One of Northern Michigan University's charter schools, Walton Charter Academy in Pontiac, is among five 2022 Building the Hope Schools in Michigan recognized by the Education Trust-Midwest for outstanding pre-pandemic academic progress and growth among underserved student groups. All offer strategies that can be leveraged to help students recover from learning loss attributed to COVID-19.
According to a press release, the majority of students at the 2022 Building the Hope Schools come from low-income backgrounds, and at 80% of the schools, the majority are students of color. “At the same time, these public schools are in the top 25% for academic proficiency or for above-average student growth for all Michigan students, making them outliers among state schools.”
Walton Charter Academy was selected as a 2022 Building the Hope School because its Latino students and English learners demonstrated growth above the state average in both English Language Arts (ELA) and math for three consecutive years prior to the pandemic. It also stands out for its intentional outreach to the Latino community.
The school makes a concerted effort to engage parents, helping to make non-native English-speaking parents feel comfortable and competent in the school. A teacher and a paraprofessional are assigned to every K-2 classroom, helping to ensure students have a strong foundation from the early grades.
“Being recognized as one of Education Trust-Midwest's Building the Hope Schools is truly reflective of Walton's caring community and its success in helping students grow,” said K.C. Holder, NMU education professor and Charter Schools Office director. “Walton has been authorized by NMU since 1999. It is a school where the leadership, teachers and staff are very committed to their student body, culturally responsive practices and engagement with their caregivers and community.”
Education Trust-Midwest is a nonpartisan, data-driven education policy, research and advocacy organization that works on behalf of all children to raise the quality of teaching and learning in public schools.
“Building the Hope Schools demonstrate that our public schools can make great strides for our most underserved students while serving as culturally- and linguistically-affirming places for children from all backgrounds, particularly those from low-income backgrounds and students of color,” said Jen DeNeal, director for policy and research at The Education Trust-Midwest. “Their successful pre-pandemic strategies can provide a roadmap, particularly as schools work to help our most underserved students who were most impacted during COVID-19 recover from the pandemic. They model the way for educational recovery by creating conditions to ensure that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity and supports needed to achieve at high levels.”
This is the second year that The Education Trust-Midwest has named a cohort of Building the Hope Schools. Researchers conducted a comprehensive quantitative analysis of each school's performance in the three years leading up to the pandemic to make their selections. Each school will receive a $3,500 honorarium.
In addition to Walton Charter Academy, the remaining 2022 Building the Hope Schools are: Challenger Elementary in Kentwood, outside Grand Rapids; Clara Bolen Elementary in Tawas City; Lean Elementary of Warren Consolidated Schools; and Vista Charter Academy in Grand Rapids.