Michigan Education

It's no secret that Detroit schools have been failing their students for a long time.

In 2009 Detroit's public schools racked up the worst scores in the history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, and the scores haven't really improved since then.

Charter schools were launched to offer Detroit parents a choice. But my next guest believes the unregulated environment for charter schools has wound up hurting the kids who most need help and a sound education.

Robin Lake is director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington in Seattle.  She recently visited Detroit and came away with some unsettling views of the condition of Detroit's charter schools.

Traverse Bay Intermediate School District

Michigan students are improving in most subjects. That’s according to results released Friday from last fall’s Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test.

Education officials say they are most encouraged by gains in reading.

The list of Michigan school districts that have budget deficits is shrinking, and the list of districts that are getting in the black is growing. That was the report today (Thu.) from the state Department of Education to the Legislature.

There are 46 districts on the deficit list today, compared to 50 at the end of last year.

And that was good news to state Senator Howard Walker (R-Traverse City), who chairs the Senate K-through-12 budget subcommittee.

Elk Rapids School Bond Denied Again

Feb 26, 2014

Voters have rejected Elk Rapids Public Schools’ bond for the second time in four months. The $10.9 million bond was for a new gym, security and athletic upgrades.

Elk Rapids superintendent Steve Prissel is disappointed with yesterday’s outcome.

"We have a supportive community when it comes to education. We know that," he says. "However, the voters spoke and there's not support for capital projects."

The Timeless Art Of Political Backstabbing

Feb 26, 2014

Shakepeare’s “Coriolanus” is a play that can easily be set in modern times. Its themes of political ambition and social struggle are timeless. The Interlochen Arts Academy Theater Company stages its up-to-date production of “Coriolanus” Friday and Saturday. The director is David Montee. He says “Coriolanus” reminds him of the TV show “House of Cards.” 

The state of Michigan is ending its exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to oversee the worst-performing schools in the state.

State School Superintendent Mike Flangan sent a letter to the EAA saying the state will pull out of its exclusivity agreement with the Authority one year from now.

Martin Ackley is with the Michigan Department of Education. He says the state still intends to use the EAA to help turn around struggling schools.

“Now, this is in no way a statement or an indication of a lack of confidence in the EAA or its academic strategies. This is just an action that needed to be taken in order to provide flexibility and to provide options other than the EAA in which to place these most struggling schools.”

So, what are the other options that the State might use to help failing schools? And what's ahead for the controversial EAA?

Jake Neher, who covers Lansing for the Michigan Public Radio Network, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

erschools.com

Last November, almost half the schools in Michigan were unsuccessful at getting voters to approve their bond proposals. That included Kalkaska, Traverse City and Elk Rapids, all of which lost by a narrow margin. Elk Rapids Public Schools is back with the exact same proposal—$10.9 million over 20 years—on next week’s ballot.

Seventh grader Rebecca Marolf is excited about the idea of a new gymnasium. She’s with her dad at the Elk Rapids High School boys’ basketball game. The Cherryland Middle School student thinks the district needs another gym.

This time next year, the Education Achievement Authority will no longer be the only entity that can take over failing schools in Michigan.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has notified the EAA that the state is ending its exclusive contract with the authority. That means Michigan education officials could also place schools under the control of neighboring school districts, local intermediate school districts, or other entities.

With many Michigan schools racking up snow days, what's the best way to make up lost time? Adding minutes onto the school day? Or adding days at the end of the school year? Should local districts be allowed to decide for themselves or should Lansing make the decision for them?

Bridge Magazine contributing writer Ted Roelofs dug into these questions for his story in this week's Bridge.

Listen to the full interview above.

A bill that would bolster a state-run system for struggling schools could get a vote this week in the state Legislature.

Right now, the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) is trying to turn around 15 schools in Detroit. The legislation would allow it to operate up to 50 schools across the state by July of 2015.

“That means that the same school reform model that has failed in 15 schools in Detroit could be coming to a neighborhood school near you,” said state Rep. Collene Lamonte (D-Montague).

How do you best measure the progress of students in Michigan's classrooms and, by extension, the effectiveness of their teachers?

It's one of the thorniest challenges being debated in Michigan education.

For years, the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) and the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) have been the assessment tools. Now, with the move to the Common Core Standards, it's out with the MEAP and MME and in with the what?

Districts around Michigan are gearing up for an online adaptive assessment test in the spring of 2015.

The Michigan Department of Education says the state has only one option for testing students on the Common Core State Standards for the next three years.

And that option is the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the SBA.

But state lawmakers haven't made that official.

We wondered how districts  are preparing for the SBA or whatever test they're told to administer next year.

William Heath is superintendent of the Morrice Area Schools and the principal at Morrice Junior and Senior High School located in Shiawassee County. He joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Big Mid-Year Cuts For Suttons Bay Schools

Feb 12, 2014
Suttons Bay Schools

 

Just this fall, IPR highlighted Suttons Bay Public Schools as a district that has used creative budgeting, online programs and fundraisers to remain solvent.

But one of those solutions backfired this year.

Michigan Department of Education

The Michigan State Board of Education hopes public school funding will be a top priority for voters when they head to the polls in November.

The board on Tuesday kicked off a series of discussions meant to publicly critique the way the state pays for public education. The talks will continue at its monthly meetings until November.

