Education

Stateside
9:55 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

3rd-grade teacher named Michigan's Teacher of the Year

Keith Elementary in Walled Lake, MI.
Credit Keith Elementary / Twitter

Melody Arabo, a third-grade teacher at Keith Elementary School in Walled Lake, has been named Michigan Teacher of the Year.

“I think building those relationships is key. I think no matter what grade level you teach, no matter what area you teach in, making a connection with the kids and making them feel welcome at school – I think that's probably the most important thing,” Arabo said.

Arabo said she makes this work by showing an interest in their personal lives. “I can tell you what sports each kid is good at and what they love. I can tell you about their hobbies; they can actually tell you about mine,” Arabo said.

As Michigan’s teacher of the year, Arabo may attend the State Board of Education’s monthly meetings.

“I’m excited to see how that works and learn more about the political atmosphere around education,” she said. “And then be able to bring in the voices of teachers that I know, and the concerns that we have and the celebrations that we have so we can uplift the public education system.”

*Listen to full interview above. 

Education
10:34 am
Mon June 9, 2014

State leaders question oversight role when charter companies run entire school districts

Credit MichigansChildren / YouTube

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says the consequences of turning entire school districts over to for-profit charter school companies deserves more consideration from state lawmakers.

Flanagan told a state panel last week it’s not clear if the Muskegon Heights school district, or the for-profit charter company that ran it the last two years, will face any consequences for running up a deficit big enough to require an emergency loan worth $1.4 million and two cash advances to keep schools open through June. It’s unclear exactly what the deficit is for the 2013-2014 school year.

The Muskegon Heights school district is now looking for a new operator. That’s after the district and its emergency manager agreed to end its contract with Mosaica Education Inc. when the company couldn’t turn a profit.

“Now that (Mosaica) is leaving, they pretty much told us they’re not going to do (the district’s) deficit elimination plan. To follow up on that, we should wait for the new management company and deal with them,” Dan Hanrahan, Michigan Department of Education’s director of state aid and school finance, told the panel.

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Education
9:27 pm
Sun June 8, 2014

Staff at Detroit's first unionized charter school have a tentative contract

Cesar Chavez teachers and staff demonstrate in favor of unionizing in 2012
Credit American Federation of Teachers Michigan

Teachers and staff at Detroit’s first unionized charter school have reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement.

Teachers at Detroit’s Cesar Chavez Academy formally joined the American Federation of Teachers in February 2013.

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Education
5:23 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Michigan makes strides in calculating dropout, graduation rates

The audit says Michigan is improving how it calculates graduation and dropout rates.
Credit flickr/Schlüsselbein2007

Michigan is doing a better job calculating high school dropout and graduation rates. That’s according a new report from the state auditor general’s office.

An audit in 2006 showed the state was not providing reliable data on graduations and dropouts. It made a list of recommendations for how the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) could do better.

Now, the auditor general says the department has met all those recommendations.

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Education
3:51 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Marshall and Albion high school students end first year together

Two dozen students from Albion will be among about 180 graduating seniors at Marshall High School Saturday.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

About 180 Marshall High School seniors will get their diplomas tomorrow.

Two dozen students from Albion will be among those in caps and gowns.

Last year, Albion school district officials decided to close their high school for budget reasons.

Most of the Albion students ended up at Marshall. There was concern the two student bodies would clash.

Dan Luciani is the  principal of Marshall High School. He credits the students with making the transition work.

“The resiliency of kids,” says Luciani. “They really outdid themselves in adapting to the situation.”

Marshall school leaders will hold a special orientation for incoming freshmen from both communities later this summer.

Education
6:04 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Michigan schools’ finances “stabilizing,” says state superintendent

State schools superintendent Mike Flanagan credits higher state funding for schools' improved financial outlook.
Credit MichigansChildren / YouTube

Late last year, the state’s top education official had dire predictions for the finances of Michigan schools. He predicted the number of districts in deficit could reach 100 “before long.”

Now, state Superintendent Mike Flanagan says the situation is stabilizing, and he credits increased funding from the state.

