Michigan Education

Education is a big issue in northern Michigan, whether we're reporting on school funding issues to breakthroughs in the classroom.

Traverse City Area Public Schools can afford to increase teacher pay, but not to the level the union was hoping for. That’s according to a state fact finder who was called in this winter after negotiations stalled.

The teachers’ union wants a four percent pay raise, both for the current school year, and again for next school year. It’s a far cry from what the district proposed: no increase either year.

Traverse City’s outgoing schools chief is offering to personally pay nearly $14,800 to settle a campaign finance violation with the state, stemming from a district campaign mailer from 2012.

“The responsibility for what comes from the district is ultimately mine,” says Traverse City Area Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cousins. “I’ve always said I would take responsibility for it. So that’s what I’m doing.”

Jim Peck / Michigan State University

  A doctor and Michigan State University professor who lives in Traverse City may have solved a deadly mystery about malaria. Her story is reported on our daily international news program The World.

Full story here.

Thursday, the federal government sent a message that it's taking sexual harassment on college campuses seriously. Education officials released the names of 55 schools facing investigation for their handling of sexual abuse allegations.

The number of "forcible rapes" that get reported at four-year colleges increased 49 percent between 2008 and 2012. That's the finding of an analysis by NPR's Investigative Unit of data from the Department of Education.

That increase shows that sexual assault is a persistent and ugly problem on college campuses. But there's also a way to look at the rise in reports and see something positive: It means more students are willing to come forward and report this underreported crime.

The way Michigan schools are funded is complex and emotionally charged.

Proposal A was passed in 1994. It was a new system for funding schools. It stopped the use of local property taxes as a source of school funding. Instead, it created a new state education tax, and it boosted the state sales tax from four to six cents on the dollar. The extra two cents goes to the school aid fund.

Twenty years after the changes, one thing many Michiganders agree on is that it's time to overhaul Proposal A, but there are many views on how to do that.

This week, Bridge Magazine is featuring a series of reports by Chastity Pratt Dawsey looking at how we fund schools in Michigan.

Dawsey joined us today.

*Listen to our conversation with her above.

Baldwin Community Schools

Summer vacation would be cut in half for students in Baldwin under a proposal for year-round school. Other breaks would be longer, however, amounting to the same number of school days in a year.

Baldwin Community Schools could make the switch next fall.

Superintendent Stiles Simmons says kids forget too much over the summer, especially math.

“That’s what we found here in Baldwin,” he says. “Our students are losing well over a month of knowledge and skills in the area of math due to the summer vacation.”

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The Supreme Court has ruled that a Michigan ballot initiative to ban racial preferences in college admissions is constitutional, overturning a lower court decision.

In a 6-2 decision Tuesday, the justices said the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals was wrong to set aside the voter-approved ban as discriminatory.

The state Senate returns this week after three weeks away from Lansing.

Lawmakers have some high-profile issues to address between now and June. That’s when the Legislature breaks for two months in the summer.

Schauer: Education Plan "Top Priority"

Apr 17, 2014
Jake Neher / Michigan Public Radio Network

The Democrat likely to challenge Gov. Rick Snyder in November says improving public schools would be his top priority in office.

Former Congressman Mark Schauer and his running mate, Lisa Brown, unveiled their education plan Wednesday in Lansing.

Ever since Stephen Hawking came out with his theory about how black holes work, physicists – including Hawking himself – have been wrestling with a "hole" in that theory.

Hawking postulated that if you threw something like a chair into a black hole, given enough time that chair would "dematerialize." It would disappear, leaving no trace of its existence.

But the laws of physics don't allow for things to simply disappear. Things can change, or be altered, but they can't disappear. You can burn a piece of paper, and it's no longer there, but the carbon, water, and other molecules still exist somewhere. Again, it can't simply disappear.

It's called the black hole information paradox.

PBS' Kate Becker quoted Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind in describing Hawking's theory in her post "Do Black Holes Destroy Information?":

As Leonard Susskind wrote in “The Black Hole War,” his 2008 book on the problem of black holes and information loss, “The possibility of hiding information in a vault would hardly be a cause for alarm, but what if when the door was shut, the vault evaporated right in front of your eyes? That’s exactly what Hawking predicted would happen to the black hole.”

The solution?

Now comes a theoretical physicist and computational biologist from Michigan State University who believes he has solved Hawking's black hole information paradox.

Chris Adami joined us today on Stateside. (You can listen to how he explains his theory above.)

Hawking discovered that black holes emit a glow called the “Hawking radiation.” That radiation, Hawking theorized, consumes the black hole and all things in the hole are lost. Poof! Nothing left.

Adami theorizes that a copy of the chair is made before it goes into the black hole.

More on Adami’s solution from MSU:

Paying for college presents a tremendous hurdle to many families, from wading through paperwork and navigating financial aid to understanding the long-term implications of college debt.

Online learning. Make no mistake about it: It is here and it is growing.

The number of students taking online courses has grown 52% in the past three years. In the 2012-2013 school year, some 55,000 students in Michigan took a virtual course.

A new report from the Michigan Virtual University looks at virtual learning for K-12 students –who’s taking online classes, what kinds of classes and how effective the classes are.

