School Spotlight: Dove Academy of Detroit

Dove Academy of Detroit Snapshot

Students Served: 450+

Grades Served: Preschool – 8th grade

Year Established: 1997



Board Members:
Steve Tomkowiak, President
Willa Jackson, Treasurer
Carol Morgan, Secretary
Albert Stanton, Vice President
Jarod McGuffey, Member


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No Excuses. Expectations are high, parents get involved, and teachers go above and beyond to prepare their students for college. Meet Dove Academy of Detroit.

dove-academy-of-detroit-studentsA school that is focused around college readiness, Dove students learn to set and attain goals at an early age in order to prepare them for a lifetime of success. Their school is centered around a common theme, No Excuses University. They focus on six exceptional systems: culture of universal achievement, collaboration, standards alignment, assessment, data management, and interventions. It’s through these systems that the school is able to maintain consistent enrollment, higher test scores than a majority of neighborhood schools, and provide a world-class education right in the heart of Detroit.

The staff at Dove Academy have a huge impact on the culture of the school. Upon entering the school, teacher photos are hung alongside information about the college or university they attended. This showcase allows students to see what colleges and universities are out there, which is just one way Dove creates a college-bound environment. Staff continuously work together as a team and create opportunities to build their relationships with one another for the betterment of all students. They truly have their students’ best interests at heart.

This past fall, four Dove Academy teachers received recognition for their outstanding practices through MAPSA’S TEAMS program, a grant program created through MAPSA and the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund, which works to bring reform and innovation into schools through performance-based models. Paul Ezel was awarded The Presidential Award for Professional Practice. This award is given to individuals who achieved a perfect score on their observation. Out of the 2,000+ teachers observed from 20 Detroit-area charter schools, only 16 individuals achieved a perfect score. In addition, Jodi Austin, Anne Hartland and Katie Leib were all awarded The Quantum Leap Award which is given to teachers who grew at least two tiers in their observation. This award reflects those who embraced the growth mindset and the feedback given by observers and mentors within Dove Academy. All of the recipients are individuals who worked hard in developing their capacity.


Although academics are the central focus of the school, Dove Academy is also happy to offer various sports and after-school opportunities for its students. From basketball to cheerleading, students are able to get involved. This year, they were able to add not one, not two, but THREE soccer teams! Having these teams helps to create a sense of community among peers and families as well.

Most recently Dove Academy has restructured their Response to Intervention program, After-School Academic Acceleration Program (ASAAP), which is focused on re-teaching and enriching. The program runs 3-days a week in two-week cycles alternating between Math & Reading. The students are grouped by their common skill deficits and teachers use the NWEA goal areas and common RTI ranges for grouping.

In addition, teachers dedicate their time in order to provide extracurricular opportunities in the form of after school clubs for those students who are not participating in ASAAP. Upon the creation of these clubs, Spanish club had such a high interest with over 90 students signing up to participate, the club had to expand to be offered twice a week for students!

“Genius Hour” is an opportunity for 4th-8th grade students to explore their interests. Students are given time to identify a challenge, problem, or question they would like to explore. When asked about the program, Melissa Lopez, Director of Title One Operations and Assessment Coordinator said, “Throughout the program, students will plan, manage, and reflect upon their learning with a focus on the process of inquiry. The process allows students the freedom to think independently, take risks, and learn from their attempts. Their work is even showcased on the class Genius Hour site in the form of blog posts.”

So college-bound isn’t just a phrase. The thought of attending college for these students becomes a reality throughout their daily academics, engagement with others, and motivation from their teachers. No Excuses University has not only helped to shape the culture of the school as a whole, but the dedication of the staff brings true value to each and every student who walks through the door.

And once they come through the door…they won’t want to leave.

How Dove Academy of Detroit teachers motivate students to set and reach goals…

hannah-dove-academy-of-detroitHannah Parish, 5th Grade Teacher

Our classroom is set up like a mini-society. The students’ jobs are to be active learners and good citizens. Students earn jewels for accomplishing goals, completing homework, doing their daily job, and making great choices.

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abby-hull-dove-academy-of-detroitAbby Hull, 1st Grade Teacher

I motivate my 1st graders to set and reach goals by putting them in charge of their goals. Together we decide on what they want their goal to be (this could be either behavioral or academic). Then we create a plan with steps to reach that goal. One of the most important parts is what we decide to do to celebrate when we make gains toward our goals (lunch with me, a positive phone call to mom or dad, free choice time, etc.) I’ve found that the more students feel in charge of their own goals, the more likely they are to really try/want to achieve them!

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ashley-rogers-dove-academy-of-detroitAshley Rogers, 3rd Grade Teacher

I motivate students to set and reach goals by making a big celebration out of the successes!! We have a party of their choosing, i.e. pizza, ice cream, nachos. Celebrating their successes really helps motivate the students, so they are able to take a break for academics for a minute, and focus on celebrating their achievements! If the whole class meets their individual goals, we have an even BIGGER surprise party! During their testing time, they are given “good luck pencils”, as well as peppermints to ensure focus and success! 

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bill-bock-dove-academy-of-detroitBill Bock, Middle School Social Studies Teacher

I work to motivate students to make and reach goals by making a human connection with them. Getting to know, respect, and value students helps them to feel valued and valuable. If students believe in, and value themselves, they will have the confidence to indulge in their interests, and seek out achievement. We guide students in this process by stressing the importance of college, and planning for the future.