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2015 Education Excellence Award Winners

MASB, with the generous support of the SET SEG Foundation, is proud to honor the 20 innovative programs listed below with the 2015 Education Excellence Award. These districts have found unique solutions to complex educational challenges, and haven’t let financial challenges and limited resources stand in the way of attaining excellence.

The Education Excellence Awards honor the top local school districts in four categories, as well as the top intermediate school district programs. Winning programs receive an unrestricted cash donation from the SET SEG Foundation, a trophy and metal street sign to display in their community proclaiming their district an “Education Excellence Winner.”


Writing Center, Skyline High

Ann Arbor Public Schools

The Skyline Writing Center is a peer tutoring program that helps students become better writers by providing differentiated support at every stage of the writing process. Approximately 30 juniors and seniors are rigorously trained to staff the Writing Center each year. The Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan assists us with training and support. The Writing Center was founded in 2012 as a response to the challenges facing our educational community: reduced funding, increasing class sizes and an inability to significantly reduce achievement gaps that has led to Skyline’s status as a Focus School. We offer high-quality support services to students in our physical writing center location every hour of every  school day, in our Online Writing Lab at all times, and through push-in tutoring upon teacher request. Our mission also includes engaging Skyline’s creative community. Each year, we publish Teen Spirit, a literary magazine that features student writing, art and multimedia. The National Council of Teachers of English rated our first two issues as “superior.” In addition, our organization sponsored the first annual Skyline Writing Prize, a writing competition that was judged by a group of teachers from across the curriculum.

Rise and Shine, Longacre Elementary

Farmington Public Schools

Rise and Shine is offered four days each week for 30 minutes before school at Longacre Elementary. Based upon the work of Harvard Medical School professor John Ratey with high school students in Naperville, Ill., and outlined in his book “Spark,” the program gives students in first through fourth grades an opportunity to experience vigorous exercise with their physical education teacher immediately before beginning the academic day. Ratey’s research suggests exercise stimulates brain cell growth (neurogenesis). In his study, students who did before school exercise showed significant academic performance differences over control groups. With vigorous exercise as the goal, the sessions begin with simple tag games followed by a circuit that includes instruction in multidirectional speed and agility, and multiple stations encouraging functional strength, balance and coordination designed to be fun and compelling. A cornerstone of Rise and Shine is the stewardship that the older students demonstrate in mentoring younger ones. Students frequently explain the rules for games and work with each other to teach new movements. Each session ends in a large group game designed to energize students before they head off to morning homeroom instruction. Now in its fifth year, the program averages 30 students participating every day.

Mandarin Dual Immersion and Spanish K-14 Program

Farwell Area Schools

Farwell has an extremely high population of at-risk, low socioeconomic students who had previously fallen behind many of the world languages opportunities offered at different districts around the state and country. The scope of this program is one of the grandest in the state, especially for high-poverty rural school districts, that seeks to provide students with a robust exposure to another language and culture while ensuring standard curricula is also met. The program involved a dual language Mandarin Chinese immersion (only one of five in state) that began in the preschool held in the elementary. Currently, students can still attend a virtual classroom taught by a teacher at Michigan State University. Likewise, students in the elementary take Spanish as “a specials class” and continue with their instruction in the middle and high schools. By their sophomore year, students can dual enroll in college Spanish courses taught in the high school and continue with 200-level coursework in their junior year. The ultimate goal for students who take full advantage of the program offerings is to graduate from high school with college credit, as well as high levels of proficiency in three languages (Spanish, Chinese and English).

College Immersion for Urban Students, University High

Ferndale Public Schools

The University High School and Wayne State University partnership is a unique program focused on providing urban students with a college immersion experience in their senior year of high school. This is the 10th year partnering with a university, but only the second with WSU. The partnership between a high school and a university represents a shift in the traditional structure of secondary education. In this unique “school without walls,” the students have the opportunity to experience college life while still attending high school. For many students, often the first college-going members of their families, the college experience is their very first exposure to the rigors and expectations of university life. The success of UHS graduates is directly attributable to the College Immersion Partnership and the innovative, nontraditional approach to urban education that UHS and its partners have undertaken. Ultimately, the goals of the program are to provide urban students with immersion experiences on a university campus in order to better prepare them for the challenges and expectations of university life, as well as to help them learn vital skills for college success BEFORE they leave for college.

