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Flipping Negatives into Positives

Flipping Negatives into Positives

At the New Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School, Ricardo Martin is a positive guy. So turning negative school issues into positives is right up his alley. The Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School principal is already seeing the payoff.

In the first card marking, 76 percent of all DCP students passed all of their classes. Seventeen percent failed only one class. The new application school with 75 students
located in Northwestern High School is seeing such quick results, thanks to hard-working teachers and a new formula. The school is undertaking the Johns Hopkins University’s reform model called Talent Development. The model focuses on four areas: attendance, behavior, course performance and college readiness. “Everything that could be viewed as a negative, we flip as a positive,” Martin said. “We do a lot of nagging and nurturing. My goal is to graduate 85 percent of these students without  remediation.”

On Nov. 16, the school invited business leaders to sit down with the 75 freshmen and review their first semester report cards. (DCP will add a grade every year over the next three years. The school expects to add 120 students per grade as it builds capacity and 480 students by 2015). At the “Community Grade Conference,” students shared their report cards with outside professionals and got some encouraging words of advice to advance their academic and career goals. The idea was to put the students on the “hot seat” and analyze their course performance.

Medgar Clark, executive director of the Omega Foundation, endorsed the concept as an interviewer. “This is like the old village concept when the village elders take time to show the youth that they care,” he said. Harry Weaver, education director of the Michigan Anti-Defamation League, told Martin he wants to sign up for the next conferences. “I love the concept that a kid comes in here and sees someone they’ve never seen before in their life expressing concern for their future,” Weaver said. The students were asked about their future goals and how their grades are progressing. They were encouraged to keep working hard. Along with a list of graduation requirements, the students got certificates (“Congratulations” for passing all classes, “Good Job” for passing all but one class, “You Can Do It” for passing half their classes, and “It’s Not Too Late” if they are passing only one or no classes).

Deolis Allen, an educator, was impressed with another aspect of the school – the level of students he met. “They’re a cut above,” he said.

This article first appeared in The Detroit, Detroit’s teacher’s union newspaper, December 2011 issue.