Excellence in Education

To alleviate the racial disparities in outcomes for students, and to realize the vision of “every Bearcat graduating career, college and community ready,” Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS) has continued to make intensive investments in academic achievement programming for students and professional development, engagement and retention efforts for teachers.

Though early years of the BCPS transformation showed tangible progress in a number of areas, the COVID-19 pandemic caused deep disruptions to education across the nation. Academic achievement and attendance declined nationally, and BCPS was no exception, but the supports and innovations built by the district before the pandemic helped students and staff stay resilient. BCPS was able to avert severe learning loss because of transformation changes already in place, and community partners stepped up in unprecedented ways to help students and families cope with challenges. 

The District’s kindergarten readiness rate has nearly tripled over the past eight years, from 15.5% in 2013-14 to 45% in 2021-22

Focus on Early Education

Recognizing that improved instruction provides the biggest gains starting in early education, the transformation of BCPS includes significant support for the youngest students. BCPS has made significant investments in early learning and literacy, and data reflects that the benefits of these investments remain with children as they progress through the grades.

Kindergarten Prep Summer Program

Kindergarten Success Program (KSP) is a free BCPS summer program for students entering kindergarten that began in 2017. The program is designed as an early intervention to help address racial and socioeconomic disparities in academic achievement and college and career readiness. 

KSP helps children build core readiness skills like color identification, number and letter recognition and fine motor skills, which are proven to help students make the most of learning in kindergarten and beyond. The program runs mid-June through late July, and provides free transportation, breakfast and lunch, school supplies and full-day, play-based learning and enrichment for students entering kindergarten in the fall.

NWEA MAP reading and math results indicate that the first KSP cohort, who were in fourth grade in fall 2021, outpaced their peers who did not participate in KSP. Two cohorts of KSP participants — students now in the second and fourth grades — also had significantly better attendance rates in 2021-22 than did their peers who did not attend KSP.

73 students attended KSP in the summer of 2022.

Intensive Literacy Support

At BCPS, literacy is a key focus. The district has invested in individualized instruction to ensure that every K-2 classroom includes a literacy tutor in addition to the classroom teacher. BCPS uses an approach called disciplinary literacy, which means that literacy is taught across all content areas, through every subject, at all grade levels. This is a key tactic for catch-up growth in middle and high school, since these students didn’t have as much access to the early interventions that began as part of the transformation.

All BCPS kindergarten classrooms have a student-adult ratio of 12:1 or smaller, and the district tracks every student’s progress using benchmarks to measure growth and to identify early students who are struggling. The district now has 34 literacy tutors and five literacy specialists, and is providing all K–5 teachers with Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training, a research-based approach to the science of teaching reading. 

Since 2019, the BCPS Classroom Libraries project has purchased 145,347 books for K-8 classroom libraries.


In fall 2019 for the third consecutive year, students who attended KSP scored higher DIBELS (a composite score estimate for reading proficiency) than their counterparts.


Data from October 2019 to January 2020 demonstrates that 68% of students who participated weekly in the reading buddies program achieved growth.

New Schools and Programs

The launch of new programs and partnerships are tangible markers of progress, giving students access to more innovative and engaging learning models and boosting the district’s enrollment numbers.  

Innovative, New Magnet Schools

Battle Creek STEM Innovation Center middle school (BC STEM, for short) was launched in 2019 as a standout addition to the district because of its project-based learning (PBL) curriculum and investment in top technology. The curriculum marries learning with interactive projects. The immersive STEM-focused education at the school aims to prepare students for fast-growing career opportunities in the STEM field, as well as help them become creative thinkers.

The curriculum, co-designed by experts at Grand Valley State University, applies the engineering design process to lessons across multiple subject areas, helping students engage in research, evaluation, prototyping and testing that carries a consistent topic through all units of study. 

In 2019, BCPS reopened Fremont Elementary School as Fremont International Academy (Fremont), an academically rigorous magnet school currently serving students in grades K-5. Fremont is an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme candidate school. All students receive Spanish language instruction and the student experience is focused on experiential learning, problem-solving skills and global ideas that help students build curiosity and expand their horizons.

Fremont Elementary School had closed in 2016, along with another school because of budget shortfalls caused by declining enrollment. The closure of Fremont was a major setback to the district given its well-loved reputation. The reopening has been a major boon to the district, as well as the community’s perception of and belief in the success of the transformation.

