Detroit's Central Collegiate Academy Becomes Star in Urban School Reform

Increased graduation rate, ACT scores dramatically reverse recent trends


Columbus, OH -- (SBWIRE) -- 11/19/2014 -- Detroit’s most historic, flagship high school has emerged as an inspiring success story in the city’s struggle to reform its failing local schools. -- well above the national average for urban African-American students -- Central Collegiate Academy’s Class of 2014 placed 88% of its students in postsecondary education, achieved a 78% graduation rate and raised average ACT composite scores by 1.7 points.

“We sat down as a school improvement and reinvention team, and put together a systemic plan to make improvements on a performance series as well as the ACT,” said Central Collegiate Academy Executive Principal Steven McGhee. “On the performance series, our students moved up 1.5 to 2 grade levels on benchmark tests.”

In addition to achieving numerical improvement on testing metrics, McGhee’s team also implemented qualitative instructional improvements like one-on-one technology instruction for all students, internships in partnership with major area employers (General Motors), college tours, and job-embedded professional learning for teachers. Students also received assistance in completing scholarship applications and Fee Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms, earning $1.4 million in academic scholarships.

The University of Chicago Urban Education Institute recently identified Central Collegiate Academy as the only U.S. Department of Education School Improvement Grant (SIG) high school in the city of Detroit, to earn a “Strong” (Organized for Improvement) rating.

“The University of Chicago research indicated that schools that measure ‘strong’ on three or more of the 5Essentials Survey of predictive change, were 10 times more likely to improve student learning. We are gratified at the results of their independent survey, and we are focused on continuing improvement to provide ambitious learning outcomes for our students,” said Principal Steven McGhee.

Central Collegiate Academy was known until recently as Detroit Central High School, established as Detroit’s first high school in 1858 and operating in its current location since 1926. Detroit Central was once the flagship high school in the city, producing accomplished graduates like billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, U.S. Senator Carl Levin, Nobel Prize winner Melvin Calvin, NFL All-Pro Antonio Gates, “Inside The Actor’s Studio” host James Lipton, and R&B singers Anita Baker, The Jones Girls, and Freda Payne.

Yet over the past several decades, the school suffered decline in academics along with the rest of the city. As Detroit’s high school graduation rate declined to 38% citywide, third worst among the 50 largest U.S. cities, Central was ranked as one of the lowest performing high schools both in the state of Michigan and in the nation’s 50 largest cities.

Since 2012, Central Collegiate Academy has been under the direction of the State of Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority (EEA). Under a U.S. Department of Education’s School Improvement Grant (SIG), Detroit Central High School was able to hire a McGhee as Executive Principal with the autonomy to replace staff and change the institutional culture.

Liberty Leadership Development, LLC, a comprehensive school improvement organization, was brought in as a lead partner to oversee strategic alignment of academic content and build internal leadership capacity through stakeholder engagement.

“Schools that focus on student learning often yield the highest academic results,” says Randall G. Sampson, founder of Liberty Leadership Development. “We’re extremely proud of our role in the dramatic success and turnaround achieved by Principal McGhee and his team.”

Liberty Leadership Development was chosen to assist in leading a comprehensive approach focused on the full implementation of college and career-readiness content, rigorous instructional strategies and authentic student engagement practices.

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For video of an interview with Central Collegiate Academy Executive Principal Steven McGhee, visit

About Central Collegiate Academy
Central Collegiate Academy was known until recently as Detroit Central High School, established as Detroit’s first high school in 1858 and operating in its current location since 1926.

Media Contact:
Randall Sampson
Phone: 614-323-4521