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All Rise: Meeting the Challenge of Remote Learning in Detroit and Beyond

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    EL Education

NEW YORK and MICHIGAN, 4/22/20—As schools closed their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions of students across the country risked having their learning discontinued. In cities like Detroit, where many students don’t have access to the internet or technology, shifting fully to virtual learning is simply not an option. In response, The Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) and their literacy curriculum partner EL Education quickly developed a plan and, within two weeks, created 432 printable lessons that are being paired  with 432 videos of teachers leading the lessons—an entire 10 weeks of classes for every grade, kindergarten through 8.

“There is nothing more important than ensuring our teachers and students continue to teach and learn. This global pandemic had the potential to create a chasm in our ability to meet the needs of our community. Due to the hard work of our district team and our partnership with EL Education, our students are walking into the next phase of their learning.” said Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District. 

The remote lessons provide 10 weeks of learning and were designed to meet the unique needs of each student: students who have access to internet and technology, students who have limited access to technology, and those without access to technology and texts. Built in line with the district’s vision of excellent instruction, the remote learning lessons follow the familiar Read, Think, Talk, Write cycle and empower students to own, reflect on, and present their learning. The lessons include foundational skills building for the youngest grades, build students’ knowledge through rich content, and give students access to high quality, grade-level texts, made accessible by Newsela. The District’s design principles, led by April Imperio, Executive Director of ELA Literacy emphasized both familiarity and simplicity in construct for both families and educators.  

Lesson videos, led by District Training and Support Coordinators, Teachers and EL Education staff, walk students through the printable lessons and include a read-aloud of curriculum text.  Videos are posted to the District’s YouTube Channel so they can be accessed on a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or gaming system.  DPSCD Educators are also empowered to use Microsoft Teams to connect with students online or via phone to meet students’ individual needs in support of these lessons. The District’s Instructional Solutions team is leading the herculean effort to transition the District’s classrooms to virtual spaces.

“At a time when millions of students no longer have access to teachers, schools, and curriculum, the inequities in our educational system and society at large are being laid bare. Our partnership with the Detroit Public Schools Community District remains a bright spot, particularly during this unprecedented disruption. We’re proud to work shoulder to shoulder with DPSCD to ensure that every student has continued access to teaching in learning,” said Scott Hartl, EL Education President and CEO. 

Across the district, DPSCD created 672 Language Arts and reading lessons and videos to serve their 51,000 students in grades PK-12. 

Prior to deploying the remote lessons to students, educators across the district attended self-paced professional development to support the transition to distance learning. The courses allowed teachers insight into the lesson design principles and emphasized the importance of cultural responsiveness and social-emotional learning in a distance learning setting. Additionally, the district hosted twice-daily office hours for teachers to ensure they were set up for success. The District will provide ongoing support and professional learning for educators.

For the past two years, as a part of a district-wide PK-12 literacy strategy, DPSCD and EL Education have partnered to provide the highly rated EL Education Language Arts curriculum for grades K-8 across the school district. After just one year of literacy partnership with EL Education, students in Detroit posted their highest-ever scores on the Michigan ELA Assessment: M-STEP. In all but one tested grade, they also outperformed the state in growth.

To learn more about The Detroit Public Schools Community District and to download the lessons visit  To view the curated videos, visit the District’s YouTube Channel.  For more information about EL Education visit

Media Contacts:

EL Education: Alexandra Fenwick-Moore at or 646-477-4158. 

Detroit Public Schools Community District: Chrystal Wilson at