education

moare / Morguefile

Federal law guarantees that children with disabilities have equal access to education. But what that actually looks like for Michigan kids very much depends upon where you live.

An investigation by Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project and Bridge Magazine has turned up disparities in the way schools choose which students should be in special education and the actual level of those services. Sarah Alvarez with State of Opportunity joined us, along with Bridge Magazine writer Ron French.

*Listen to Alvarez and French above

School Bus
Nicolae Gerasim / Flickr

The American Academy of Pediatrics says teens need to sleep later. The Academy is challenging America’s schools to not start high school classes until at least 8:30 a.m.

A long board.
user DieselDemon / Flickr

When I took wood shop in high school, the project was a step stool. I know. Not very exciting.

To get high school students more excited about woodworking and to get them more active, an industrial arts teacher and a gym teacher got together and came up with a new kind of class. Kids can make their own longboard skateboard, surfboard, snowboard, or skis.

The class at Forest Hills Eastern High School in Grand Rapids is called Gone Boarding.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

“Black lives matter! The EAA is killing me!”

Dozens of chanting protestors overwhelmed the Eastern Michigan University regents meeting with Friday afternoon, with a handful of people lying down on the carpet in front of the regents table.

User _chrisUK / flickr.com

The state House has passed a $1.2 billion plan to boost road funding without raising taxes and instead using money that would otherwise go to schools and local governments.

A bill approved Thursday night by the Republican-led chamber would gradually eliminate the 6 percent sales tax at the pump and gradually increase per-gallon fuel taxes.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING - Auditors say the state was moderately effective in monitoring Michigan school districts to ensure they have effective special education programs.

  A state audit released last week says the Office of Special Education didn't flag students' noncompliance with annual goals and didn't ensure there were appropriate caseloads at four of seven audited school districts and charter schools.

In the race for governor, few things are disputed more than education funding under Gov. Rick Snyder. Challenger Mark Schauer claims Snyder cut funding by a billion dollars. Snyder has called that a lie and says he’s added a billion dollars. They’re both sort of right and they’re both wrong.

“Both sides have truth. Neither is lying, per se,” said Mitch Bean.

He is a former director of the Michigan House Fiscal Agency. That’s a nonpartisan agency within the Michigan House of Representatives. Now he’s a consultant and he’s been looking at the budgets to try to find out exactly what has happened to money for schools.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder (left), and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer (right).
Gov. Snyder's office, and Schauer campaign.

Update 11:20 a.m.

As predicted, the debate rages on.

Tons of people have written about this issue over the last year, and today the Citizens Research Council released some more analysis on this question, so we thought we'd add their findings to this post we published last May. (Our investigative reporter, Lester Graham, is also looking into this question and will have more for us in the coming weeks.)

What did the Citizens Research Council find?

You can read the full-report here, but in short they tackled these three questions:

"This is why I hate Ann Arbor's bigotry," one Whitmore Lake parent whispered to her neighbor at an information meeting today to discuss whether Ann Arbor schools should annex the Whitmore Lake school district. 

So yeah, things got a little heated towards the end. 

But the first chunk of the meeting was spent tackling parents' questions about how the logistics and numbers would play out.

Ann Arbor Board of Education President Deb Mexicotte kicked off the event with her argument for annexation: right now, the Whitmore Lake district is barely operating in the black.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Michigan testing scores are treading water. Ron French and Chastity Pratt Dawsey of Bridge Magazine traveled across the country to study states that are getting education right. They say they discovered what it will take to pull Michigan's schools out of the mire of middling-to-poor student achievement.

Stopping in both red and blue states –  Massachusetts, Tennessee, Florida, and Minnesota – French and Pratt worked to avoided bias. 

While Massachusetts is widely known as the gold standard in education, the reporters found that Minnesota, a mid-western state comparable to Michigan, ranks No. 1 in math scores and in the top 10 in every other category.

Ten years ago, Florida and Tennessee scored lower than Michigan. In the last decade, both have ascended in the ranks and surpassed Michigan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

KALAMAZOO – Gov. Rick Snyder is more forcefully countering what he calls "the big lie" in his re-election bid – charges that he cut $1 billion in education funding in 2011.

His opponent, Democrat Mark Schauer, isn't shying away from the claim.

Cass Tech High School in Detroit.
DPS / Flickr

The Michigan Education Department and four of the state's school districts have been awarded nearly $3 million in federal grants to improve school safety and learning conditions.

