an IB Middle Years Programme candidate school, a transition which will allow Fremont students and families to continue this educational experience into middle school. The IB curriculum will build on Springfield’s service learning model which encourages students to engage with the Battle Creek community. As Fremont did, Springfield will begin to operate as an IB candidate school while working toward formal authorization, with students benefiting immediately from the IB curriculum and approach. 
  • Middle school choices grow. The addition of an IB candidate experience in middle school is part of an ongoing effort to transform BCPS middle school opportunities, made possible by a community bond approved in 2021. This summer, work began to remodel Northwestern Middle School and facilitate the school’s transition by Fall of 2025 into a K-8 academy of visual and performing arts. The BC STEM Innovation Center magnet middle school (BC STEM, for short), continues to thrive, accepting 68 new students for this school year. 
  • Scholarships propel graduates to lifelong success. Members of Battle Creek Central High School’s (BCCHS) class of 2023 are preparing to start their next chapters, with many of them moving on to post-secondary education. The class of 2023 earned a total of $4.2 million in scholarships. In addition to those scholarships, the Bearcat Advantage is providing funding to 37 students, with more than half of those students receiving 100% coverage for tuition and mandatory fees. Sixty-eight percent of the awardees are also first-generation college students. The Bearcat Advantage is the latest option in a suite of higher education scholarships and funding opportunities available to BCPS graduates, including Legacy Scholars and the Grand Valley State University Health and Teacher Education Pipeline Scholarships.
  • More students are entering kindergarten ready to learn. This summer, 76 students participated in the BCPS Kindergarten Success Program, a free, full-day kindergarten preparation summer program that builds foundational skills for future school success. Battle Creek’s investment in early childhood education continues to pay off, tripling the kindergarten readiness rate over the past decade and surpassing the national average despite a community poverty rate that is more than twice the national average.

“We are proud of our shared history with the Battle Creek community and have been thrilled to partner with BCPS over the past six years,” said Megan Russell Johnson, WKKF Program Officer. “I know that this next school year will bring even more to celebrate as we watch more Bearcats go on the path towards success. Good luck in school this year to everyone!” 


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