Board of Education President John Austin says one of the goals is to shed light on the issue between now and the election.

There is a two-bill package making its way through the state Legislature that could impact students in every third-grade classroom in Michigan.

It would hold back third-graders who have poor reading skills. If a child fails a third-grade reading exam, he or she does not move along to fourth grade.

Backers say it can help get a struggling student back on track. Critics say flunking that struggling student is a punishment. State Superintendent Mike Flanagan panned the legislation, saying it should be up to local schools and parents.

Amber Arellano is the executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest.

Three school districts up north are asking voters to pay to improve safety, technology and buildings. Alanson, Elk Rapids and Manton school districts all have new measures on the ballot for next month’s election.

Last November, almost half the schools in Michigan were unsuccessful at getting voters to approve their bond proposals. That included Elk Rapids Public Schools, which lost by a narrow margin. They are back with the exact same proposal that includes security upgrades at all its buildings and a new high school gymnasium.


A new report finds the state's poorest children have failed to make up any ground in their reading skills in the past decade.

According to the the latest Kids Count report, 81% of low-income 4th-graders in Michigan are not reading proficiently.

Michigan is among six states that have seen no improvement in that rate since 2003.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell is the project director for Kids Count Michigan and she joined us today.

Lawmakers in Lansing have begun holding hearings on which standardized tests Michigan students will take next spring.

The state has already decided to replace the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests and educational officials have endorsed the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

In the coming months, you’ll likely be hearing a lot about the politics of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Some lawmakers say the test takes away control from local curriculum because it’s being developed by a national consortium.

Public Sector Consultant’s Michelle Richard joined us today to discuss the new test.

Listen to the full interview above.

It's been a year and a half since state education leaders called for reforms to Michigan's "zero tolerance" discipline policies. Critics say too many students are still being booted out of school because of zero-tolerance measures and the result is the kids who are getting in trouble and being expelled are the ones who most need help. And they point to the statistics: A disproportionate number of the students who are punished are minorities.

Bridge Magazine contributing writer Ted Roelofs wrote a piece in a recent issue titled "Zero tolerance school reforms hit resistance in Michigan.” He joined us today along with Annie Salsich, director of the Center on Youth Justice at the Vera Institute, to explore zero-tolerance policies and what can be done to promote a safe and productive school environment.

Listen to the full interview above.

Wikimedia Commons

Several northern Michigan counties could see revenue cuts, if Congress stops funding for “Payments In Lieu of Taxes,” or PILT. The change would affect Leelanau and Lake counties, as well as Benzie, Manistee, Mason and other areas with significant national park and forestlands.

The payments have gone on for decades, offsetting losses to local governments and schools which are not able to collect property tax on government land.

Debate is underway in Lansing over which standardized test will replace the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP). State lawmakers held their first hearing on the subject Wednesday afternoon.

At the meeting, state education officials defended their decision to endorse a computer-based test known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment. They took exception to lawmakers who questioned whether the test was chosen carefully and objectively.

Public school employees will continue to pay more for retirement and health benefits under a ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals. The unanimous decision upholds a 2012 law that was challenged by teachers’ unions.

The teachers’ unions say the law violates the Michigan Constitution by changing the terms of their contracts with school districts. The law requires public school employees hired before 1990 to hand over four percent of their pay. Before, they contributed nothing. Teachers and support staff hired after 1990 have to pay an even bigger share of their paychecks.

TC Students Launch Experiment Into Space

Jan 15, 2014
Traverse City Area Public Schools

Northern Michigan high school students have had their work launched into space on Sunday. NASA astronauts will conduct their experiment on the International Space Station.

Three Traverse City West High School students won a contest.

Haley Dole, a junior, was one of the three students who created the experiment.

“It was surprising at first,” Haley said. “I didn’t expect it at all because there were a lot of kids in the contest. And then, it was really exciting.”

A state budget surplus is easing some concerns about funding for public schools in Michigan.

Last year, the non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan warned recent funding increases for schools and early childhood programs might not be sustainable. It estimated they would create a $240 million hole in the state’s School Aid Budget.

“I don’t believe that should be the case at all,” said Governor Rick Snyder Tuesday. “We did it successfully last year and we should have more revenue opportunity this year.”

Back in 2010, the State Board of Education approved the Common Core State Standards for Michigan — a set of math and English goals for K-12 students.

School districts across the state have spent the past three years integrating the standards into their curricula. At the same time, we've heard a lot of political debate about Common Core, mostly about the involvement of the federal government in our classrooms.

But in October of this year, state lawmakers OK'd funding for Common Core, and now it is becoming a reality in Michigan classrooms.

We wanted to find out: What does this mean — day-in, day-out — for Michigan's students?

What does a school year under Common Core really look like?

Joining us is Naomi Norman, the executive director of Achievement Initiatives at Washtenaw Intermediate School District and Livingston Educational Service Agency.

Listen to the full interview above.

State Set To Expand "Turnaround" District

Dec 11, 2013

It appears a controversial state-run authority that oversees struggling schools in Michigan will be expanded.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced Tuesday that he plans to add up to nine schools to the Education Achievement Authority.

Meanwhile, the state Senate could vote as early as today on legislation that would increase the EAA’s ability to expand statewide. Republicans in the Senate have been working through some concerns they have about expanding the district.

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