The U.S. Education Department announced the grants as part of its effort to improve school safety around, reduce gun violence, and improve mental health services.

More from the U.S. Department of Education’s press release:

To help keep students safe and improve their learning environments, the U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $70 million to 130 grantees in 38 states…

“If we can’t help protect kids and staff, and make them feel safe at school, then everything else that we do is secondary,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “If kids don’t feel safe, they can’t learn. It’s that simple. Through these grants of more than $70 million, we are continuing our commitment to ensure that kids have access to the best learning experience possible.”

Here are the grants awarded in Michigan:

User: COD Newsroom / Flickr

As college students explore their campuses, they're likely to find a wide array of student groups that pertain to race: The Black Student Union, Asian-American groups, or Hispanic and Latino groups.

Universities say they're spending time and money on trying to increase the number of minority students, especially since the Supreme Court ban in 2006 on affirmative action.

But Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution says the challenges for American colleges should be not only racial diversity, but also economic diversity. 

Especially when universities, including elite schools, haven't upped their percentage of low-come students in generation. 

Haskins says that's what happens when colleges maintain admission standards.

Senator Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Twp, introduced Senate Bill 727.
Michigan Senate Republicans

New legislation in the state Senate would close Michigan’s teacher retirement system to new teachers. Instead, all new teachers would get a “defined contribution” 401(k)-style plan.

Under a partial overhaul of teacher retirement approved by state lawmakers in 2012, new teachers can choose between that or a “hybrid” plan, which combines elements of a defined contribution plan and a traditional pension. The new legislation would end that choice, giving new teachers only the 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The emphasis on “high stakes testing” in America’s schools may be having an unexpected side effect.

A Michigan State University researcher says teachers are citing the testing as their reason for quitting the profession.

Alyssa Hadley Dunn is a professor at the MSU College of Education.  She also was once a high school teacher in Atlanta, Georgia.   

She says she decided to quit after years of pressure to “teach to the test.”     

Ohio university reviewing sex-crime policies

Sep 7, 2014
UT/Facebook

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - University of Toledo officials are reviewing how it handles investigations of sex crime allegations following a reported rape at the school.  The Toledo Blade reports that the head of the university's board of trustees called for the review. This comes after a male student who was accused of rape was placed on academic probation, ordered to undergo counseling and fined $25 by the school's Student Conduct Board. The female victim appealed the decision and wa

(courtesy of KQED)

What makes a teacher great?

And how should we measure a teacher's success and effectiveness?

These are questions that take up a lot of the debate about education in Michigan. We've got policymakers, educators, politicians and parents all weighing in, and the resulting conversation is often loud and unproductive.

Education writer Elizabeth Green explores these challenging questions, and looks at how we are preparing teachers for the realities of the classroom.

Green’s new book is Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach it to Everyone). She says great teachers are not born, but trained.

“By assuming (some teachers are born great, and some teachers aren’t), we fail to prepare teachers with the specialized knowledge that nobody is born knowing how to do. And as a result, we leave students vulnerable to teachers who haven’t learned the basic things they need to know to help students learn,” says Green.

* Listen to the full interview with Elizabeth Green above.

Tracy Samilton

A new political alliance says it will try to help elect Mark Schauer as Michigan Governor in November, along with other politicians who want to restore public education funding.

Michigan Teachers and Allies for Change held its first rally in Ann Arbor Thursday evening. 

About 250 people, many of them teachers, attended. 

Most were from Ann Arbor.  But one teacher drove all the way from Marquette to support the cause.

user: Jimmie / Flickr

A new bill in the state Legislature aims to make school supplies more affordable.

The legislation would give taxpayers a credit of up to $1,000 for qualified purchases of school supplies.

Materials that qualify for the credit would be things like books, computer programs, and science equipment.

State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, introduced the bill.

He says it's worth the investment.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More Michigan schools are meeting goals in areas such as student performance on standardized tests and graduation rates. That’s according to the state’s annual school accountability report, which was released Wednesday.

Excellent Schools Detroit tries to help parents navigate the educational landscape in Detroit. Dan Varner heads up the group, and says the amount of choice is simply overwhelming. Dustin Dwyer sat down with Varner to learn more about what he thinks can help and how Varner got to where he is.

A classroom.
user LizMarie_AK / Wikimedia Commons

The statement comes a day after state Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan said he’s ready to use his authority to revoke that ability from charter school authorizers. That’s if they fail to meet new standards for transparency set by state education officials.

