Washington’s Ballmer Group Donates $5.9M to Detroit Schools to Create Online Student Progress Portal

Ballmer Group, which is based in Washington and focuses on southeast Michigan, has given the Detroit Public Schools Community District a $5.9 million grant. It will support the district’s development of a data system designed to offer school leaders, teachers, parents, and students with student performance information, updating outdated or nonexistent technology.
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DPSCD school
Ballmer Group has given DPSCD $5.9 million to develop a student performance data system. // Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public Schools Community District

Ballmer Group, which is based in Washington and focuses on southeast Michigan, has given the Detroit Public Schools Community District a $5.9 million grant. It will support the district’s development of a data system designed to offer school leaders, teachers, parents, and students with student performance information, updating outdated or nonexistent technology.

“This investment means so much to DPSCD for so many reasons,” says Nikolai Vitti, superintendent. “Ballmer Group is very disciplined, thoughtful, and strategic about their investments, so to receive this grant reaffirms our message — we are on the rise and becoming one of the most improved urban school districts in the country. If philanthropy wants to see scaled improvement in urban school districts that can be replicated in other districts, then DPSCD should be the place to invest.

“Rather than telling DPSCD what they wanted to fund, Ballmer Group asked the district how they can assist with accelerating the district’s transformative plan by filling in the gaps that exist to improve. This grant will yield a dramatic return on investment because it will empower school leaders, teachers, staff, community, and parents to have immediate and easy access to student data related to attendance, discipline, and performance to problem solve and provide the right support for our children.”

The new portal system will provide users with an immediate and singular view, access to instructional materials, and data. District staff will also use the system for professional development and workflow to improve department and school level systems and processes.

School staff, outside partners, and mentors who support students will have access to student data after they are cleared for privacy protections. This work builds on the district’s efforts to improve achievement and empower internal and external partners to assist students, namely parents, who can more effectively monitor students’ performance.

“Investing in data and technology is critical for nonprofits and government services working to improve the lives of children and families,” says Kylee Mitchell Wells, executive director for Ballmer Group’s southeast Michigan division. “We are proud to support the efforts of innovative public sector leaders like Dr. Vitti and to help build this critical foundation for kids in Detroit Public Schools Community District.”

Ballmer Group focuses on improving economic mobility through levers including community-led initiatives and the use of data to track progress.

“There is a new era of leadership at DPSCD,” says Iris Taylor, president of the district’s board of education. “The district is now working side-by-side with school leadership teams and teachers utilizing data to administer instruction based upon standards aligned with students’ individual needs. We witnessed the power of our data tracking this past fall with DPSCD’s positive M-STEP data, which reflected improvements across grades 3-7 in literacy and mathematics while outpacing the state’s average across grade levels.”

The district is Michigan’s largest, with more than 100 schools and 50,000 students.

Ballmer Group works to improve economic mobility for children and families in the U.S. who are disproportionately likely to remain in poverty. It was co-founded by philanthropist and civic activist Connie Ballmer and her husband Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, founder of USAFacts, and chairman of the Los Angeles Clippers. Steve Ballmer was born and raised in southeast Michigan. Ballmer Group supports interventions nationwide, and its focus areas are Washington, Los Angeles, and southeast Michigan.

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