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Leadership Supporting the Rise in Literacy: Led by Cassie Williams

The MSTEP State Assessment results indicate Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) student improvement outpaced the state, county and city charter schools. This means DPSCD schools are leading the way toward academic growth. And we have leaders who are doing their part to help students rise.

Students achieved the highest literacy proficiency in over a decade, we wanted to explore what is happening in the DPSCD Department of Literacy to spark this improvement.

“The Department of Literacy supports students and educators within the District by providing access to high-quality and committed school support, intentionally designed professional development, high-quality curriculum materials that are culturally relevant, [develop] research-based reading intervention programs and focused on student-centered instructional strategies,” said Cassie Williams, Executive Director of K-12 Literacy, DPSCD. “We are committed to nurturing and fostering a culture of literacy as well as a strong literacy foundation for every student in the District.”

One of the Department’s many accomplishments include partnering with schools throughout the District to support teachers. Over the summer, the Literacy Department worked tirelessly to revise and update the Curriculum Guidance for the District, making it easier for teachers to use and culturally relevant, allowing the lesson structure to be strengthened.

This work also included providing professional development opportunities for educators, such as curriculum planning and the Summer Teachers Academy, where hundreds of teachers gathered at Cass Technical High School this past summer to get a head start on understanding the curriculum guidance.

To ensure that students do not fall behind, the Literacy Department works to provide students with all the tools and resources they will need to thrive. The Literacy Intervention Team is currently in the process of expanding supports to the District’s Academic Interventionists and working alongside school teams and the K-8 Literacy Team to develop a stronger connection between Tier I and Instruction and Literacy Intervention.

“We support schools, and teachers to help to push all of our students towards proficiency,” said Williams. “We provide support and resources that lead to the development of all students as critical readers. We hope that this level of support paired with resources and programming unearths a love and joy for reading to build liberating and thriving communities.”

In the past year the Department of Literacy has forged a partnership with the Detroit Public Library for the District Wide Reading Challenge Rise Up Read More. Last year, students logged approximately 900,000 independent reading minutes on the Library’s Beanstack application. Williams said that the District partners with local authors through the Department’s Local Author’s Panel.

“Thirty-eight participating authors, which included some DPSCD Teachers, participated in several literacy events across the city which included the City of Detroit’s Juneteenth Celebration, and a Teacher’s Book Fair during Teacher’s Academy,” said Williams.  “We also collaborated with the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) department to train hundreds of volunteers to provide tutoring through our Let’s Read Program.”

With these programs in place, Williams said that she hopes that students remember two things:

“There is greatness already inside of each one of you, don’t ever be afraid to let your light shine. Also, read as much as you can. The more you read, the more you know.  The more you know the more you can contribute,” said Williams.  She acknowledged the hard work of her team, “DPSCD Department of Literacy team is comprised of brilliant, hard-working, compassionate literacy experts.”

And they are doing their part to help students rise! “And still we rise...”

More information on DPSCD’s Department of Literacy can be found here.