teachers

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.”     

(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.

What stories should we tell about the arts?

That's a question we sometimes ask on our Facebook page. Jason Towler suggested we profile Ypsilanti music teacher Crystal Harding and he had a good reason to suggest her.

Harding was Towler's music teacher back in 1988, when Towler was a first-grader at Erickson Elementary School.  Harding is all about having a good time through music, singing, and dancing. Here she is in action:

Harding made a big impression on the shy young man, and that's what this story is about.

A Balanced Budget Amendment making the federal government not spend more than it takes in: It sounds pretty good. Get rid of those trillions and trillions of dollars of national debt. But one economist says that's not necessarily a great plan.

Then, it feels like we hear about recalls everyday, from food, to cars, to toys. They make news, but are consumers facing so-called recall fatigue? Are there just so many recalls that we've started to tune them out?

And, you don't have to hunt too far to find critics of our schools, of the way our children are learning, what they're learning and the achievement gap within our classrooms. But are we placing too much pressure on teachers when we expect them to fix these problems?

Also, it’s official. Merriam-Webster now recognizes “Yooper” as a word.

First on the show, for years there’s been talk that Michigan needs to put more money into its roads.

Gov. Snyder has said he wants at least $1.2 billion annually for road maintenance and repair.

A new report says the state needs closer to $2 billion a year.

But negotiations at the state Capitol stalled – until the last few weeks.

Earlier this month, some $200 million was OK’d in a supplemental budget. It looks like another deal could be in the works.

Now word on the street is that this is not some grand bargain. Instead, there are reports that the amount would be closer to $300-400 million. It’s a start, but why now?

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst, and he joined us today.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

You don't have to hunt too far to find critics of our schools, of the way our children are learning, what they're learning and the achievement gap within our classrooms.

There are countless ways, countless statistics that try to measure the problems. Here's just one, centered on the achievement gap. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, on 2007 standardized math exams, white fourth-graders performed better than black fourth-graders in all 46 states where results are available.

And we hear a steady drumbeat of criticism that students here in the U.S. are lagging behind their peers in other countries. When you look at standardized tests, American students rank 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math, which puts them behind students in Poland and Slovenia.

How much pressure should we put on individual teachers to fix these problems?

Natalie Davis, Alistair Bomphray, and Martha Curren-Preis are teachers who are all earning their Ph.D.s in education at the University of Michigan. They joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

In the classroom.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

As Michigan moves into new, uncharted waters in terms of testing and evaluating those who hope to become teachers, there are many views on whether this testing and evaluation is fair, helpful, and an accurate measurement of how students, teachers, and schools are doing.

Mitch Robinson is an associate professor and chair of music education at Michigan State University. A former teacher, his research is now focused on education policy and the mentoring of new music teachers. 

He believes test scores like the beefed-up version of Michigan's teacher certification test aren't telling us anything substantial about students or learning.

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

It's getting close to back-to-school time. So today, we took a look at teachers -- in particular, teacher turnover, and what it can do a student's academic achievement. Teachers leaving their profession costs the nation billions of dollars each year. We ask what can be done to keep teachers teaching.

And, there have been some complaints about the cooler, rainier summer we've been having, but it turns out it's been good for our Great Lakes. Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joined us today to tell us why.

Also, the historic Packard Plant in Detroit may be converted into a commercial, housing and entertainment complex, but is this feasible?

First on the show, it's Thursday, which means it's time for our weekly check-in with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

And today he's got his eye fixed on the storm clouds that are gathering for the Detroit Institute of Arts. This particular growing cloud comes from Oakland County. 

Daniel Howes joined us today to talk about the troubles the DIA faces.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

It's late August, and parents are taking their kids on back-to-school shopping trips. There are conversations and speculation about teacher assignments, and in some cases, questions about whether teachers will be returning in the fall.

When teachers leave a school, it hits students hard. A researcher from the University of Michigan and his colleagues studied data over an each year period and found teacher turnover harms student learning, especially in math and English.

A study by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future estimates that teachers dropping out of the profession cost the nation around $7 billion a year.

Trying to keep teachers in the classroom and in the profession is Randi Stanulis’s mission. She is an associate professor of education at Michigan State University and she directs a teacher mentoring program that some say could ultimately serve as a national model.

Randi Stanulis joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

There are several complicated questions surrounding teacher evaluations in Michigan. Should there be a state standard for evaluating teachers? What should that evaluation encompass? Should teacher pay be pegged to the evaluation, the pay for performance system?

The Michigan council for educator effectiveness spent nearly 2 years and $6 million on a pilot program in 13 districts, and they’ve now come out with a recommendation for a new statewide teacher evaluation tool.

Jake Neher is the Lansing reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He joined us in the studio today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

Today we took a closer look at recommendations for statewide standards for evaluating Michigan teachers. How should the job performance of teachers be evaluated?

And, we met a West Michigan man who swims across the Great Lakes and Lake St Clair, raising money for charity.

Also, we spoke with the lead vocalist of The Ragbirds, a band from Ann Arbor that is about to kick off their fall tour with a newborn baby.