High School Career Academies​

Launched in 2018 at Battle Creek Central High School (BCCHS) with the class of 2022, the Career Academies model created small learning communities within the high school. All students are part of an academy of their selection and receive instruction that is tailored to their interests while developing the skills they need to excel in school, the workforce and beyond. The inaugural class of the Career Academies at Battle Creek Central High School graduated in 2022, with 88% of students agreeing with the statement, “I am graduating from BCCHS Career Academies career, college and community ready.”

The Career Academies model includes Freshman Academy in ninth grade to ease the transition into high school. At the conclusion of ninth grade, students declare a career-focused pathway and begin interest-based and experiential learning in their sophomore year. The pathways program was created in partnership with Ford Next Generation Learning (Ford NGL), a national expert in school career preparedness and student engagement that worked with the Battle Creek community to shape the model and offerings according to the needs of its people and economy: what jobs are available, where industries are growing and the biggest needs in the economy and workforce. In 2019, Battle Creek became only the second designated Ford NGL community in the state of Michigan.

In 2020 BCCHS opened a healthcare simulation lab, with cutting-edge equipment, technology and supplies such as hospital beds, stretchers, tables, lifts and “practice patients” in the form of high-fidelity medical dummies. Health career pathways students over the age of 18 can gain Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certifications through the pathways program.

Middle School Transformation

Even with the success of the BC STEM Innovation Center, the district realized that its largest remaining area of growth is its middle schools. BCPS is further transforming the middle school experience, by making significant changes at Northwestern Middle School (Northwestern) and Springfield Middle School (Springfield). Thanks to a bond measure that voters approved in fall 2021, Northwestern will transform into a K–8 visual and performing arts academy. The school is slated to undergo renovations that include the addition of performance spaces and arts studios, and will adopt a rich arts education curriculum that includes dance, music, theater and visual arts. Northwestern’s visual and performing arts academy is on track to launch in fall 2025. 

At Springfield Middle School, a service learning experience will launch in fall 2022 after a successful pilot phase. This educational experience seeks to help students understand their potential to shape their community and the world by participating in school-supporting jobs and tasks, meeting and volunteering for community service organizations and conducting research projects on and designing solutions to address issues in the world that they care about. BCPS is also looking to transform Springfield into an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme, to help create a full International Baccalaureate experience where students benefit from a global education starting in kindergarten at Fremont all the way through eighth grade at Springfield. 

students at BCCHS in the 2021-22 school year, up more than 100 students from year one of the transformation, with 169 students who were new to the district
of 79 new Fremont students
were new to the district in 2021-22

More than

from outside of the district choiced into BCPS across all grades in the 2021-22 school year, an increase of 19 from 2020-21

Student Engagement

To engage students intellectually and improve academic outcomes, BCPS has emphasized not only more time learning in school, but bringing in creative approaches to instruction that engage students’ interests and challenge their problem-solving abilities. 


Research shows that starting as early as preschool and kindergarten, chronic absenteeism — missing 10% of the academic year — has devastating effects on student achievement. Early data indicated that school attendance was directly correlated to higher academic achievement in BCPS, making improved attendance a top priority.

In the second year of the transformation, BCPS launched a multi-year “Challenge Five’’ attendance campaign, which encouraged students to miss no more than five days of school each year. The campaign included school-level improvement plans and attendance teams, digital advertising, partner outreach, billboards and more. In spring 2017, BCPS partnered with Attendance Works to gather data on chronic absenteeism, and with Communities in Schools in 2019 to connect their families with resources to help improve attendance.

Early data from the first years of the transformation showed improvements — 36% of students were chronically absent (missing more than 10 days of school) in 2018–19, a nine percentage point decrease from 2017–18 — but COVID-19 significantly impacted this progress. Student attendance rates have worsened since the pandemic, and this is a top priority looking ahead.

Summer Programs

Summer learning is a key strategy to boost academic achievement by fending off the “summer slide.” In addition to the Kindergarten Success Program, summer programming has included self-guided reading challenges, in-person programming for elementary and middle school students, credit recovery for high school students and more. GVSU offers three summer camps exclusively for BCPS students: 

STEPS introduces rising seventh grade students to the world of science, technology and engineering.

SHAPE gives rising eighth and ninth graders engaging, hands-on exposure to health professions like physical therapy, lab science and sports medicine.

EXCEL provides rising high school seniors the opportunity to learn more about the field of education, develop their own leadership skills and prepare their plans for after graduation.

Over 150 students registered for the GVSU-BCPS summer camps in summer 2022. 

