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Education

Bryan McDonald / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan ranks third in the country for having the most school districts with chronic absence rates at or above 30%. 

Nationwide, chronic absenteeism is about 13%. In Michigan, it's 18%.

That's according to a report released today by Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education.

image of new and old DPS
Lauren Crawford / Michigan Radio

Today is the first day of school in Detroit.

Students in the city’s public school system will return to the same buildings and many of the same teachers. But there will be one big difference: These students are the first to attend school in the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

The old Detroit Public Schools now exists in name only.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The summer tourism season is winding down, but there is concern in the industry that it may not be as profitable as it could have been.

Deanna Richeson is the CEO of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association. She says Michigan’s summer tourism season was strong overall.

But she’s concerned that a growing number school districts are starting classes in August. 

“When we have our school children returning to school prior to Labor Day that will cut into those revenues enjoyed by the tourism industry,” says Richeson.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It’s a big week for parents, kids and school administrators. If last year is any indicator, roughly 1.5 million Michigan kids are heading back to school.

Larry Johnson heads security at Grand Rapids Public Schools. This week, his message is simple.

“Pay attention to this yellow bus. It’s important. Our kids will be getting dropped off. They’re not paying attention. They’re excited to get to school,” Johnson said.

In Grand Rapids, people will see more police officers hanging out in school zones, making sure drivers are aware of reduced speed limits near schools.

Detroit teachers protesting downtown on May 2, 2016.
Sarah Jardine

Detroit public schoolteachers start the new school year working with an expired contract — and bargaining for a new one.

After this summer’s restructuring, the Detroit Public Schools no longer exists, for practical purposes. Now, former DPS teachers now work for a brand-new entity — the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

And they want a new contract. Their old one was “imposed” on them by former DPS emergency managers, in the union’s view.

Flickr user Frank Juarez/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

School starts next week. This year kids will be spending a few more days in the classroom.

Holland Public Schools Superintendent Brian Davis joined us today to talk about where on the calendar schools plan to squeeze in those extra days, and why more and more schools are asking the state for a waiver to start holding class before Labor Day. 

Flickr user USDAgov/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

There are frequent and spirited discussions about students who aren’t getting what they need to succeed in Michigan’s public schools.

Nanette Janecke of Western Michigan University is adding another group of students to that conversation: gifted students.

They’re students who could achieve a lot, but who – in most Michigan school districts – aren’t given many tools for success, Janecke said.

A new charter school in Whitmore Lake offers a "classical education" and a Hillsdale College connection
Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Some Macomb County school districts want to join the fight against state intervention in schools deemed to be “failing.”

Warren Consolidated Schools, Van Dyke Public Schools, Mount Clemens Community Schools, and Roseville Community Schools signaled their intention to join the East Detroit Public Schools’ lawsuit this week.

wikimedia user Fredler Brave / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Put that cell phone away. Not in your pocket, not in your purse, go park it in your locker and keep it out of the classroom.

That's the new rule for students returning to class at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek.

According to principal Jeff Bohl, it's all about helping kids get the most out of their time in class. 

As kids head back to school, it’s worth remembering that all kids have the right to a free education.

Drinking water fountain.
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

All 94 school buildings in the Detroit Public Schools Community District meet federal standards for lead in water, the city’s health department announced Monday.

It had spent months screening tap water at all the city’s schools for lead and copper, to make sure they met U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.

“And we’re now confident that children who are drinking water in DPSCD schools are drinking water that’s lead-safe,” says Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, the health department’s director.

sign saying a high quality school
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools has made “enormous progress” on fixing crumbling school buildings, but there’s still more work to do.

More than 90% of the district’s 94 school buildings are now officially “up to code,” according to city and school district officials.

Detroit’s building department got involved in the situation early this year, after teacher protests that highlighted some decrepit building conditions, among other things, hit the news.

Detroit Federation of Teachers Executive Vice President Terrence Martin says they deserve credit for that.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

This summer, Detroit Public Schools ceased to exist except on paper.

But there is a new district that has the same schools, teachers and students as the “old” DPS. It’s formally known, at least for now, as the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Why did this happen? The short story is that the “old” DPS stood on the verge of bankruptcy throughout the last school year. To avoid that, the state — which has controlled Detroit schools for most of the past 17 years — executed a bankruptcy-style restructuring, minus the actual bankruptcy.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder is urging calm ahead of Michigan's release of the lowest-performing public schools, saying there is a "misperception" that schools will be closed.

He said Friday that Michigan is required to publish the bottom 5 percent list by next week, but he told The Associated Press it is wrong to assume listed schools will receive closure notices.

In their report, Mike Wilkinson and Chastity Pratt Dawsey call school choice Detroit's new white flight
flickr user frank juarez / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state board of education wants more input on the fates of Michigan schools deemed “failing.”

That’s what some board members signaled in a statement released this week.

It called on the State School Reform/Redesign Office to work with the Michigan Department of Education “to provide assistance to local districts to succeed at turning around their own schools and to keep the public fully informed of decisions affecting their local schools.”