Engineering Program, Frankenmuth High

Frankenmuth School District

Ten years ago, FSD adopted the following vision—High Academic Achievement for All and a Place for ALL students. Research shows that students who participate in extracurricular activities perform better in the classroom. One of the groups being slighted included those who had an interest in tinkering, tearing things apart, the inventors and the problem solvers. With that in mind, in 2009, teacher Rob Baker approached the Convergence Foundation with his vision to create an engineering program. A grant of $25,000 was awarded to provide start-up funds. Since that time, the Engineering Program has expanded to include three levels and has led to the development of additional extracurricular opportunities for students. The goal is to expose students to hand-on projects designed to get them thinking about how things work. Some of the objectives are to ensure students learn an overview of engineering and technology disciplines, basic design and testing protocols, basic elementary engineering theory through projects, explore C++ programming, Maple or MatLab, and Labview, and be encouraged to join competitive or extracurricular clubs.

Hospitality Program, Kent Career Technical Center

Kent Intermediate School District

Started in 1972, Kent ISD’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Program has served as an exemplary model for training students in this field. The program, based at the Kent Career Technical Center, is the first educational program in Michigan to be endorsed and accredited by the American Culinary Federation Educational Foundation and was recently honored by the Michigan Department of Education with an Excellence in Practice Award. In 2012, the Bakery, Cafeteria and Restaurant at KCTC earned Michigan’s first Three-Star Green-Certified Restaurant from the Green Restaurant Association. The goal of the program is to introduce students to a variety of careers in the hospitality industry, including travel and tourism, food service and lodging. After completing two years in the hospitality program, students are given the opportunity to take the American Culinary Federation’s NOCTI test in culinary arts. Students who receive passing scores can receive certification as a certified junior culinarian or certified junior pastry cook. For the 2013-2014 school year, 60 percent of students passed the NOCTI test and qualified for their certification.

TV & Broadcast Media, Frederick V. Pankow Center

L’Anse Creuse Public Schools

TV & Broadcast Media allows students to leave the confines of the classroom to expand learning opportunities offering authentic, performance-based, hands-on learning experiences. Students take a look at real issues in their community and report their research through first-person interviews and third-person research, broadcasting their findings. Students learn through a variety of methods, experiencing how news is reported and how films are created using the latest equipment in filming and editing. They study news broadcasts, commercials, kinetic typography, public service announcements and filmmaking techniques through a variety of media. Then, they create the best methods to convey messages through video stories based on the class discussion, projects and real-life experiences with the goal of eventual employment in the industry.

Jump Start, Lawton Elementary

Lawton Community Schools

The Lawton Elementary Jump Start Program was created to help combat “Summer Slide” or a loss in academic gains that often occurs over the summer months. The Jump Start Program was implemented in the summer of 2012, and has been able to continue servicing 40-60 students each summer. The program best serves students toward the end of the summer to give them a “jump” start on the upcoming year. Jump Start runs for four weeks and students are asked to attend Monday through Thursday. Two certified teachers, along with three paraprofessionals, implement researched-based reading and math strategies to help students become more efficient in the areas of reading and mathematics.

Empowering Young Females, Marquette Alternative High

Marquette Area Public Schools

Empowering Young Females is innovative and unique. There is not another program similar in the area. Five years ago, Marquette discovered a need female students had within the alternative education program and developed ways to assist this need. This year, grant funds were secured to greatly expand the program. The goals and objectives are to increase self-esteem and positive self-image through team building, reflecting and activities outside of their comfort zone; work with older women who serve as positive role models to give students something to aspire to; participate in a high ropes course to build confidence and collaboration; reflection and journal writing to assess effectiveness of activities and also to be better aware and proud of feelings; teamwork through group reflection, high ropes and other activities; interact with each other and bond through a common experience; experience and participate in activities not normally participated in to help encourage girls to take positive risks; discuss plans for future goals and how they will achieve them; and the opportunity to ask questions in a safe environment about women’s roles in society, women’s health and issues they may be afraid to discuss in a regular group setting.

Marketing, H. H. Dow High

Midland Public Schools

The Marketing students at H. H. Dow High School embarked on a project-based learning unit with the driving question of, “Do you have what it takes to be the next Apprentice?” Knowing that the popular television show, The Apprentice, is essentially a lengthy task-based interview, students were challenged to prepare for individual and team interviews with business representatives. The project incorporated required technical skills affiliated with the employability unit, such as skill and interest assessments; identifying multiple sources of career information; researching labor market information; identifying career training, education and certification requirements; developing career goals, objectives and strategies; identifying positive work behaviors and qualities necessary to gain and retain employment; developing a career plan and portfolio with a resume, references, letters of recommendation, employment application, honors, activities, awards and volunteering; identifying professional attire appropriate for an interview; and successfully completing an interview. Additionally, developing skills in communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration were a central focus of the project and critically important to employability. A unique feature of the project was the level of interaction students had with local business representatives. This occurred throughout the learning process with expert presenters and mentors and culminated with actual interviews.

