education

user Marlith / Flickr

How far should a school go to accommodate its transgender students? What federal or state laws and ordinances might impact policies for transgender students?

School districts around the nation are wrestling with these questions, even as parents and civil rights groups mount court challenges against districts whose policies are not supportive of transgender student rights.

The ACLU of Michigan's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Project is now crafting a comprehensive model policy for transgender students – a policy that could be adopted by local school districts. Jay Kaplan is a staff attorney who is part of this effort, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Despite a renewed push, expansion of a state turnaround entity for failing public schools beyond Detroit remains in trouble in the Legislature.

Some majority Republicans say it's too early to know whether the 15-school Education Achievement Authority is working.

Others contend a version of legislation floated this week doesn't guarantee a role for local intermediate school districts to run the worst schools instead. Critics also say there's no promise schools can return to their home districts once being improved.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Saginaw school officials are spending today crunching the district’s budget numbers.

They have two days to come up with a deficit elimination plan that will do away with the district’s $6.1 million deficit over the next two years.

“We’re going to work furiously to make sure we’re going to put forward the best plan that can not only sustain Saginaw public schools but also help us rebuild in a way that would be very vibrant,” Saginaw School Superintendent Carlton Jenkins said after last night’s school board meeting.

Matthileo / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the top political headlines of the week. This week's topic include:

  • Proposals to boost school funding.
  • Drama over Michigan's restrictions on how ballot campaigns can collect signatures.
  • How a bankruptcy plan for Detroit might come as early as next week.
  • How Detroit Public Schools have lost a collective 160 days from power outages.

Listen to the full interview below

Adam Glanzman

University of Michigan students are holding an all-night event later this month to discuss race on campus.

The event, billed as a "Speak Out," is being organized by the United Coalition for Racial Justice, a student organization consisting of students and faculty members.

The event will build on momentum gained by the university's Black Student Union to make the campus more inclusive and diverse.

User: Old Shoe Woman / Flickr

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.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Saginaw school board members will meet again Tuesday to discuss how to deal with the district’s multi-million dollar deficit.

Saginaw school board members have met three times in the past week to hash out a deficit elimination plan.

The most recent proposal called for laying off employees and closing three schools, including Saginaw High School.

Parents and students have attacked the plan and the board for considering it.

Flint Community Schools

There is no doubt that teachers in the Flint Community Schools will be paid through the end of the school year.

That's according to Interim Superintendent Larry Watkins.

Watkins said the state approved the Flint school district's deficit elimination plan today.

The district will get a $2.3 million advance on its state aid payments, and Watkins said the state authorized the district to borrow $3.6 million.

Yesterday, I talked about the challenges the University of Michigan’s new president faces. One of those is, of course, the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to afford an education.

That provoked a lot of reaction, and I was surprised by the tone of a lot of it.

Specifically, many people feel that especially with the lagging economy, it makes no sense for students to study things that won’t clearly pay off in a job.

"There's nothing wrong with art appreciation. There are plenty of books, DVDs and YouTube clips out there," one man said. But he thought it was outrageous that someone would spend a vast amount of money on something "that will turn out to be a nice hobby," and then "complain about the lack of job opportunities."

The long road ahead for Detroit education reform

Feb 3, 2014
Brian Widdis

Benchmark: Schools

Ana Rosa Cabrera joined several moms in a classroom at Bennett Elementary for a Zumba session one morning earlier this month. The moms stretched and danced as their instructor, a Spanish-speaking ball of energy dressed in fluorescent greens, directed them in merengue-like maneuvers from a DVD playing on a TV screen.

Melissa / anotherlunch.com

For a new State of Opportunity documentary, Dustin Dwyer spent six weeks at Congress Elementary School in the East Hills neighborhood of Grand Rapids. Does that conjure images of a fully grown man crammed into a very tiny desk, watching the traffic to the pencil sharpener?

KidsCount

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.

Virginia Gordan

More than a dozen Michigan and Washtenaw County government officials listened attentively yesterday while students and recent graduates spoke about their experiences in Washtenaw County high schools.

The event, called YouthSpeak, was one of a series of youth public forums organized around the state by youth service organizations.

Some students said school policies do not take into account the poverty, homelessness, and family issues many students face. They said this has a negative impact on their education.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

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

According to 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. She says fourth grade is a pivotal age, since that’s where children stop learning to read and start reading to learn.

user: Liza Lagman Sperl

The DTE Energy Foundation plans to donate $1 million to the Michigan Science Center in Detroit.

According to their press release, the donation will span a period of five years, specifically funding the science center's STEM educational program (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Today in Tech & Opportunity, State of Opportunity asks educators and parents: what is your school doing to encourage students from all backgrounds to pursue educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math?

The Michigan House of Representatives.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Lawmakers are in the midst of a debate over how teachers in Michigan should be evaluated.

Hearings were held today at the Capitol and the Michigan Public Radio Network's Jake Neher was there. He joined us today.

*Listen to the audio above.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

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.

Think Again is the name of a new feature on our State of Opportunity blog. Maybe there are stories you missed that we think deserve your attention. Or perhaps there are new developments on issues impacting Michigan's kids. Click over to State of Opportunity and see what we're highlighting for your reconsideration. Today's topic: the discipline gap in school suspensions gets federal attention.

Erik Hersman / Flickr

State of Opportunity's Kimberly Springer tells us how "the specter of an exclusive, our boutique, access internet looms" after the recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision striking down many of the FCC's "net neutrality" rules.

For the privileged, the demise of net neutrality might mean paying even more for broadband access to Netflix or YouTube---no more buffering...buffering...buffering? But for the less privileged, losing net neutrality puts all of the world's information further out of reach and condemning some to "pay to play" deals. 

Go here to read more.

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