At A Glance
Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) is Michigan’s fifth largest public school district and the third largest employer in the City of Grand Rapids, serving nearly 17,000 students with 2,700 employees, including 1,400 dedicated teachers. The student population represents 55 countries with 54 different languages spoken, creating a value-added educational experience and benefit that is above and beyond a basic education.
GRPS proudly offers the largest selection of school choices in all of West Michigan, including neighborhood, theme, Center of Innovation, special education, and charter.
Neighborhood schools offer a traditional education. They are located throughout the city and are open to all students within their attendance area. Exciting pilot programs are underway to strengthen the connection between neighborhood schools and neighborhood residents at Congress and Mulick Park.
Theme schools offer the core curriculum through a unique lens, including environmental science, arts and music, global studies, leadership, Montessori, International Baccalaureate and more. In many theme schools, students have the opportunity for place based education and exciting extracurricular programming to enhance their learning. Four of the theme schools are test-in schools. One of those schools, City High Middle School, consistently ranks as the top performing school in all of West Michigan and among the top in the state (ACT scores, “U.S. News & World Report”, and “The Washington Post”).
The Centers of Innovation are unique public-private partnerships that offer students a rigorous classroom education along with opportunities to connect with professional mentors, complete job shadowing and internships, and earn college and trade school credits or career certification to prepare them for in-demand, high paying careers.
GRPS provides center-based special education programs and services to students from the 20 school districts of the Kent Intermediate School District (KISD) as determined through the IEP team process.
GRPS also authorizes one charter elementary school, Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center.
Schools may also offer services for English Language Learners; “community schools” with social, health, and mental health services embedded; all day preschool; all day kindergarten; and much more.
Eleven schools are new, state of the art buildings with the latest technology and educational designs to support instruction and learning. Eight of the schools are green-built and five are LEED certified; making GRPS a leader in the state and nation on green built schools.
In November 2008, GRPS was recognized in a Detroit News editorial opinion as a “model” urban school district for its bold and innovative education reforms that are producing significant academic gains.
GRPS is also emerging as a leader in Michigan on consolidation and cost-sharing services. GRPS currently manages center-based special education programs for all the schools in the Kent Intermediate School District; food services for East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids Christian Schools, Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center, and four parochial schools, and five charter schools; and public safety training for several public and private schools in the area.
GRPS has also earned a reputation for its sound fiscal management and stewardship. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s improved the district’s bond rating from negative to stable. According to S&P, “The outlook revision is due to our view of the district’s improved reserve position and management’s ability to implement budgetary adjustments in response to declining enrollment and the uncertainty of state funding.”
The district’s public safety department has received numerous awards and is recognized as one of the leading school public safety departments that have utilized technology, training, and relationship building to reduce the number of major school incidents for five consecutive years.
In January 2012, Teresa Weatherall Neal was appointed superintendent and went on an aggressive listening tour with four basic questions. What is working? What isn’t? What are the barriers? And what are the solutions? More than 1,000 individuals participated in small group meetings, large community meetings, surveys, and more. Superintendent Neal used the results of the Listening Tour, Phase II Building Improvement Plan, Cambridge Report, Academic Plan, and 5 Year Strategic Plan to develop a bold, comprehensive plan aimed at restoring stability and growth to GRPS. The GRPS Transformation Plan received overwhelming support from the community and was unanimously approved by the Grand Rapids Board of Education in December 2012. Since then, it has been the driving force behind the energy, excitement, and momentum growing around GRPS!
In a short amount of time, the Transformation Plan has shown significant results. Graduation rates have increased for three consecutive years, including double digit increases for African American and Hispanic/Latino students. Test scores are trending up across the district. Chronic absenteeism has dropped 25%. Staff morale is up. And GRPS is one of few urban districts in the state that saw its bond rating not only increase from negative to stable but also remain stable for 4 years. GRPS is now poised to be one of the first urban districts in the state and nation to grow enrollment.