The results are mixed.

Jamey Fitzpatrick is president and CEO of Michigan Virtual University, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Tougher Teacher Certification Test Sparks Debate

Apr 11, 2014
The U.S. Census Bureau

University students who are looking to teach in Michigan will be tested as a step toward teacher certification this Saturday.

The new, more rigorous test has sparked debate. It was first administered in October. The pass rates fell from 82 percent to 26 percent.

Education majors have to pass this exam to become student teachers.

The state superintendent said the change helps put the best teachers in the classroom. He says increasing the required test scores will help with that goal.

There are mixed reviews in northern Michigan.

There could be movement soon on bipartisan legislation that would revamp teacher evaluations in Michigan. A number of groups that did not previously support the bills now say they’re on board.

Education advocates, bill sponsors, and lobbyists have been meeting this week to hammer out changes to the legislation.

Sara Hoover

The Traverse Bay Blues have been the high school state champions for the past four years. The girls rugby team hopes to defend its title when the season kicks off this Saturday, April 5, despite the fact that two-thirds of this year’s team has never played the sport before.

The gym at Traverse City High School is full of rugby players getting ready to head outside for practice. Members of the club team are tying their cleats and putting on thermals and jackets. Head coach Stephanie Kehrer is taking them outside for their first tackling practice.

Michigan State University could risk losing half-a-million dollars if it does not stop offering courses that allegedly promote unionization.

A state Senate panel approved a measure Thursday banning courses at public universities that promote or discourage organizing efforts. It’s a reaction to MSU’s recent decision to take over some programs from the National Labor College.

Republicans say those courses violate the proposed rule.

We recently had a discussion on Stateside that explored the question: Why are there not more women in the STEM and Computer Science programs?

After that program, we got an eye-catching email from University of Michigan student Carrie Johnson. She's in the Chemical Biology Ph.D. program, and she is a part of a student-led group called FEMMES, which stands for Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science.

When we heard how these students are reaching out to encourage and inspire other women, including holding free Saturday and after-school programs for girls in 4th through 6th grade, we knew we wanted to share their story with you.

Carrie Johnson and Abigail Garrity, a Ph.D. candidate in the Neuroscience Program at Michigan and co-president of FEMMES, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

You don't have to hunt too far to find critics of our schools, of the way our children are learning, what they're learning and the achievement gap within our classrooms.

There are countless ways, countless statistics that try to measure the problems. Here's just one, centered on the achievement gap. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, on 2007 standardized math exams, white fourth-graders performed better than black fourth-graders in all 46 states where results are available.

And we hear a steady drumbeat of criticism that students here in the U.S. are lagging behind their peers in other countries. When you look at standardized tests, American students rank 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math, which puts them behind students in Poland and Slovenia.

How much pressure should we put on individual teachers to fix these problems?

Natalie Davis, Alistair Bomphray, and Martha Curren-Preis are teachers who are all earning their Ph.D.s in education at the University of Michigan. They joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

The state House has approved a measure to expand the controversial Education Achievement Authority. The EAA is the agency that is supposed to turn around some of the state’s most struggling school districts.

A final version of the bill could be voted on as early as this week by the state Senate and sent to Gov. Snyder for his signature.

The legislation passed the House last week by just one more vote than was needed.

Critics of the EAA, mostly Democrats, say student test results don’t support putting more schools into the authority.

Supporters, mainly Republican, say the legislation allows for more tools to be used to turn around failing schools.

Kathy Gray has been covering the EAA for the Detroit Free Press, and she joined us today.

Listen to the interview above.

Some at-risk schools in Michigan could soon get more state funding if they agree to go year-round.

In his budget address in February, Gov. Snyder called for a state pilot program to encourage year-round schooling. School districts could get money to add air conditioning and other upgrades to old buildings so they could operate during the summer.

Supporters of the measure say students lose a lot of what they learn during the school year after long summer breaks.

State Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, is sponsoring year-round education legislation. He says teachers have to reeducate students in September and October.

“You could have 30 and even up to 60 of the 180 days of kids relearning what they should already know,” said Schor.

But do these measures actually work?

Harris Cooper is professor and the chair of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. He joined us today to share his thoughts.

Listen to the interview above.

TCEA

Teachers in Traverse City have begun an advertising campaign over their union contract. The Traverse City Education Association hopes to sway public support, as negotiations continue with Traverse City Area Public Schools.

The union recently paid for a full page ad in the Traverse City Record-Eagle (pictured right). This week, those listening to a couple of select commercial radio stations could hear the voice of association President Jeff  Leonhardt.

Gov. Rick Snyder wants to increase per-student funding for schools by 3 percent in the budget for next fiscal year. But schools could actually end up getting more than that.

A state Senate panel on Wednesday approved an increase ranging between $150 and $300 dollars per student. Snyder recommended an increase between $83 and $111.

The plan would get rid of a number of grants and give that money back to schools without strings attached through the per-pupil allowance.

Traverse City Schools Chief Announces Retirement

Mar 19, 2014

Traverse City Area Public Schools is in search of a new superintendent. Steve Cousins says he is retiring from public education to begin a consulting career at the end of the school year, effective July 1st.

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