Stella Wixom, Senior Executive Director of the Business Engagement Center, sat down recently with the School of Education’s Dean Elizabeth Moje to learn more about The School at Marygrove and how and why this should be on the radar of corporate partners in Detroit.


P20 is a unique departure from what many consider traditional teacher training. What compelled you to develop this project?

The University of Michigan School of Education Teaching School is one dimension of the Detroit P20—or Cradle-to-Career—initiative.  The Michigan Education Teaching School was inspired by medicine’s concept of a teaching hospital. Our goal is to create a singular school space in which every adult in the building has two goals: children’s learning and the education of urban teaching professionals. Like physicians, teachers must engage in extremely complex, real-time decision-making with large numbers of unpredictable human beings. Unlike physicians, teachers in the United States spend far too little time learning how to make complex teaching decisions with proficiency, and yet the decisions teachers make have powerful consequences for the lives of children and youth.Read More

The Detroit P20 partnership allowed us to start the Michigan Education Teaching School, in collaboration with the Early Childhood Education Center (serving children birth to five years old) and The School at Marygrove (serving children in kindergarten through Grade 12). Newly certified teachers who are employed as first-, second-, and third-year teachers by DPSCD at The School at Marygrove will be considered “teaching residents.”  Although fully capable of obtaining independent teaching jobs, these paid residents will receive support from both U-M faculty members and expert veteran educators at the school, thus extending their education three years beyond their certification program. The interns, student teachers, and residents in the Teaching School also serve as near-peer mentors to each other as they work together in a learning community.

With new state requirements focused on Pre-K teacher preparation, we will also work with Starfish Family Services, the operator of the Early Childhood Education Center in the Detroit P20 partnership. Our U-M students who are certifying at the primary grade levels will have the opportunity to learn from the excellent early childhood educators as a result of this partnership.

The Michigan Education Teaching School is also a special setting because we are collaboratively building a community of practice in which expert veteran teachers can model excellent teaching using high-quality curricular materials.  The Detroit P20 curriculum teams are collaboratively selecting or building evidence-based curricula that we know are based in the principles of best practice. By creating a professional environment in which new teachers are carefully and consistently supported while engaging in best practice, teachers are more likely to persist in the profession and, we hope, to teach in Detroit.

Finally, from preschool through Grade 12, we are committed to engaging children and youth in robust project- and place-based learning experiences that recognize their existing skills and assets and that help them develop as agents for change in their own communities and beyond. At Michigan Education, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to prepare new teachers and support beginning teachers in an environment that focuses on the power and potential of children and their families. We are also privileged to prepare teachers side by side with expert early childhood educators and public school teachers and leaders who want the very best for their students. These unique teacher education experiences will help novices learn how to recognize, value, and further develop the power and potential of all children.


How do you see interdisciplinary opportunities for the university to get involved?

One of the greatest things about this collaboration is the multitude of ways for partners across the entire university to join us as we engage with and learn from the students, educators, families, and neighbors engaged in the P20 campus. The development of meaningful, evidence-based learning opportunities is one way we have begun this work. We have partners in the College of Engineering collaborating with us to develop projects such as Sensors in a Shoebox, a project that empowers youth to study and improve communities using sensors data, and the design/engineering course curriculum. The Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning is our partner in a school design project where students will participate in the renovation, design, and construction of their school. In later years, students will engage with a range of U-M faculty, staff, and students from various units in projects to develop the Marygrove neighborhood and sustain their community. Many Michigan schools and colleges have committed to developing similar collaborative projects with School of Education faculty and Detroit teachers. Read More

Interdisciplinary opportunities also reside within the child and family support services provided in the school day. Based on research that demonstrates the effects of unmet physiological, sociocultural, or socio-emotional needs on children’s learning, we are collaborating with a host of campus schools to direct attention and resources to the needs of the whole student.  It is incredibly challenging to learn, let alone excel and innovate, when one’s basic needs are not met; the supports provided in the cradle-to-career educational experience should allow learners to thrive, which will help the community thrive.  This is an incredible way to engage the extensive knowledge and resources of the University of Michigan. Michigan Medicine will provide comprehensive health care via the Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools; the School of Social Work will advance its teaching mission while also supporting student counseling services; the School of Dentistry will offer training for future dentists by hosting an on-site clinic for students, families, and community members. In addition, we are in conversation with several other schools and colleges to shape additional partnerships that provide benefits to children, families, Detroit community members, and U-M students. In each case, campus units are leveraging our research and teaching missions to help our students and Detroit’s children learn more effectively.


The quality of education is an issue in many areas of Michigan, as is retaining our talent. How do you see the Marygrove program moving the needle?

Because it is critical for children and youth to have access to excellent public schools where they live, it was important that this be a neighborhood school—one that primarily serves and collaborates with the Marygrove community. As a result of a carefully crafted enrollment strategy devised collaboratively by the members of the Detroit P20 steering and executive committees, almost 70% of the student enrollment comes from a two square miles around the school.

This program offers an opportunity to serve the people of the community, state of Michigan, and the state of public education.

The school’s theme is “leaders designing change” and a core value of the school is to foster connections with and investment in community. The city’s youth are positioned to shape the future of Detroit—it is our job to ensure they have excellent educators, experiences, and an environment that prepares and empowers them to become leaders of change in Detroit. It is also our responsibility to regularly evaluate Detroit P20 progress to ensure that the efforts are serving the children, their families, and the community well.Read More

It is also important to clarify that the teaching interns and eventual residents trained in the Teaching School will leave their residencies at Marygrove and neighboring schools and will, ideally, transition to other Detroit schools.  They will take the skills they have honed and the commitments they have forged with them to serve children and youth in other neighborhoods around the city of Detroit.  Thus, the talent pool is developed in and disseminated throughout the city, serving the children and families by providing accessible, equitable, high-quality public education.


