Kalamazoo Promise

Recent research on the impact of the Kalamazoo Promise on college choice

Posted on March 6, 2013. Filed under: college choice, Kalamazoo Promise |

The Upjohn Institute has just posted a policy paper written by my colleague Bridget Timmeney and myself called “The Impact of the Kalamazoo Promise on College Choice: An Analysis of Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center Graduates.” The study shows that The Kalamazoo Promise has led to a pronounced shift in the college-going patterns of Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) students who attend the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC) — the region’s provider of an accelerated education in math, science, and technology.

Following the introduction of the Kalamazoo Promise in 2005, the percentage of KPS KAMSC students attending public, in-state institutions of higher education has almost doubled—a shift that reflects the program rules of the Promise, which covers tuition and fees only at public postsecondary institutions in Michigan. The percentage of non-KPS KAMSC students attending an in-state, public institution also rose in the post-2006 period but only very slightly, suggesting that the Promise has shifted college choices among the eligible student population.


The shift of KAMSC graduates to in-state, public institutions, in line with the terms of the Kalamazoo Promise, may have implications for future workforce development, since students who attend college in state are more likely to remain in Michigan after graduation.

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Investing in Kids

Posted on March 3, 2011. Filed under: community alignment, early childhood education, General |

My colleague at the Upjohn Institute, Tim Bartik, has written an important book about the economic benefits of investing in early childhood education. With methodological care and the genuine consideration of alternative viewpoints, Tim arrives at a compelling argument why local economic development strategies should include extensive investments in high-quality early childhood programs, such as prekindergarten education, child care, and parenting assistance. Check out Tim’s blog, Investing in Kids, for his ongoing thinking on this issue and its connection to current policy debates.

About the book: “Early childhood programs, if designed correctly, pay big economic dividends down the road because they increase the skills of their participants. And since many of those participants will remain in the same state or local area as adults, the local economy benefits: more persons with better skills attract business, which provides more and better jobs for the local economy.”

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KPS enrollment has grown by 20% since Promise was announced

Posted on October 11, 2010. Filed under: enrollment, Kalamazoo Promise, Uncategorized |

The September 29, 2010 headcount data from Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) shows that the upward trajectory in enrollment growth has continued for a fifth year. The preliminary headcount numbers show 12,409 students currently enrolled in KPS — a 3% increase over last year. Since the Kalamazoo Promise was announced in November 2005, enrollment in KPS has increased by more than 20 percent, from 10,187 in the 2004-05 academic year to 12,275 (estimated) this year (these are the blended FTE headcount numbers on which the state bases its funding). This is an extraordinary increase by any measure.

-The post-Promise increase reversed more than a decade of year-to-year declines in enrollment.

– KPS is one of only a handful of school districts in Southwest Michigan (and the only sizable one) to have experienced any enrollment growth this year. Public school enrollment was flat for the region as a whole.

– Comparable districts in the state continue to decline in enrollment — for example, Battle Creek Public Schools’ enrollment fell by over 7 percent, while Grand Rapids Public Schools and Detroit Public Schools took comfort from enrollment declines that were smaller than expected (this is what counts for good news in Michigan).

The enrollment numbers suggest that the Kalamazoo Promise and the very real process of school improvement that it helped to catalyze has made the district “stickier,” giving families a reason to come — and stay.

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Unsubstantiated hearsay

Posted on February 5, 2010. Filed under: Unsubstantiated hearsay |

This is the first entry in a new category of posts, interesting things I’ve heard about the Kalamazoo Promise but can’t attribute. 

I HEAR THAT… students are using their Kalamazoo Promise scholarship as leverage to seek financial aid from other, non-KP eligible schools. A KPS senior applying to the University of Chicago told the financial aid office there that she already had a full tuition scholarship at the University of Michigan and that, if they wanted her in the Windy City, they would need to match that. I don’t know what the response was, and I have heard that she will be staying in Michigan, but kudos for trying! The high-school students tell me that lots of kids are doing this.

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Kalamazoo Promise Usage by Race

Posted on February 5, 2010. Filed under: Kalamazoo Promise, socioeconomic school integration, What's new (since my book was published) | Tags: , , |

Another interesting bit of data from the Kalamazoo Promise administrator Bob Jorth. Eligible African-American graduates of KPS are using the Kalamazoo Promise at approximately the same rate as eligible Caucasian students:

  2006 2007 2008 2009
% eligible h.s. graduates who have used Promise 83 84 85 74
% of eligible African-Americans who have used Promise 83 81 85 73
% of eligible Caucasians who have used Promise 86 86 85 77

More complete demographic data is available on the website of the Upjohn Institute http://upjohn.org/promise/index.htm Later this year we will have our first data examining the proportion of students using the Kalamazoo Promise who were classified as economically disadvantaged (i.e., eligible for free or reduced-price school meals) during their time in KPS.