Flanagan says he met with authorizers in February about issues involving charters. He says he’s not convinced all of them will be able to meet the new, tougher standards.

“If I had to guess, just because of the candor at the February meeting, there’s probably some that we won’t extend their ability,” Flanagan said Tuesday. “But I don’t want to pre-judge that too much. That’s only hearing the anecdotal stuff.”

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State officials say high school juniors improved in all subject areas on the Michigan Merit Exam this year, while the average ACT college-entrance exam score rose slightly.

Even so, the percentage of Michigan juniors considered ready for college declined after rising in the previous four years. Officials said that was because of a slight drop in the percentage of students meeting proficiency levels in the math section of the ACT.

Results released Monday show the biggest improvements on the merit exam were in social studies, where the average score rose from 38.6 to 43.9, and in reading, with a jump from 53.5 to 58.7.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Schoolchildren and others will be impacted when Michigan's next state budget starts in about three months.

Gov. Rick Snyder plans to finish signing the $53.2 billion spending plan as early as Monday. It affects many corners of Michigan life - from how much it costs to attend college to increased arts funding and how many state troopers patrol the highways.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Lansing is launching an effort to coordinate programs aimed at improving the lives of young people, especially children of color.

Mayor Virg Bernero says the community must work together to provide better opportunities for children and young adults.

user jdurham / morguefile

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss new investigations into charter schools, the new education spending bill and the impacts after the removal of state pension plans.

Jane M Sawyer / morgue file

Michigan's Education Achievement Authority, formed in 2011, was created to help failing schools. It currently operates 15 schools in Detroit.

EAA Chancellor John Covington stepped down with one year left on his contract. What does this mean for the EAA and the students in its 15 schools?

Bridge Magazine education writer Chastity Pratt Dawsey covers the EAA extensively. She said there had been talk for months that Covington was going to resign.

Veronica Conforme was named the interim replacement. She’s from New York City, where she was Chief Operating Officer for New York City public schools. Pratt said it's unclear if they are going to keep Conforme at the helm or if they are going to hire someone new.

Pratt added that the EAA had to do damage control in the media and let everyone know that they are trying to do better.

“There were some misgivings about [Covington's] leadership and whether or not the EAA was going in the right direction,” Pratt said.

Pratt added that the EAA had problems since it was put together hastily in 2011. In its first year, it was supposed to be funded by donations, which has not been done for any school in the United States.

“The first year, the donations did not come in as expected. They get the kids the second year of operations, they don’t get the Title I money that they think they are going to get,” Pratt said.

The EAA had to borrow money, using the Detroit Public Schools as a conduit. They started to lose students. MEAP scores were lower than promised. Their online individualized education plan did not see the success people thought it would. State legislators even complained about a lack of transparency in the system, and that Covington had a lucrative contract.

Pratt said that the EAA needs to turn around their academics. Parents and teachers are saying they want results, not excuses.

“Do something, make it happen. Otherwise, what was the point?” Pratt said. 

*Listen to full interview above.

-Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

College students should stop surfing the internet in class and start paying more attention to their professors. That’s the finding of a new report from Michigan State University.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Students at two of Michigan’s largest universities will be paying more in the fall.

The University of Michigan’s Board of Regents increased in-state undergraduate costs by 2.6% yesterday.

For out-of-state students, the increases will be higher: According to The Michigan Daily, out-of-state undergraduates will see their cost of attendance rise by 3.4%.

That brings the total cost of in-state attendance to $13,158. For out-of-state students, cost of attendance will be around $41,578.

Michigan State University followed suit today, increasing its in-state costs by 2.6% for in-state underclassmen, and 2.9% for in-state juniors and seniors.

The state’s budget increased its funding for higher education this year by 5.9%.

For the University of Michigan and its three campuses — Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn — that translates to $295 million coming from Lansing. That’s an increase of $18.5 million.

http://www.broadcenter.org/academy/network/profile/john-covington
The Broad Superintendents Academy

Let's do this MEAP style. Choose one of the following.

John Covington is:

A) an education visionary, brought in to turn around some of Detroit's worst schools using a model that lets kids learn at their own level, regardless of age or grade;

B) an overpaid, underperforming puppet of a state takeover of Detroit's schools;

C) It just depends on whom you ask. 

Right or wrong, the chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority is stepping down. 

Hired to fix Detroit's failing schools, amidst political turmoil 

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