Literacy & Numeracy – Our Approach

Prior to working under our current Education, Economy and Equity impact areas, the Skillman Foundation carried out a decade-long Good Neighborhoods Initiative, the last four years of which was focused on a single mega goal to increase high school graduation in six Detroit neighborhoods. Working closely with schools, extended learning programs and the community at-large, we collectively moved high school graduation up 26 percent, far outpacing the citywide rate increase.

Despite great improvement in the graduation rate, little progress has taken root in literacy and numeracy proficiency. While standardized test scores alone are an insufficient measure of success, they provide insight on students’ understanding of core academics in relation to same-grade peers locally and nationally. Low proficiency rates are not a measure of students’ ability to learn, but rather their opportunity to learn.

How We’re Supporting Academic Gains

Teacher Recruitment & Retention

Research shows that the biggest drag on students’ learning in Detroit is the high number of classrooms that go unfilled by a quality teacher each year. Within the Detroit Public School Community District alone, the 2016-17 school year began with more than 260 teacher vacancies. Working alongside Detroit’s school districts and community partners, we aim to see all Detroit schools fully staffed by well-trained and supported educators.

Third-Grade Reading Proficiency

In third grade, children should reach an educational milestone where they transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Only 15 percent of third graders in Detroit scored as proficient in the 2016-17 school year. Our goal is to help grow the third-grade reading proficiency rate to 32 percent by 2022. While this number still rings as unacceptably low, it is based on rate increases that other areas in the country have accomplished and may be adjusted as we move forward.

We aren’t in this work alone. In addition to supporting the diligent educators, mentors and parents across the city, our efforts tie into the early childhood partnership Hope Starts Here, led by the W.K. Kellogg and Kresge Foundations, and to the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren’s third-grade reading recommendations.

Literacy & Numeracy is one of three approaches we’re taking to improve educational outcomes for Detroit students. Read about our other two approaches: Education Ecosystem Reset and Present & Ready to Learn.

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