Between 2011-2013, DFS has operated in 24 schools, employed 10 artists, partnered with 25 teachers and worked with over 3,000 students across the Metro Detroit area. Some teachers and their students partnered with us for multiple years and some for just one. However long or short the time, DFS has demonstrated a lasting impact on individuals that resonates even after our partnership has ended.
We conduct interviews with all DFS teachers, and with a sample of students from every classroom at the end of each school year to understand our impact towards our purpose of humanizing schools. Here are some of the things they’ve told us.
Out of 33 student interviews at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, 28 indicated that their experiences with DFS improved their relationship to school and in- creased their agency as learners. 23 described their relationship to their DFS artist as a role model or mentor. 21 told us they believe that they have power to change their lives and their communities for the better.
The following quotes from student interviews help illustrate the impact of the pro- gram on students:
[DFS is] what gets me up in the morning. Because like, let me see how can I put this…basically without this class, school would be boring …It’s like you do your work and you can associate with your students. In other classes, you got to be quiet and do your work. In this class–when [DFS artist] here–we get to talk to other people. We get to express ourselves.
–High school student
As an 8th grader, I never thought I had the power to change my city. But with DFS, I see I can start with myself and my class then eventually the city…I learned that the economy is very bad and we have the possibility to change it. And we can increase the amount of people living in Detroit in a good way and we can help Detroit with community service and other types of things. I learned that it’s not always about you–you have to care about the community and what’s going on outside of your home and your situations because if you don’t then you won’t know what’s going on and like–it’s not just about watch- ing news. Because you’re just watching what’s going on–you’re not actually helping.
–8th grade student
The media project was the first project that had to do with writing and other steps to it that I completed ever. No lie. Ever. I never complete like my writ- ing projects or whatever. But the media project–it was the first project I com- pleted ever.
–High school student
Teacher surveys indicated that DFS had a positive impact on traditional measures of academic achievement (attendance, test scores, homework turn-in). In three classrooms, we saw quantitative gains in the MEAP, ACT and in-house pre and post exams. Teachers have credited DFS for helping them develop the tools to not simply teach to a test but to teach students how to navigate complex questions which indirectly builds students’ test-taking skills.
The following are quotes from teachers on the impact DFS has had on them per- sonally and professionally:
I develop curriculum for LEAP (Learning for the Empowerment and Advance- ment of Palestinians) and my work with DFS is directly applied to the curricu- lum we are developing. The processes, the activities, the critical thinking strat- egies that I was exposed to and was inspired to develop in my work with DFS are being used in the curriculum. Teaching people to be producers and not consumers of media is something that is foundational in the work I am doing.
–Former DFS high school teacher
DFS has given me a strong theoretical framework as well as ways to bridge those theories into the classroom. It also helped me become more critical in the way I approach education. What I learned through DFS still informs my work significantly. A large part of my identity as an educator was developed through my work with DFS and I still hold a big part of that identity today. Also, its given me a great reference point as a successful critical pedagogy program so I often catch myself thinking “I wonder how we would’ve worked through these challenges at DFS?”
–5th Grade DFS Teacher
Immersion in the DFS network dramatically transformed how I conceptual- ize my role as an educator and my own vision for how a successful classroom functions. Before DFS, I had a much lower bar for measuring success. Since DFS, I look for elements of rigorous engagement, character development and student leadership to signify the success of my classroom.
–2nd Grade DFS Teacher