Sailors Ride With PRIDE, Mona Shores High

Mona Shores Public Schools

Students will exhibit positive behaviors that impact safe driving and student achievement in both school and community. Students who exhibit positive behaviors in school and community are eligible to win a car, moped and other prizes at the end of the school year at the Student Recognition Sailor PRIDE Assembly. The volunteer Mona Shores High School MiBLSi Leadership team provides professional development to MSHS staff in the areas of positive behavior strategies for all areas of the school community. This team also established the MSHS positive behavior incentive program that includes the Pride Matrix and the Sailor PRIDE pass. The team works year-round securing the sponsorships for the incentives. Many area local business and restaurants donate prizes. Community partnerships are key to the success of this program. Muskegon Ali provides financial support for banners, printing and t-shirts for the car and moped student finalists of the Sailors Ride With Pride incentive program. We also partner with the Norton Shores Police Department. Liaison Officer Jared Passchier and Chief Jon Gale provide leadership in the areas of safe driving promotions and the drug and alcohol awareness campaign.

Montrose Digital Media TV, Montrose Hill-McCloy High

Montrose Community Schools

The Montrose Digital Media TV program is both a class and an outside-the-classroom experience. Several of the students have gone on to study broadcast media at various colleges and trade schools. Some have gone on to successful careers in the field. The media business IS literally communication. By its very nature, it is a creative, collaborative endeavor. The program requires the students to work in teams. A crew consists of a producer, technicians, grips and on-air “talent.” The emphasis is on teamwork. In the class students learn that no production, whether sports, news or features (radio or TV), can be produced effectively by one person. Teamwork and collaboration are stressed in the planning and implementation of all productions, whether it is a National Signing Day show, a choir concert, a football game, a public service announcement, commercial or the district’s own Friday Show. We do the same for both our Internet TV and Internet radio productions. Critical thinking is essential because of the nature of the constantly changing applications used. Students must practice the basics they have learned, and then apply them to all upgrades of audio and video editing software and broadcasting interfaces. Their ability to interpret, extrapolate and adjust ‘on-the-fly’ to changes in applications is truly amazing.

Peer-to-Peer Technology, Gros Cap

Moran Township School District

Gros Cap School’s Peer-to-Peer Technology Program is designed to utilize a small school structure to enhance student capabilities in communication, collaboration and technology. Through small group interactions, students in lower elementary classes acquire the technology skills necessary to manipulate modern technology. Their upper elementary partners enhance their own skills in collaboration and communication through integrated lessons. The program pairs a kindergarten class with fifth grade students, a first grade class with sixth grade students and second graders with third and fourth grade students. For an hour each week, teachers share students, mix up peer groups and facilitate a technology-based lesson. Student leaders teach their younger partners how to successfully and correctly use technology. They begin with the basic skills necessary to use the machines and then build upon it. The goal of the program is to have students enter into the next grade possessing the skills necessary to use the modern technologies expected of them independently. Quarterly objectives are set for peer groups to reach, and progress is monitored in acquired skills throughout the year. These small groups of early elementary students and upper elementary students produce both technologically savvy students and excellent student leaders.

Internet, Network & Security Technologies, Muskegon Area Career Tech Center

Muskegon Area ISD

The MACTC program, Internet, Network & Security Technologies, was the first cybersecurity class in the area. Preceding even the local colleges with offering cybersecurity curriculum and training, high school students were and are still able to earn network security-related certifications. The certifications are industry recognized and have opened many doors for students. Cybersecurity is the second fastest growing field in the nation. The success of the students in this field has garnered some high-level attention from the outside. For example, the program has been contacted by the Pentagon and asked how we run it. Other programs/schools that are interested in offering security training to their students have also asked about the program to share best practices.

Oxford Academy of Engineering & Technology, Oxford High

Oxford Community Schools

The U.S. Department of Commerce states that jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields will grow 17 percent by 2018. Oxford Community Schools chose to challenge this demand in 2008 by establishing a strategic goal to implement research-based curriculum and instructional practices that provide authentic, real-world skills applicable to a global marketplace. One of the ways the district looked to accomplish this goal was by establishing the Oxford High Academy of Engineering & Technology, a four-year, nationally certified engineering program that offers nine different engineering courses in 2009. What makes the program even more unique is partnerships with major area universities (Eastern Michigan University, Oakland University, Kettering University and Lawrence Technological University) that provide dual-enrollment engineering courses, sponsorships and mentoring.