According to Bowens, the report "does not adequately reflect the realities of today."
morgueFile user kconnors / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Anyone driving between Detroit and Grosse Pointe will be struck by the stark change that happens when you cross the border at Alter Road.

A report from a New Jersey non-profit group has declared that the economic divide between Detroit schools and Grosse Pointe schools is the worst in the nation. 

The report from the group EdBuild says nearly half the households in Detroit's school district live in poverty. In Grosse Pointe, that number is 6.5%. 

It also found that 82% of Detroit's public school students are African-American. In Grosse Pointe schools, it's 16%.

When you go to vote this fall, you'll have a chance to weigh in on education.

Amidst mounting calls for the state to do a better job educating its students, state Board of Education candidates are up for election, as well as trustees and governors of Michigan's major universities. 

Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry joined us today to talk about the myriad issues at stake in the upcoming education races. 

A 2014 Impala driving off the line at Oshawa Assembly.
General Motors

The Next Idea

Around the world, Michigan is known as a state that makes things. And the way we make things is about to undergo a massive shift – so massive, in fact, that experts are calling it the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0.

Packing up school supplies.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More than a thousand backpacks are on their way to Flint school children.

This past week, volunteers unloaded a moving van filled with backpacks.

Rhetta Hunyady, with the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce, says they want to get these much-needed school supplies into the hands of children whose parents might not otherwise be able to afford to buy them what they need for school.

“And to let Flint kids know that people here in our community and outside of our community really care about who they are and helping them to be successful,” says Hunyady.

Flickr user alamosbasement/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Michigan’s School Reform Office has warned failing schools that they could be shut down by next June – more than 100 of them.

Erin Einhorn, editor at Chalkbeat Detroit, published an article breaking down the effects of closing schools with poor testing results, including more than 40 in Detroit.

Using recent state exam scores as their metric, the office will inform each school by the end of 2016 if their doors will close.

Michigan plans steps to close failing schools

Aug 16, 2016
Motown31 / wikimedia commons

The Michigan school reform office plans to put chronically low-performing schools on notice that they might be closed by next June.

Natasha Baker is with the state school reform office and she says low performing schools that have improved should be looked at as an example and will stay open. 

"[Improving schools] make the necessary decisions to make sure that their schools can turn around quickly, and I think Michigan would be better off if we looked at those success stories," Baker says.

Baker says getting kids into better schools is the priority.

Flickr user Jobs For Felons Hub/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

When you think of "prison inmates," what's the first thing that comes to mind?

For many, it might be the face of someone convicted for a high-profile, brutal crime.

For others, it may be the image of some vague, homogenous mass of "bad" people who are best locked away. 

Judy Patterson Wenzel begs to differ.

money
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Fourteen Michigan schools received a total of $40 million in the fifth and final round of federal School Improvement Grants. The grant program was authorized under the 51-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The ESEA is being replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the grants will not continue.

EAA chancellor Veronica Conforme.
via Education Achievement Authority

Does the Education Achievement Authority still owe the Detroit Public Schools about $12 million?

The two districts seem to have distinctly different ideas about that, in what’s become a very odd dispute between the two state-run school districts.

And for now at least, it seems the state is unwilling to step in and help resolve the dispute.

The EAA took over fifteen former DPS schools when it launched as an attempt at a stateside turnaround school district in 2012.

Terrapin Flyer / Flickr

The first day of school probably isn't the best day to miss, but that's what plenty of students in Ypsilanti experienced on Monday.

Holmes Elementary School and Ford Early Learning Center in Ypsilanti both started school last Monday, but roughly a third of students were absent. 

Both schools have waivers from the state to start earlier than September as a part of the balanced calendar, which is more effective than longer summer vacations.

Yen Azzaro is with Ypsilanti Community Schools and she says the schools gave parents plenty of notice for the start of school.

Dan Bach / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Michigan State University and Wayne State University have joined a growing list of schools that are no longer requiring college algebra to earn a degree. Engineering students, and the like, will still be required to take plenty of math, but if you are a history or an English major who doesn't like algebra, then you can rest easier.  

Flickr user Dave Conner/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Business leaders of all kinds have talked about needing more skilled workers in their ranks. But they’re not the only ones. Law enforcement agencies also require more skilled employees.

Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma recently issued a report calling for additional support for community colleges. Those schools are home to most of Michigan’s police academies.

Apple with books
Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The CEO appointed by the state to take over four low-performing East Detroit schools can start working, but with some limits.

Under an agreement in court Thursday, CEO Gary Jensen can act as a consultant in the district, but he doesn't have authority over decisions on academics, curriculum or finances.

The state's decision to hire a CEO has faced months of backlash from teachers and administrators in East Detroit schools, who say they're already working to turn things around in the struggling district.

Open Books

A state panel will be named soon to look into improving Michigan’s dismal literacy rate. Governor Rick Snyder signed an executive order Wednesday creating the new PreK-12 Literacy Commission.

Michigan has one of the nation’s worst literacy rates. It’s ranked 40th when it comes to student literacy in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

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