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Safe and Supportive Schools Grant Yields Promising Results for 22 Michigan Priority High Schools

November 2, 2015

LANSING – A five-year federal grant to improve climate, culture and learning at 22 Michigan Priority high schools contributed to 70 percent of those schools removing themselves from the state’s Priority List, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced today.

The U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) 2010-2015 Safe and Supportive Schools (S3) Grant also contributed to a 65 percent increase in the overall graduation rate and a 52 percent decrease in bullying incidences at the schools.

“These results are very promising, especially when you consider that these improvements were made at schools with significant challenges,” State Superintendent Brian Whiston said. “This is a real example of the impact a positive school environment can have on student achievement.”

In 2010, the USED authorized $155 million in grants to states to measure school safety and implement interventions to improve conditions for learning. The S3 Grant’s goal was to eliminate health and safety barriers in low-achieving high schools and increase the opportunity of academic success for all students.

Michigan and 10 other states were selected to receive grants. MDE received the largest grant award ($23.7 million over four years) of the 11 states funded, to provide programming for high schools with predominantly underserved adolescent populations. This grant allowed MDE to work with 22 Priority high schools and their staff, students, and families to address the conditions for learning and improve the culture and climate in their buildings.

At the end of the S3 grant, called think.respect., 65 percent of schools reported improved school safety scores. Schools with a positive change in school safety scores saw a graduation rate increase of 18 percent on average over the course of the initiative.

“Developing a warm, safe, and inviting school environment is crucial to maximizing student engagement, which, in turn, is essential to improving learning,” Whiston said. “It’s been extremely rewarding to see the evolution of the schools working within the S3 grant and the positive differences the changes have made in student performance.”

Corroborating the S3 program’s success, only 37 percent of Priority high schools not in the grant program came off the Priority List, compared to the 70 percent of S3 schools that did, in the five-year span.

Meanwhile, 30 percent of the S3 schools achieved Reward status, compared to only 12 percent of the non-S3 Priority high schools.

Priority Schools are in the bottom 5 percent of the statewide Top-to-Bottom School Rankings. Reward Schools are in the top 5 percent of schools on the Rankings; or are in the top 5 percent of schools making the greatest gains in achievement; or are "Beating the Odds" by outperforming the school's predicted ranking and/or similar schools.

“As a result of our experience through the life of the S3 think.respect. grant, valuable lessons were learned,” Whiston noted. “It became evident that, in time, these efforts could be replicated in any building across the state whether there are grant funds or not. Our hope is that all schools across Michigan will look to create or strengthen a safe and supporting learning environment to better serve students and families.”

Through the S3 grant, participating schools used the Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth (MiPHY) survey to determine their specific programmatic needs. Schools accessed training, developed activities, hosted events, and facilitated learning around those specific areas. This allowed schools to address their individual needs while working within a framework of evidence-based programs. Seven main initiatives were developed for schools to use based on need. These included: Eliminating Barriers for Learning (Mental Health); Parent Engagement; Student Engagement; Bully-free Schools: Circle of Support, Restorative Justice, and Creating Safe Schools for Sexual Minority Youth; and Michigan Model for Health™.

Participants in the S3 think.respect. grant were:

  • Beecher Middle High School (Mt. Morris)
  • Benton Harbor High School (Benton Harbor)
  • Bloomingdale Middle/High School (Bloomingdale)
  • Clintondale High School (Clinton Township)
  • Elisabeth Ann Johnson High School (Mt. Morris)
  • Fitzgerald High School (Warren)
  • Harper Woods High School (Harper Woods)
  • Eastern High School (Lansing)
  • Harry S. Truman High School (Taylor)
  • Lee Middle and High School (Wyoming)
  • Marion Jr./Sr. High School (Marion)
  • Mumford High School (Detroit)
  • New Haven High School (New Haven)
  • Pershing High School (Detroit)
  • Pontiac Academy For Excellence  (Pontiac)
  • River Rouge High School (River Rouge)
  • Robichaud High School (Dearborn Heights)
  • Ross Beatty High School (Cassopolis)
  • Saginaw High School (Saginaw)
  • Southeastern High School (Detroit)
  • Ypsilanti Community High School (Ypsilanti)
  • Ypsilanti New Tech High School (Ypsilanti)

For more information and additional results on the S3 Grant, please visit