Kellogg Foundation website shows improvements in Battle Creek schools

BATTLE CREEK—Officials of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation announced the launch of a new web site, ChangeStartsHereBCPS.org, to share achievements, opportunities and lessons learned thus far, four years after the foundation’s $51 million donation to the Battle Creek Public Schools.

This district-wide effort began in 2017 after a New York University study of the community’s education system unearthed significant disinvestments in BCPS, which compared to surrounding districts had higher needs and fewer resources.

The study revealed that racial bias and segregation, compounded by income inequality, had resulted in a higher concentration of poverty among families of color in the school district, causing further economic and racial disparities in the community. It also revealed achievement gaps between BCPS and other Battle Creek area school districts in educational metrics such as test scores, grade-level reading and graduation rates.

With the $51 million grant to BCPS, the Kellogg Foundation committed to transparency about how the funds were spent and the district’s progress to achieve its strategic plan, which is rooted in six goals.

“The past year has revealed to all of us how urgent it is that we work together to achieve racial healing and racial equity in communities across the country,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We know that educational equity is a huge part of that. While we know it will take more than five years to undo the damage done by decades of disinvestment in the district, we believe the extraordinary work of Battle Creek Public Schools to transform so much in such a short period of time can serve to inform equity-driven educational transformation nationwide.”

This website features stories and data of the transformation, with firsthand experiences and insights of students, parents, teachers, community partners and leaders in the district, city and foundation. The site, which includes a timeline of the transformation, what’s been achieved and what’s been learned, is categorized into three areas: Racial Equity, Community Engagement and Partnerships, and Excellence in Education.

The district has built an educational environment that centers racial equity, seeing every student by name, need and strength. This individualized education effort is rooted in culturally-responsive teaching practices and the understanding that every student arrives at school with different experiences and needs. This approach positioned BCPS to respond well to the COVID-19 pandemic. The district distributed 491,128 meals to students between March 17 and June 30 of 2020 and made a $1.5 million investment in new technology to close the digital divide for students.

“Four years ago, we asked the Battle Creek community to ‘believe in change,’” said BCPS Superintendent Kimberly Carter. “Today, it’s clear how much we’ve accomplished. BCPS families now have more options than ever before for their students, depending on their interests and talents. We couldn’t have done this without the support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the devotion from our staff, teachers and leaders and the collaboration from every Bearcat family member and community partner. The success of the transformation is a testament to the strength of our community.”

The district has supported leaders and staff with training and education from the National Equity Project and Transformational Teacher Institute. It has also lowered teacher turnover by offering pay increases, continuing education opportunities, mentoring, classroom supports and encouragement to live in the district with a real estate improvement plan.

BCPS has also offered many new programs and supports for students:

  • A summer learning program for pre-K students that has contributed to a community continuum of early childhood opportunities that has led to the improvement of the kindergarten readiness rate in Battle Creek from 15.5 percent in 2013-14 to 50.1 percent in 2020-21.
  • Two new magnet schools:
    • Fremont International Academy, an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program candidate school
    • Battle Creek STEM Innovation Center, a middle school featuring project-based learning and cutting-edge technology
  • A new focus on helping students graduate career path-ready:
    • A new career academy structure in partnership with Ford Next Generational Learning
    • A cutting-edge healthcare simulation lab where students can gain full Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification
    • A partnership with Grand Valley State University to offer scholarships, advice and counseling to students at a new Battle Creek-based outreach center

WKKF’s five-year grant is in Year Four, so the partnership continues and the site will be updated periodically to reflect new developments, achievements and learnings.

Founded in 1930, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States, focusing on poverty reduction programs in Michigan, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico in the United States, and Mexico and Haiti internationally. More at www.wkkf.org

The Battle Creek Public Schools district serves the cities of Battle Creek and Springfield, as well as portions of Emmett, Pennfield, and Bedford townships in Calhoun County.

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