“Debates aside about how much of an increase there is – there’s been improved funding the last couple years,” said Flanagan. “I think there could be more. But I think that’s helped.”

Flanagan gave his latest regular update to the state Legislature Thursday on school districts with budget deficits. He says the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) expects the number of deficit districts to have dropped from 52 to 45 over the course of this school year.

Flanagan says the state’s sluggish economy in recent years has made it difficult to help schools get their books in order.

“Now we’re coming out of it,” he said, “and we need to continue to invest in our kids. And I appreciate the start that this legislature and governor have made. I do think we can and will do more in the future.”

Flanagan is urging state lawmakers to create an “early warning system” for schools facing financial emergencies. Legislation in the state Senate would also make it easier for the state to assign an emergency manager if a district violates a deficit elimination plan.

Democrats say it’s not fair to say Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature have increased state education funding. Republicans include money that went into the teacher pension system.

Education
5:09 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Flint school district lays off 250 staff

District administrators say they're running out of options.
Credit Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint school district is sending out some 250 pink slips this week.

They're laying off non-classroom staff, from janitors to secretaries to school safety workers. 

 Administrators say they have no choice: they're coming up against a state deadline to eliminate the district's $10 million general fund deficit. 

Now the district will look to outsource those positions through a private company.

Karon Grubb is a secretary in the administration office.

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Education
9:06 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Detroit high school for pregnant teens is closing – this time, for real

The Catherine Ferguson Academy serves pregnant and parenting moms in high school.
Credit Catherine Ferguson Academy

It's kind of heartbreaking. 

The Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit is closing at the end of this month, due to low enrollment and financial trouble.

That's the announcement from the Wayne RESA, the intermediate school district that held the school's charter, and the whole thing feels like deja vu.

A beloved school repeatedly finds itself on brink of closure    

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Education
1:13 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Senior prank season in full swing at Michigan high schools

Big Boy sometimes plays a part in senior pranks in different parts of the country.

The end of the school year is upon us. It puts high school administrators on high alert.

Sometimes they don't have to worry about much.

Even though their seniors try it, no, their high school won't be sold on Craigslist. Seniors at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor gave it a go. As did seniors at Freeland High School in Mid-Michigan.

This kind of prank is harmless and fun. Even the more mature members of the community can appreciate this type of prank – as this news segment shows:

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Education
1:39 pm
Sat May 31, 2014

Poll: Student loans were a good investment....but....

The Federal Reserve estimates the total student loan debt at just over a trillion dollars, with the average student borrowing about 30 thousand dollars.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Thousands of new Michigan college graduates entered the workforce in the past month.

Many can relate to the findings of a new poll on student loans.

A new poll by a credit counseling group shows people with student loans believe by a two to one margin that borrowing money to pay for college was a good investment. But most people in that same poll would not recommend taking out a student loan now.

Older people were more pessimistic than younger college grads.

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Education
12:32 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Common Core: the future of testing for Michigan's school kids

A sample question from a field test of what was supposed to be, and might still be, the new Michigan K-12 assessment. Swimmers race. Time is kept to two decimal points. What happens if time is only kept to one decimal point?

As the school year comes to end, parents, teachers and even kids themselves are wondering what kind of testing they'll have to endure when they return in the fall. 

Michigan's adopted a set of standards called Common Core. With it, the state wants to give kids an applied knowledge kind of test called Smarter Balanced.

But not everyone's happy. State lawmakers are trying to stop the new test and trying to take the power to oversee school testing away from the Michigan Department of Education. Some of them want to bring back the MEAP. 

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Education
6:16 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Detroit may have to close 26 schools

Credit MDE

Detroit Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski (say "stroh-dow-ski") wants you to know that administrators get it: Nobody likes closing schools. 

"We look at a school as the anchor or the center of a  neighborhood. And for us to take it away could do some serious damage, and we don't want to do that," she says.

But they do have a $120 million deficit this year.

