Ron French

Marshall High School
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There are 545 local school districts in Michigan and 56 Intermediate School Districts, or ISDs.

Around 50 of those districts were in the red at the end of the last school year.

And that leads to talk of consolidations, of mergers; streamlining, becoming more efficient and joining forces.

But as policymakers, educators and parents debate the merits of consolidation, what about those who will feel what that is like, day in and day out – the students and their teachers?

That’s the question Bridge Magazine writer Ron French explores in his series of reports for Bridge called 13 Miles to Marshall.

When struggling Albion High School closed at the end of the last school year, it meant more than 150 Albion high schoolers had to be bused to nearby Marshall High School. It made sense in business terms for both districts. But what kinds of challenges did this consolidation present? And were those challenges met and overcome?

Ron French joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

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This fall, Bridge Magazine is taking a close look at the challenges Michigan faces as we try to improve our education system.

The starting point for all of this is where Michigan students stand as compared to students across America, and then how students in the U.S. compare to other nations.

American students rank 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in Math, which puts us behind students in countries such as Poland and Slovenia.

As for Michigan, we're somewhere in the middle of the U.S. 'pack.' Education week ranked Michigan's K-12 education system 24th. And the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam found Michigan kids are 39th in 4th-grade math and 30th in 8th Grade reading.

This begs the question: how well are students in Michigan prepared for the good education that is needed to enter the middle class?

Bridge Magazine Senior Writer Ron French is seeking the answer in his series of special reports for Bridge Magazine. He joined us today to tell us more.

Listen to the full interview above.

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It's been just over a week since Detroit became the largest city in American history to file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 9.

Until now, that unwanted distinction belonged to Stockton, California.

Earlier this year, Bridge Magazine writer Ron French wrote an article about his visit to bankrupt Stockton and Vallejo, a California town that has emerged from bankruptcy.

As Ron puts it, if Stockton is an example of a city just being diagnosed with fiscal "cancer," Vallejo is a community that has finished chemotherapy. And so far nobody seems particularly thrilled with the results.

Ron French joined us today. 

Traverse City National Writer Series, An Evening with Vince Gilligan. Photo courtesy John Russell.
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One in every nine kids in Michigan public schools repeated kindergarten, according to Michigan Department of Education data for the year 2010-11. That means the state pays an additional $7,000 per child every year, ultimately costing taxpayers $93 million.

Ron French, senior writer with Bridge Magazine has been investigating this story and found that the likelihood of a child repeating kindergarten was most closely linked, not to race or family income, but geography. In the article, he also writes about “planned retention," meaning parents actually plan to have a child do two years of kindergarten instead of one. 

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New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that nearly 1 in 4 kids in Michigan lives in poverty. For a family of four that means living on $23,000, or less per year.