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Detroit Community Public Schools Community District

Bolstering Academic Recovery


Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) is in an ongoing partnership with Leading Educators to strengthen instructional leadership in ELA and math so all students have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to thrive in Detroit, our nation, and our world. 

About the Partnership

Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), which serves more than 48,782 students, is determined to educate and empower every ​student in every community every day to build a stronger Detroit.​

The Challenge & Early Partnership Efforts

DPSCD students, like millions of students across the country, faced setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the district is working to recover and rebound.

Even before the pandemic struck, leaders in the district noticed a concerning trend: there was stagnation in elementary reading achievement, and math proficiency was persistently low. These issues signaled a pressing need for improvements in instructional strategy.

With partnership from Leading Educators, DPSCD adopted Tier 1 curricula and implemented curriculum-aligned cycles of professional learning for two years, but principals perceived them as disconnected from school priorities. 

  • Walkthroughs revealed many classrooms where adopted curricula were not fully in use, and an opportunity for teachers to increase rigor and student ownership.
  • Likewise, fewer than 50% of teacher leaders had consistent common planning or PLC time.

Some outlier schools were making progress, but instructional leadership needed to be built systematically. District leaders saw the need for a unified approach to building upon existing strengths and resources for overall improvement.

Looking Ahead

To ensure all students are college and career-ready, DPSCD is partnering with Leading Educators to bolster instructional recovery and growth through the following levers:

  • Creating a coherent instructional system that aligns leadership practices and learning goals district-wide.
  • Designing and delivering monthly professional development for district-level coaches to facilitate a more systematic approach to teacher support.
  • Directly coaching principals to enhance their instructional leadership skills, including strategic planning, collecting and analyzing observation and student learning data, and facilitating collaborative problem-solving conversations.

Ultimately, DPSCD intends to foster schools where teachers are well-equipped to meet student needs and prepare all students for the future.

Detroit Community Public Schools theory of action for student success.

The district aims to recapture and outpace initial academic gains with culture and achievement program investments in subsequent years.

Read a Related Story
How We’re Helping
Systems/Strategic Advising:

Leading Educators regularly meet with district leadership, including the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and the Deputy Superintendent of Strategy and Academics, to develop guidance, policies, and practices that promote effective instructional leadership across the district.

Ongoing Professional Learning Design

We collaborate closely on the design and facilitation of professional development for various stakeholders, including principals, teacher leaders, and coaches. LE also developed a district-specific playbook that is being realized in actionable learning materials.


Principals in select schools receive direct coaching aimed at refining their leadership abilities and supporting them in fostering effective instructional practices. Additionally, we offer coaching and guidance for district-level coaches, ensuring they effectively implement instructional leadership strategies.

Partnership By The Numbers

Icon on a a boy with a backpack

48,000 Students

empowered with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to thrive in a changing world

Overhead view of teachers sitting around a round table

24 School Leaders

supported to grow strong instructional practices across schools

White icon of a school

106 Schools

supported with coherent instructional efforts designed to yield sustainable growth

Meet the Team

Our team of experienced classroom educators, former school and system leaders, content and coaching experts, and fearless advocates work shoulder-to-shoulder with Detroit educators to go further faster.
Mary Kay Murphy smiles

Mary Kay Murphy

Managing Director of Networks
Mary Kay is a passionate Michigan educator who leads program implementation and growth in Greater Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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Dr. Keli Swearingen

Senior Director of Michigan Partnerships
Keli is the Senior Director for Michigan partnerships, leveraging more than a decade of experience in instructional leadership.
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Michelle Brown smiles

Dr. Michelle Brown

Senior Director of Networks
Michelle is a lifelong teacher. She leads professional learning design, systems strategy, and coaching support for educators in Detroit.
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Alexa Rowek

Director of Content and Coaching, ELA
Alexa Rowek is a lifelong teacher and learner.
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headshot of Brittany Whitby

Dr. Brittany Whitby

Director of Content and Coaching, Math
Dr. Brittany Whitby is an educational leader who is passionate about improving educational outcomes for all students.
Learn more
Mary Kay Murphy smiles

Mary Kay Murphy

Dr. Keli Swearingen

Michelle Brown smiles

Dr. Michelle Brown

Alexa Rowek

headshot of Brittany Whitby

Dr. Brittany Whitby

Learn About Other Partnership

DPSCD is just one of a dozen partnerships across the country that are pushing the boundaries of what schools can offer students. Learn more about how we customize our supports to meet the needs and strengths of visionary districts.

Meet Our Partners
Middle school math teachers meet to discuss their lesson plans and instructional strategies.
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