DAPCEP Is Working Hard to Get Detroit Students Back in School

The Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) focuses on giving children of color resources and education in STEM fields.

Chronic absenteeism and outright abandonment are often the result.

Last year was a nightmare for the Detroit public school system. Like many school districts across the country, the Detroit Public School Community District (DPSCP) saw a severe drop in grades, attendance, and enrollment. There were several factors that contributed to the backsliding of local education. But if there’s one thing teachers and professionals agree on, it’s that online learning has affected many of Detroit’s children for the worst. DAPCEP is working hard to bring students back up to speed by reshaping their curriculum and providing a sanitary learning environment. And as Michigan starts the brand new 2022-2023 school year, Director Michelle Reaves is looking at the future with determination and a bit of optimism.

Detroit students are still behind.

“Online learning was tough for a lot of students.” DAPCEP Executive Director Michelle Reaves explains, “For many of them the attention span just wasn’t there. And that was reflected in their performance. When you take students from a controlled classroom setting and have them sit in their house and stare at a screen for hours, it’s of course going to affect their ability to learn.”

How DAPCEP is Making a Difference

The Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) is an organization based out of the city focused on providing children of color with more resources and education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. And when COVID-19 forced the world to a halt, Director Reaves and the rest of the DAPCEP staff witnessed firsthand the damage that isolated learning did to the educational growth of inner-city youth.

“Some students did well with remote learning, but we did see the performance of a lot of students dip during quarantine. That’s a direct result of a lot of COVID related issues, but also it shows the importance of having that teacher in the classroom helping and working with their class.”

While some students did thrive learning at home, it’s obvious that a majority of children’s education suffered during that time. In the 2018-2019 school year, about 60% of Wayne County students failed at least one class, but in the 2020-2021 school year, that number spiked to 70%. That same year, 13% of black 3rd graders in Michigan were flagged for retention based on their low reading skills. A drastic statistical difference from the only 3.3% of white 3rd graders who were flagged.

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DAPCEP Executive Director Michelle Reaves

But as COVID restrictions are lifted and kids return to the classroom, Detroit schools finally have the opportunity to work with their students face to face and help get their education back on track. That is if they get students to attend school at all.

“Chronic absenteeism is not new for our District, but the pandemic has worsened student attendance.” DPSCP superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti said in a statement earlier this year, “Prior to the pandemic, the district reduced chronic absenteeism to 54%. However, last year that percentage climbed to 79%.”

Attendance was one of the largest problems with virtual schooling. In a survey done by Wayne State University, “computer issues” and “internet issues” were the two leading reasons parents gave for their child’s absence in the previous school year. “Child’s health” followed right behind these two. At the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, Michigan schools saw a severe spike in new Covid cases, leading to both sick and unvaccinated children being sent home for weeks at a time.

Still despite the difficulties of the past two years, both DAPCEP and DPSCP are working hard to bring students back up to speed by reshaping their curriculum and providing a sanitary learning environment. And as Michigan gears up for the brand new 2022-2023 school year, Director Michelle Reaves is looking at the future with determination and a bit of optimism.

“I believe that the Detroit school system is doing as good of a job as anyone in bringing our youth back up to speed. There’s still quite a bit of work to be done, but we’re all working to the best of our abilities to make sure that Detroit children get the education that they deserve.”

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