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Early UCS childhood program, Center for Science Industry lauded by education leaders

The Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA) selected two Utica Community Schools programs to receive prestigious Winners’ Circle awards from the organization on January 23 during its midwinter conference in Grand Rapids. 

Honored were the district’s early elementary personalized blended learning program and the Utica Center for Science and Industry (UCSI).

 Utica Community Schools administrators and key staff demonstrated each program’s proven effectiveness in raising student achievement to more than 450 statewide school administrators and other education partners gathered at the annual MASA conference.

 MASA is a state association that represents the superintendents and first-line administrators of Michigan’s local and intermediate school districts. MASA’s mission is to develop leadership and unity within its membership to achieve the continuous improvement of public education in Michigan.

 “We are proud to earn statewide recognition and be invited to present at the MASA conference,” said Dr. Christine Johns, Superintendent of Utica Community Schools. “It puts well-deserved focus on our skilled teachers and their enthusiasm to advance college readiness for all students.”

 “This is also another opportunity for UCS to share our programs with other Michigan schools and increase learning and achievement for more children across the state,” she said.

 The district’s kindergarten personalized blended learning program and Utica Center for Science and Industry were both showcased at a recent League of Innovative Schools meeting. The event featured school superintendents and technology industry leaders from across the United States and was hosted by Utica Community Schools.

 The League is a national coalition of technology-forward school districts organized through Digital Promise, a congressionally authorized bipartisan initiative created to spur innovation in education through the use of technology. League membership includes more than 40 districts in 24 states, representing nearly three million K-12 students.

 The nominating text for both UCS award-winning programs follows:
 Personalized Blended Learning Boosts College Readiness in Utica Community Schools In 2012-2013, Utica Community Schools introduced personalized blended learning in its 80 kindergarten classrooms, reaching 1,976 students in 25 schools.

The digitally-assisted data-driven model – augmented by a restructured day –produced double-digit growth in reading and mathematics and doubled the number of students on a college trajectory (meeting the 70th percentile nationally).

 Specialized professional development prepared teachers to lead focused small group instruction aided by specialized, student-centric digital content; technology integration (iPads, laptops, high-speed wireless internet access and interactive whiteboards) and Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) assessments.

 Each kindergartner follows a personalized plan based on their academic needs. The plan, coupled with adaptive, age-appropriate learning apps, enables each to work at their own pace and receive immediate measured feedback. Students take responsibility for their own learning, gaining confidence as they master content.

 Parent connectivity and free 24/7 access to related digital content at home enhance support. Impressive results NWEA results from fall to spring indicate overall student achievement increased by 15 percentile points.

 In addition, the students who started kindergarten below national reading and math norms began their first grade year above the norms in both subjects – setting them on a fast start this fall.

 Utica Community Schools has expanded personalized blended learning to include all kindergarten and first grade rooms, thus increasing the prospect of higher achievement and college readiness for nearly 4,000 of its youngest learners.

 Utica Center for Science and Industry – creating globally competitive graduates
 Utica Center for Science and Industry (UCSI) positions students for future high-tech jobs by blending rigorous academics with real world applications.
The half-day program, initiated in 2008 under a federal grant, prepares students for postsecondary experiences in engineering technology, mechatronics (‘smart’ robotics) and multimedia production fields. Seamless integration of technical coursework with English and mathematics core content, along with brain-based learning, creativity, collaboration and student voice sets UCSI apart.

 Learning on industry-grade technology is the rule. Mechatronics and engineering students use Amatrol trainers (identical to those of Ford Motor Company), Vex Robotics, FANUC robots, SolidWorks CAD software and 3D printers.

Multimedia students use the latest Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut Pro and Maya. Students experience authentic workplace learning, job shadowing, mentoring and internships through partnership with statewide and global manufacturing and digital production companies, resulting in direct entry into high-paying jobs.

 Committed to real-world applications, UCSI is succeeding in its goal to bridge the “skills gap” and home-grow Macomb County’s technically skilled future workforce to keep jobs and talent in Michigan. Creating Globally Competitive Graduates More than 90 percent of UCSI graduating seniors attain workplace certifications and 98 percent pursue postsecondary education.

 UCSI students were selected for more than half the seats in a new program created by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to bridge the skills gap in Michigan. The MAT2 (Michigan Advanced Technician Training) program allows students to receive free tuition for the three-year program, on-the-job pay, an associate’s degree in a high demand technical field and a guaranteed job upon successful completion.

 UCSI has become well-respected by the business community for its positive impact on student achievement. Its innovative programs have also drawn state and national attention, as demonstrated by a feature in The Hechinger Report national news service that also ran on NBC News.

UCSI was also profiled on WWJ/CBS Detroit’s “Making the Grade” and was the subject of a blog by Karen Cator, president and CEO of Digital Promise and former director of the Office of Educational Technology/ U.S. Department of Education. Links to these articles:

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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