Kalamazoo Promise improves enrollment, expectations
Dec. 9, 2008
KALAMAZOO--Many people expected it, even more hoped for it, and researchers at Western Michigan University have confirmed it. The Kalamazoo Promise college tuition program has raised student enrollment numbers and teacher expectations at Kalamazoo Public Schools since its inception two years ago, a pair of WMU reports found.
Separate studies on changes in enrollment and teacher expectations point to a positive response to the scholarship program. Announced in November 2005 by anonymous private donors, the Kalamazoo Promise pays up to 100 percent of college tuition and fees for students who graduate from KPS and attend any Michigan public institution of higher education.
WMU's Dr. Gary Miron and Anne Cullen researched school enrollment at KPS since 2002 and found in the two years following the announcement of the Kalamazoo Promise, the district grew by 1,211 students or 12.1 percent. The enrollment gains generated $7.8 million in additional state aid in the first year which was used to educate the influx of new students. The number of white students increased the most at elementary and middle school levels, while the number of African-American students had the largest increases at the high-school level.
When comparing enrollment figures at five similar urban districts, the average enrollment decreased 8.7 percent.
"The results reveal that KPS is attracting students from all economic and ethnic backgrounds, which is good news for a diverse community like Kalamazoo," says Miron, WMU professor of educational leadership, research and technology.
Co-author Cullen, a senior research associate at WMU's Evaluation Center, adds that, "The numbers of minority students and low-income students are increased in the lower grades, K-8, but the increase in the number of white and higher-income students is slightly larger. At the high school level, the results suggest that more students are staying in school rather than dropping out."
A second WMU report analyzed changes in teacher expectations and how they are communicated. Interviews with 41 KPS employees and 42 students conducted this year and a survey of more than 2,700 middle and high school students revealed improvements in teacher expectations for student success. It was conducted by Miron, Dr. Jeffrey Jones and Dr. Allison Kelaher Young.
KPS employees interviewed reported that the Promise has led to a sense of excitement in the district that helped define priorities, increase support for students and accountability. In turn, students said teachers are posing more challenges and pushing college as an option for more students.
"We have evidence of larger and more positive changes in student perceptions of teachers' expectations at the lower grade levels (K-8) than at the high-school level," says Miron.
Co-author Young, WMU associate professor of teaching, learning and educational studies, says, "Teachers report that the Promise has given new meaning and increased faith in existing programs that support students."
"Teachers are using the Promise to communicate an increased sense of relevance--they are connecting lessons and the curriculum with student aspirations," adds Jones, WMU assistant professor of teaching, learning and educational studies. "Teachers are preparing students not just for college but for success through the college years. This is, in a sense, moving the 'goalposts' of students' educational pursuits."
Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org