Curriculum Innovation

To increase rigor, BCPS leaders invested in top-of-the-line curricula to replace outdated books and teaching guides, including: 

  • In 2017, BCPS got all-new curricula for elementary, middle and high school math and English Language Arts, the first curriculum update in more than a decade.
  • In 2019, with funding from WKKF, BCPS launched the PREP project with Western Michigan University, instituting a new math curriculum and teaching practices for third grade students at Ann J. Kellogg Elementary. The pilot has shown positive results so far.
  • Beginning in 2019-20, BCPS began partnering with GVSU faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Regional Math and Science Center and the College of Education to co-develop middle school technology and engineering-focused curricula and Project-Based Learning (PBL) lesson plans and units. A total of 112 BCPS teachers and administrators have participated in this professional development program with GVSU over the past three years.

“The kids love BC STEM. Students with special learning or language needs who can feel left out of traditional settings particularly shine.”

Teacher Retention and Professional Support

Personalized, caring relationships with teachers are proven to increase student performance. Yet, BCPS, like districts nationally, struggles with teacher retention, a challenge exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teachers have left education, resulting in a national teacher shortage crisis. According to a 2022 National Education Association (NEA) survey, a staggering 55% of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned. 

BCPS is using creative strategies for recruitment and alternative certification pathways to build a stronger hiring pipeline. BCPS has also partnered with the city and other entities to offer incentives that draw teachers to the district and keep them here. Data reflects that these hiring and retention efforts are reducing teacher turnover.

Number of Teachers Who Have Resigned from BCPS from 2017-2020

Transformational Teacher Institute (TTI)​

Superintendent Carter believes that enticing teachers and staff to stay with the district by offering paid professional supports will not only help reduce teacher turnover, but also help strengthen the district’s teaching practices and boost academic achievement. BCPS introduced the TTI in the first year of the transformation, including seven courses which cover different areas of interest, each with eight professional development sessions.

Topics include data-informed practices, literacy support, early warning systems and more. In the program’s fifth year, BCPS offered 130 TTI sessions. An overwhelming majority of surveyed teachers, 78%, reported participating in TTI, with most saying that their teaching had changed as a result of what they learned.

A majority of teachers reported that financial incentives and training factor into their decisions to stay in the district. In spring 2022, 77% of teachers said that retention bonuses for teachers with effective ratings influence whether they remain with BCPS, while 54% said that TTI payments are a decisive factor.

GVSU Teacher Training and Mentorship​

In a major milestone for the district, BCPS launched its partnership with Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in 2019. One of the major components of the partnership helps teachers enhance their teaching and classroom management techniques to boost students’ critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Through this partnership, GVSU’s College of Education offers professional development opportunities to BCPS teachers through new teacher mentoring, leadership development and various programs to support curriculum development and instructional practices.

Additionally, BCPS  hosts GVSU College of Education student-teachers to help young educators get a strong start in the district. Through the program, 25 GVSU student-teachers were placed in BCPS classrooms during the 2021-22 school year. Since the beginning of the transformation, a total of 9 student-teachers have become BCPS educators. 

Historic Compensation Increase​

At the start of the transformation in 2016–17, declining enrollment led to reduced funding and stagnated teacher raises and led to pay freezes. BCPS could not compete with neighboring districts, meaning it wasn’t able to recruit or retain the educators it needed.

As the transformation continued, BCPS was able to offset key expenses using grant dollars, freeing up budget in the general fund to help improve compensation. The historic three-year Battle Creek Education Association (BCEA) contract approved in June 2019 offered significant raises, lump sum bonuses and reinstated step increases. The newest Battle Creek Education Association contract, ratified in May 2022, includes further salary increases and will expand financial incentives: beginning in July 2022, teachers can receive up to $2,500 for tuition reimbursement and $5,000 signing and retention bonuses.

Financial Incentives​

The district offers a housing incentive, in partnership with the city of Battle Creek, supported by a grant from WKKF, that includes matching funds on down payments or remodeling and rental costs reimbursement. Since the housing incentive program’s launch in 2018, more than 60 teachers and staff have used it to purchase homes, rent or remodel.

BCPS also offers performance bonuses, retention bonuses, stipends for teachers working in Michigan Department of Education-identified priority schools, tuition reimbursement and attendance incentives for those with 0-3 days of absence per year.

“All of the financial incentives have motivated me to stay. Money isn’t everything, but I have to support my daughter. If all of these little incentives weren’t there, I can’t guarantee that I would have left my previous job to come to BCPS.”

  • Excellence in Education Intro
  • Focus on Early Childhood
  • New Schools and Programs
  • Teacher Retention and Professional Support