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Redistricting, part deux

Posted on February 5, 2010. Filed under: Kalamazoo Promise, socioeconomic school integration, What's new (since my book was published) | Tags: , |

So how did it work out? The table below compares the percentage of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches at KPS’s middle and high schools before and after the redistricting plan was implemented. The projections of the redistricting committee are also included. Keep in mind that students enrolled in middle or high-school when redistricting was introduced were “grandfathered” under the plan, allowing them to remain at their original school, so the full impact of redistricting will take several years to become apparent.

  2008-09 Projection 2009-10
Middle Schools      
– Hillside 52 65 67
– Linden Grove n.a. 72 69
– Maple Street 72 68 68
– Milwood 84 71 79
High Schools      
– Central 53 58 55
– Loy Norrix 64 60 65

Even in the first year of the program, with the grandfathering allowed, there was a clear shift in the direction of greater socioeconomic balance at the middle school level. There is no hard evidence about what this means (e.g., test scores, promotion, etc.), but I do want to share what I heard second-hand from a teacher at Milwood Middle School who claims that it is markedly easier to teach this year because of the greater diversity in her classroom and the presence of a sizeable minority of middle-income students.

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What’s new (since my book was published)

Posted on December 2, 2009. Filed under: Kalamazoo Promise, socioeconomic school integration, What's new (since my book was published) | Tags: , |

In the nine months since the text of my book was “put to bed” in time for the publication process, a number of important developments have occurred in Kalamazoo.  One of these was the redistricting of the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) middle- and high-school attendance boundaries.  What happened and why is it significant?

At the time the Kalamazoo Promise (KP) was introduced, KPS middle schools were already at capacity, a situation that had resulted in some 6th graders attending a middle school and others remaining at their elementary schools. With the expected enrollment growth from the KP, it was clear that a new middle school would need to be built. In May 2006, KPS voters approved a millage request that paid for the construction of two new school buildings, the district’s first since 1971.

Linden Grove middle school opened in Fall 2009. During the 2008-09 school year, a task force worked on redrawing middle- and high-school boundaries in order to identify the students who would attend the new school. The high-school redistricting was optional, but it made sense to restructure those boundaries in light of the new middle-school boundaries. In both cases, the task force proposed — and the school board approved — boundaries that sought to spread the district’s low-income population more evenly across the four middle and two high schools.

Prior to the redistricting, the low-income enrollment figures ranged from 52% at Hillside Middle School to 84% at Milwood Middle School. Not surprisingly, the perception of the schools varied, with middle-class parents far more enthusiastic about sending their children to Hillside. There was also a gap (albeit a smaller one) between the high schools, with low-income enrollment of 64% at Loy Norrix and 53% at Central. The redistricting plan will shift the low-income enrollment over time as follows (the results will not be immediate, as students currently enrolled were allowed to stay at their schools; parents also have the right to send their child to another school in the district if they provide their own transportation). But theoretically, the plan was designed to achieve the following shift:

Middle Schools
– Hillside
– Maple St.
– Milwood
– Linden Grove
High Schools
– Central
– Norrix

Why does this matter? One answer is that there is a great deal of evidence about the benefits of integrating schools by socioeconomic status (see my book, pages 88-90, for a summary of this argument). This research, however, focuses on elementary schools where students mix more readily than in the higher grades. I have not seen any research on the impact of socioeconomic integration at the middle- or high-school level (but would be interested in knowing if there is some). The real reason it matters is that if KPS is serious about attracting and retaining middle-income families and high-achieving students at all socioeconomic levels, it cannot afford to have only one mixed-income middle or high school that is perceived as most desirable. As middle-income students and their families are dispersed throughout the district, it can be expected that both the reality and the perception of all the middle and high schools will improve.

The much harder part of the task lies ahead. The district’s elementary schools are deeply unbalanced in terms of their low-income population — with 29% at Indian Prairie at the low end, compared to 97% at Edison and Washington Writers Academy at the high end — and redistricting is desperately needed here. Such efforts tend to be deeply unpopular, with families angered when their children are uprooted from their existing schools or asked to attend a school further away from home. And in a year when KPS once again needs to turn to the voters for a millage, no immediate action on elementary school redistricting is expected. Hopefully, the administration, board, and community will summon the courage down the road to undertake this critical step in strengthening the district in the interest of all children.

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