KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A $29.5 million grant will help two Western Michigan University faculty members expand educational opportunities for thousands of children and their families. Drs. Patricia Reeves and Jianping Shen were awarded the grant through the U.S. Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods Program. One of the largest federal grants in University history, it will fund the Grand Rapids Southeast Promise Neighborhood Project.
“The College of Education and Human Development has been a key player in promoting learning in Southwest Michigan for more than a century. This grant and the proposed project demonstrate our continuing commitment to the communities we serve," says Dr. Ming Li, dean of the College of Education and Human Development.
Western along with a group of partners, including Baxter Community Center, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, Family Futures, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kent Intermediate School District and LINC UP, will create a complete continuum of cradle-to-career solutions for both educational programs and family and community supports, with great schools at the center.
The five-year project, funded at roughly $6 million a year, will address a pipeline of 14 evidence-based solutions for student success, including school readiness, literacy and math success, transitions to middle and high school, post-secondary preparation, and a variety of student and family health and security targets.
"Grand Rapids Public Schools is incredibly grateful to Western Michigan University for securing program funding that will have a profound impact on the students in our school district," says Dr. Leadriane Roby, superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools, who earned her doctoral degree from Western's educational leadership, research and technology program. "GRPS and its partners in this endeavor share a common commitment to improving educational success for children residing in Southeast Grand Rapids. The Promise Neighborhoods grant will empower all of us to increase capacity for programming that will enhance our 'cradle-to-career' solutions. We are excited to roll up our sleeves and work collaboratively to improve developmental, educational and social outcomes for the children of Southeast Grand Rapids."
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which has invested in Grand Rapids and built the prototype for the partnership, helped bring organizations together for this important work.
"We are proud to have partnered in the collaborative effort that has led to the exciting announcement of a Promise Neighborhoods award for Grand Rapids,” says Yazeed Moore, program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “At the Kellogg Foundation, children are at the heart of everything we do, and we know that for all children to thrive, their communities need to be equitable places of opportunity.
“This award will ensure our community partners and stakeholders in the city have the support and resources they need to make sure all children, regardless of zip code and address, have the ability to succeed in school, work and life. We look forward to continuing to work alongside our community partners to improve outcomes for children and families in Grand Rapids."
Reeves and Shen received a $12.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Education in 2017 to fund the High-Impact Leadership (HIL) for School Renewal Project, then one of the largest single grants ever awarded to the University. The project, aimed at intense school leadership development and student achievement in high-poverty schools across West Michigan, was so successful in its first three years that it earned an additional $3.2 million, two-year grant renewal—one of only four programs in the country to do so.
“The work will build on what we have done through the HIL Project/SEED Grant and take us into new venues for the work of positive, transformative change in the pursuit of equity and excellence for all students and their educators,” explains Reeves, principal investigator on the grant and professor emeritus of educational leadership, research and technology.
The Principles, Practice and School Renewal Processes established in the HIL project will be utilized in collaboration with district and community partners to establish the leadership capacity to implement the 14 solutions with fidelity and integrity to the students and families of the Grand Rapids Promise Neighborhood.
The neighborhood being served by the grant is located in the southeast quadrant of Grand Rapids, the second largest city in Michigan, and includes one high school and 12 feeder schools. Each year, about 9,500 children from birth to grade 12 and an average of 9,600 adults will be served by the grant.
The project is both cost-effective and sustainable. It has strong advisory, leadership and implementation teams and a rigorous measurement and evaluation process that will promote continuous improvement and document lessons learned. The ultimate goal of this project is to not only improve the child and student outcomes in Southeast Grand Rapids but also to add to the body of evidence of methods that can be used to improve all impoverished neighborhoods as well as their schools, children and students.
“Children are the future of our society. Our team looks forward to working with partners in Grand Rapids to improve children’s outcomes there,” says Shen, co-investigator on the project and professor of educational leadership and evaluation, measurement and research.
About the Investigators
Dr. Patricia Reeves specializes in educational leadership, organizational change, education policy, and educational research and evaluation. Her research interests include school and district leadership practices, systems and processes; school leader performance assessment, development and credentialing; and collaborative partnerships to achieve equity of learning opportunity and outcomes for all students. Before joining the WMU faculty, Reeves held several positions in K-12 schools including teacher, instructional specialist, director of instruction and superintendent.
Dr. Jianping Shen is the John E. Sandberg Professor of Education and the Gwen Frostic Endowed Chair at WMU. He has directed or co-directed, before this new award, numerous externally funded projects totaling more than $35 million from the U.S. Department of Education, Wallace Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Spencer Foundation, among others. The projects have focused on such topics as principal leadership, teacher leadership, school renewal and systemic change. Shen directs the Merze Tate Center for Grants and Innovation and the Center for Educational Leadership and Policy. He has published more than 100 journal articles and had seven books.
Reeves and Shen were both selected as Distinguished Research and Creative Scholarship awardees by the Research Recognition Committee in the WMU Office of the Vice President of Research in 2017.