Empty desks in a classroom.
Matt Katzenberger / Flickr

Most people in a Michigan Radio/Public Sector Consultants poll would give Michigan a "C" when it comes to the state's education system.

Six-hundred likely voters in Michigan were polled from February 2 through February 5, 2015. Thirty-five percent gave Michigan's school system an A or a B - 49% gave Michigan a C, D, or an F (16% were unsure or didn't offer an answer).

Flickr/Brian Flickinger

The Next Idea

Technological innovation alone doesn’t improve education. We often assume that the latest gadgets and software will change everything — that they will make things easier and better and solve larger problems. The truth is that technology is just one aspect in a larger web of cultural issues, and new breakthroughs by themselves will not have a broad effect on overall learning.

Michigan's Capitol.
Graham Davis / flickr

The state of Michigan is facing a revenue shortfall, and cuts will have to be made, but one state senator says education is not on the chopping block.

More from the Associated Press:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Many school districts around Michigan own buildings they are not using. 

A state lawmaker wants to make sure those buildings don’t fall to the wrecking ball if another educational institution wants to buy them. 

Last week, the Saginaw Board of Education voted not to accept a multi-million dollar offer from a local charter school for a building the district was trying to sell. The board then voted to use state funds to tear the building down.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers are making third-graders' reading proficiency a significant focus this year.

  They have unspecified plans to improve kids' literacy long before they're 8 or 9 years old. But it remains unclear how far policymakers will go to deal with students who still aren't reading well enough by the end of third grade.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren is pushing hard to publish a set of recommendations for improving Detroit schools by the end of March.

The group is gathering feedback from community and key leaders over a 90-day period to find solutions for a district hit hard by a dwindling population, and a fractured school landscape.

Thetoad / Flickr

State Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Twp.,  plans to introduce a bill next week requiring high school graduates to pass the same citizenship test immigrants take. Students would need to score 60% or higher on the test to receive their diplomas. Lucido says that he hopes the exam will encourage participation and increase voter turnout for elections. If passed, the law would be in effect for the 2016-17 school year.

Western Michigan University's Main Campus
user TheKuLeR / Wikimedia Commons

The odds are stacked against the more than 20,000 young people who age out of foster care each year. Nearly half drop out of high school, and those who make it to college rarely graduate.

Maddy Day, the director of outreach and training at the Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University, and Chris Harris, director of the Seita Scholars Program at Western, joined us to discuss how their programs are helping young people get into and graduate from college.

Michigan recently increased the time spent on mandatory testing for eleventh graders, in some cases requiring eight partial days of testing. Educators across the country are concerned about the growing number of tests kids must take and how the time spent on them detracts from actual learning. But if you cut back on standardized tests, what can we do to gauge student learning and, in turn, teacher effectiveness?

Focus on STEM overshadows importance of music education

Jan 5, 2015

The Next Idea

When we talk about building an education system that prepares children for the creative thinking and collaboration skills necessary in today’s -- and tomorrow’s --  job market, there’s an amazing resource here in Michigan that, like most places, gets almost criminally overlooked: music educators.

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 /

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

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.