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Education
5:28 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Activists don't want another private charter school company running Muskegon Heights

Credit Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

If you've got a charter school management company and you'd like to run the chaotic, broke school district of Muskegon Heights, today is your last day to submit a bid.  

That's because the school system's emergency manager recently announced a mutual split with their previous contractor, a company called Mosaica Education.

Mosaica was losing money.

And it was getting a lot of flack for hiring teachers without proper certification (which earned the district state fines) and not delivering all the required special education services. 

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2:12 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Do your homework or hold down a job? How about both.

Lead in text: 
Jennifer Guerra visits a Catholic High School using an apprenticeship model to give their students a competitive advantage.
School is almost over for the year, and one Detroit high school has lots to celebrate. The entire graduating class has been accepted to college. Nearly all
Education
12:20 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Ads aimed at future students claim "Michigan has a rape problem"

Ads like this one appeared on Facebook.
Credit UltraViolet

"University of Michigan has a rape problem. Find out more before you decide."

"Accepted to University of Michigan? You should know about its rape problem."

Those are the Facebook and mobile ads seen recently by some prospective Michigan students and their parents.

They ran during the critical weeks when students have their acceptance letters and are deciding where to enroll.

“This is information a lot of colleges have been trying to hide.”

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Education
11:36 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Lansing school district privatizing bus service

Five thousand Lansing school students will be riding buses operated by a private company this fall.

The school board voted last night to privatize its bus system. Dean Transportation currently provides bus service to a consortium of Ingham County school districts.

When the Lansing School Board tabled a proposal to privatize its bus service in January, the issue seemed to be put on the back burner until next year.

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Education
6:30 am
Thu May 15, 2014

Already run by emergency manager, Highland Park schools face new budget shortfall

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Despite a previous state takeover, a slew of surprise costs and a dramatic drop in student enrollment have led to a new budget deficit for the public school district in Highland Park.

A multi-million dollar deficit prompted a state takeover of Highland Park Public Schools in 2012. The state appointed emergency manager restructured the district’s deficit into long-term debt with over $7 million in emergency loans from the state.

The manager created a new charter school district to educate students. In 2012  The Leona Group LLC., a charter company,was hired to run the entire district for an annual fee of $780,000.

But now the district is running a deficit again.

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Stateside
5:05 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Michigan is running out of money to loan to struggling schools

The Muskegon Heights school district is one system that has experienced "severe financial stress." They received more than $12 million from this loan board.

There's a state law that gives a special board up to $50 million that can be loaned to struggling school districts.

The long-term, low-interest loans are supposed to help these districts restructure and pay down their debt.

But this emergency loan board has already given out $48 million. That’s 97% of the money that was supposed to last until 2018.

How did this happen? And is there a way for struggling school districts to get back on their feet without needing an emergency manager or having to ask for another loan?

Jeff Guilfoyle with Public Sector Consultants joined us today to talk about this problem.

*Listen to the interview below.

Education
2:15 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

In light of federal ruling, Grand Rapids looks to restrict “aggressive” panhandling

Proposed changes to Grand Rapids ordinance would ban people from asking for money from people driving cars.
Credit Brian D. Hawkins / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids police used to use a state law outlawing panhandling to arrest hundreds of people over the years. But a federal judge struck down that law as too broad, saying it impinged on free speech rights.

So now the city is trying to narrow when, where, and how people can ask for money.

Panhandling from drivers on the side of the road, for example, would be illegal.

Grand Rapids’ attorney Catherine Mish says it can cause accidents and be dangerous for the person asking for money. Mish says a person panhandling was hit by a car just this week.

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Newsmaker Interviews
5:39 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons explains latest on statewide teacher evaluation bills

State Representative Lisa Posthumus Lyons.

A state wide teacher evaluation system is finally seeing some movement in the legislature. The plan would rate teachers and administrators based on student growth on standardized tests and in-class observations. If teachers and administrators are found to be ineffective for three year in a row, they would be fired.

Representative Lisa Posthumus Lyons is the Chair of the House Education Committee. She joined us today.

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