We work with companies who want to support a diverse pipeline to create a diverse workforce. How can companies get involved in meaningful ways?

Diverse pipelines need diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces, and those companies who understand how to foster and support that environment will be most successful in this endeavor. I would encourage companies to consider ways to partner with U-M and Detroit Public Schools to develop project- and place-based learning opportunities for students in and beyond the Northwest Detroit neighborhood. Marygrove students will be well positioned for internships and other opportunities in existing businesses and industries, particularly given our focus on social change and social justice through learning engineering, design, urban planning, and business skills.  Marygrove students may also become skillful entrepreneurs over time and may make excellent partners in designing new social futures and in launching small businesses themselves.


How can companies play an active role and support the mission of Marygrove? Do you envision internships, projects for students, mentorship and volunteer opportunities?

Yes! We want students to have the opportunity to engage their community leaders, and that includes companies and their representatives. At the moment, the school is in its early stages having launched the 9th grade class in September 2019.

The most accessible and pressing opportunity for companies is to engage the students in meaningful projects that prepare students to be critical agents of change and innovation in their present and future communities. Key focus areas for projects include design, engineering, architecture, urban planning, business, and social justice.

U-M School of Education and other U-M faculty are collaborating with Detroit teachers to design and facilitate inquiry-based programming, which provides another opportunity for companies to get involved by collaborating with us.

I welcome companies interested in developing internship and mentorship opportunities for students to connect with me. We are currently establishing the staff support and infrastructure necessary to ensure such opportunities are successful—both in student learning and in meeting the goals of individuals and companies that wish to partner with the school. We also want to ensure that we are developing collaborative and coherent opportunities. This is a school, after all, filled with children who deserve our best, most coordinated approaches to providing them opportunities to learn.  Although we welcome partners, our first responsibility is to ensuring the highest quality experience for the children and youth we all serve. High quality experiences are born from coordination and collaboration, and we—together with all the P20 partners—insist on vetting and monitoring all of our partnerships.


The focus at Marygrove is on a community school approach, providing more than education by invigorating and strengthening the community. How is that relevant for industry connections?

The Marygrove neighborhood is currently at the center of an exciting revitalization, and the P20 partnership is one of a number of community and civic efforts to enhance opportunity in Northwest Detroit. The learning experiences designed with and for the students will empower children and youth to position themselves as leaders in this endeavor, ensuring that revitalization efforts come from within the community. Moreover, the extensive embrace the school offers its students, families, and the entire community should engender healthy and happy community members who can contribute to existing industries, develop new industries, and revive the spirit of innovation that has never left Detroit.  What’s more, the model of responsible and caring civic leadership we hope the P20 partnership conveys to children and youth is one they can take into their own lives, both in their work and in their future community development efforts. In other words, by providing children, youth, and families the respect and care they deserve, we believe we will help build future industry and civic leaders who respect and care for others.


The curriculum, particularly the design/engineering emphasis and focus on developing holistic thinkers and problem-solvers, is appealing to companies and company foundations. Will there be opportunities for connections at Marygrove?

Most certainly. We want to continue to grow our portfolio of projects and learning opportunities in which students have a real audience to whom they can present their findings and propose solutions for complex challenges. One of the affordances of this environment is that as education experts we (both U-M faculty and staff and Detroit public school teachers and leaders) can work with companies to ensure these projects are connected with the curriculum and build on skills students are practicing in the classroom. We often see organizations bring one-time experiences to students and schools, but having an evidence-based, standards-aligned curriculum and support of education experts ensures the development of meaningful learning experiences and the opportunity to build more lasting relationships with these students and the school.


What are your funding needs?

Our biggest need is support for attracting new teachers to our teacher education program and for providing incentives to retain graduates of the residency to teach in Detroit for the long term. The state of Michigan is currently facing a critical shortage of well-prepared teachers, particularly in Detroit and other economically stressed areas. For this curriculum and the vision of this school to come to fruition, we need even more well-prepared teachers who are dedicated to providing equitable and inclusive learning opportunities for all students. Our Teach Blue campaign is designed to reach, recruit, retain, and recognize education professionals over the entire continuum of their professional development. Funds will help us reach young people through grow-your-own programs so they come back to their communities to teach; recruit students to our world-class program through scholarships; retain them in early-career through the teaching residency; and recognize master teachers as teaching fellows within this community of practice. This is a costly challenge; teachers are seriously underpaid for the extremely demanding professional work they do, and recruiting them requires offsetting the costs of the education they need if they are to serve our children and youth well.


When you see this program 10 years down the line, what does it look like?

Ten years from now the school will be fully built out, from early childhood programming that begins as early as a child’s birth through Grade 12 and beyond, with opportunities for The School at Marygrove students to receive credit in dual enrollment courses at a variety of two- and four-year institutions; to participate in training programs; and to serve as interns in professional settings, business, and industry. The Michigan Education Teaching School will be preparing preservice teachers and residents to serve early childhood programs and elementary and secondary schools throughout the city of Detroit.  Health services, family supports, and enrichment experiences will be available to Detroit P20 students, families, and Northwest Detroit community members. And the Northwest Detroit community will be leading the change that community members want to see, with their children and youth poised to contribute to and sustain the neighborhood’s growth and future development.


For more on The School at Marygrove, please see the School of Education’s website, this video review of the first year of programming, and this article from Leaders & Best.