Project-Based Learning, International Technology Academy

Pontiac School District

The International Technology Academy is a unique, innovative program that provides a quality, project-based learning experience to a diverse population in the Pontiac area. ITA strives to help all students achieve their full academic potential, prepare them for success in college, and equip them with the ability and the desire for life-long learning. ITA teaches its students to perform to the best of their ability and achieve academic excellence in a global context using 21st century skills (communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking), while preparing graduates to attend colleges and universities. This program develops and strengthens students’ values transforming young men and women into productive, contributing members of society. The ITA’s goals include: to provide a well-rounded, project-based learning experience, train students in critical thinking and logical reasoning, prepare students to utilize 21st century skills and generate a passion for life-long learning.

Cougar University, Central Middle

Port Huron Area School District

Central Middle School’s Cougar University program provides 50 minutes of targeted intervention and/or extension instruction to every student, every day. Teachers place students in the appropriate Cougar University courses using data from grades and Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress math and reading assessments. Flexible scheduling allows students to move among the courses as their academic needs change throughout the year. Course offerings include targeted reading and math interventions, as well as extension courses such as Robotics, AP Prep, Coding, Detective Science, Battle of the Books, Leadership, Fitness for Life, Advanced Writing and Mythology. As a high-poverty and Priority School, originally ranking in the bottom 2 percent of public schools in Michigan, Central disrupted and restructured its school day in order to create time to nurture improved student behavior, math and reading achievement. Three-year data trends show marked improvement in all three target areas.

S.A.C.E. Cares Community Garden, Asher

Southgate Community Schools

The S.A.C.E. Cares Community Garden exposes alternative high school students to many concepts that are typically unfamiliar to them. They learn firsthand where food comes from by following the food cycle of planting, tending and harvesting fresh produce. They also learn about the water cycle, weather and its effects on gardening, natural versus chemical fertilizers, composting and making nutritious food choices. Three years ago, the students helped plan and build the garden in a field adjacent to the school. Two years ago, they installed an underground sprinkler system and more than doubled the number of raised beds. Every spring, a new crew of students works on the garden, so this project impacts different students each time. The fresh fruits and vegetables they harvest are donated to struggling families served by the S.A.C.E. Cares Food Bank, also run by Asher alternative education students. The students, quite literally, get to see the impact their hard work has on people within the local community. This has become a much-needed source of pride for kids who too often have few reasons to feel good about themselves.

Reading Beyond the Page, Swan Valley High—*Innovator of the Year Recipient*

Swan Valley School District

A true education goes well beyond the classroom—into the community, across our nation and into the world. Literacy and experiences are the center of all learning, and the focus of the district’s annual reading theme that drives curriculum and threads social justice and civic responsibility throughout student learning. From reading accounts of injustice and prejudice, and then working on Habitat for Humanity houses throughout the city, to studying abuse and then working together to build projects that are auctioned to battle child abuse, students learn that the work of their hands and the lessons they share have the power to change the world and benefit others. The annual crosscurricular collaborative community projects touch every student and discipline in our school and neighborhoods. Our goal for these projects is to take our students on a journey toward social responsibility through relevant literacy and learning activities that encompass both curricular ties and service projects. We focus on issues on the world level that deal with respect for human life, on the national level with government power and responsible citizenship, and on the school level with bullying and the way we treat one another.

Project L.E.A.N.

Van Buren ISD

Project L.E.A.N. (Linking Education, Activity and Nutrition) is a nutrition education program that serves over 12,000 students throughout southwest Michigan with the goal of increasing our student’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and physical activity levels over their beginning personal baselines at the start of their respective programming. Project L.E.A.N. uses a six-class series format that incorporates evidence-based and best practice literacy focused nutrition interventions that include literacy-based nutrition lessons, nutrition-themed book readings, food tastings, movement activities, hands-on student activities and parent engagement components. One unique aspect of Project L.E.A.N. is that it effectively collaborates with eight ISDs or RESAs throughout southwest Michigan to efficiently serve the students in the respective regions fully supporting the Governor’s Prosperity Region Initiative. The other unique part of our program is that it effectively incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, student mentoring, student leadership and a host of student-led projects into the program. Through the innovative partnerships with business and industry, governmental agencies, regional school districts, faith-based organizations and communities, Project L.E.A.N. is positively transforming the lives of students, families, schools and communities.