REFLECT, RESET AND GROWTH are the tenets echoed when discussing the accomplishments of University Preparatory Science & Math (UPSM) High School, a high-performing Detroit charter school authorized by Grand Valley State University (GVSU). From the operator—Detroit 90/90—to its administrators and teachers, this reflective mindset permeates the charter school.
“A personal goal of mine is making academics urgent,” says Principal Zetia Hogan. That goal-setting is felt throughout the classrooms; an engaged and focused atmosphere fills the school.
Hogan’s primary method of achieving this goal is by supporting teachers to take ownership of their impact on student achievement. She strongly believes that when teachers are supported, they can better serve their students. So UPSM school leaders frequently observe teachers and provide helpful, high-caliber feedback.
“Every two weeks school administrators are in and out of each classroom—recording, informally observing and debriefing with teachers on their practice,” Hogan says. “That is all done in an effort to produce the reflection, resetting and growth mindset across the building.”
Hogan also has implemented a video system that helps teachers review their own work in the classroom. Not only do these tools provide teachers with opportunities to reflect on their practice, they also allow administrators to reflect on the needs of their instructors.
Detroit 90/90—the school’s operator—is no stranger to the growth mindset. Its primary goal is to improve and sustain the academic successes of UPSM. Referred to as “home office” by faculty and staff at UPSM, the operator provides consistent support to the school.
“Home office gives principals a lot of training to help support teachers,” Hogan said.
The operator has provided administrators with rigorous, high-quality professional development that allows the administrators to learn new strategies to benefit the school. Hogan recently implemented a professional development work plan which she believes will hold her more accountable in supporting her staff.
This concerted and deliberate effort of supporting teachers and administrators has, in turn, produced higher quality instruction for students. In 2013-14, Michigan named UPSM a top-performing “reward” school, with 80 percent of all students achieving proficiency in reading.
In addition, GVSU—the school’s authorizer—sets rigorous academic benchmarks. GVSU staff also provide teachers with professional development opportunities and convene administrators across the schools that they authorize to collaborate and share successful initiatives.
UPSM ultimately prides itself on being driven, first and foremost, by its accountability to students and their families.