First on the show, Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr is looking to hire a group to oversee Detroit's federal grant money.

This comes at the same time that federal officials are searching for ways to offer more aid to Detroit.

Orr visited went to Washington D.C. earlier this month to meet with Michigan Senator Carl Levin and some economists to get ideas about which grants programs would be best for the city.

Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief David Shepardson reported on this in today's Detroit News, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Council for Education Effectiveness is proposing a new way to evaluate teachers and administrators.  The council presented its recommendations to the state legislature, the governor and the state Board of Education on Wednesday.

Michigan currently has statewide standards for teachers, but there is not an evaluation system in place. Current evaluations are conducted differently in each district. This new system would require teachers to be evaluated every year and receive one of three ratings: "ineffective," "provisional" or "professional." The evaluation is based on the teacher's classroom practice and their students' performance.

Alana Holland, Michigan Radio Newsroom

At a meeting that lasted until almost 2 a.m., the Ann Arbor School Board voted to cut 27 full-time teachers from schools across the district. The school board also voted to eliminate three teachers from Ann Arbor's reading intervention program.

The board had to make some tough decisions for the 2013-14 school year, according to Board President Deb Mexicotte.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Lester Graham is filling in for Cynthia Canty on today's Stateside.

In her recent report, Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith found that teachers in the new charter school system in Muskegon Heights were hired without teacher certification.

The entire public school system in Muskegon Heights was recently turned over to a private company.

While there are teachers who do have certification, there are others who do not.

The question is, what will happen with those teachers that have not been certified?

We sat down with reporter Lindsey Smith, who joined us from Grand Rapids.

She told us how it became evident that there were uncertified teachers working in the school system. She also tells us what it was like speaking to the parents in Muskegon Heights and their reactions.

Grading Michigan's first fully privatized public school district

Jan 8, 2013
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Last summer, Muskegon Heights became the first school district in the state to completely privatize its public school system.

In December 2011, after running a budget deficit for six years in a row, the school board requested the appointment of an emergency manager under the now-defunct Public Act 4.

Soon after his appointment in April 2012, emergency manager Don Weatherspoon laid off all of the district’s employees, created a new charter district, and appointed a new school board to run it.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This story is the third in a four-part series about how things are going so far in Michigan's first fully privatized public school district. Find part one here, part two here and part four here.

The decision to convert the Muskegon Heights Public School district into a charter school district was a financial one. But the officials who run the new system hope to improve academics too.

From the outside, Edgewood Elementary School looks and sounds the same as any other year.

But this year, Mosaica Education, the charter company that’s running the school, hopes a new curriculum, longer school day and year round classes will improve student success.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This story is the second in a four-part series about how things are going so far in Michigan's first fully privatized public school district. Find part one here, part three here, and part four here.

At least one in four teachers at the new Muskegon Heights school district have already quit the charter school this year. That’s after an emergency manager laid off all the former public school teachers in Muskegon Heights because he didn’t have enough money to open school in the fall. That means there have been a lot of new, adult faces in the district.

Students say the high teacher turnover has affected them and top school administrators say it has held back academic achievement this school year.

MI Teachers Get First Report Card

Nov 29, 2012
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Michigan just completed a review of its 96,000 teachers.

Even at the state's lowest performing schools, almost no teachers received poor ratings.

Teachers can be rated highly effective, effective, marginally effective and ineffective.

Statewide, only three percent of teachers got "ineffective" ratings.

And at the lowest-performing schools, not one teacher was rated in the lowest two categories.

Jan Ellis is with Michigan’s Department of Education.  She says “I think this is pretty much what we expected for the first year…and given that the evaluation components and the weight on what districts use to determine teacher effectiveness are very different.”

Ellis says next steps are developing common standards, and how to best observe teachers in action.

- Chris Zollars, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Michigan’s 250,000 teachers and state school employees face a  deadline of October 26th to choose a new retirement plan. But some groups are asking the State Supreme Court to extend that deadline.

State legislators passed a law changing the pension system in August. Ellen Hoekstra represents the Michigan Federation of Teachers.

"We’re advising people to get as much information as they can and at least fix in their own mind what option they think would be best for themselves and their own family – prior to the 26th – in case that ends up being the deadline," said Hoekstra.

School employees will have four options.

One would require them to pay more than they pay now, to get the same pension.

Another option would allow people to pay the same amount they pay now, but get a smaller pension when they retire.

User: cncphotos / flickr

This week Christina Shockley talked with Jack Lessenberry about the focus of the auto bailout at the Democratic National Convention, the teacher retirement benefit bill that has been heating up in Lansing, and the special primary taking place Wednesday in southeast Michigan.

User:Brother O'Mara / flickr

Teachers challenge retirement bills

"The first day of classes was also the day Governor Rick Snyder approved some big changes to how teachers and other public school employees will save for retirement. The new law will require teachers to pay more for retirement benefits. New employees will no longer get retirement health care coverage, but a savings account to help them buy insurance. Teachers unions are already in court to challenge the law.  A judge in Ingham County struck down part of the law within a few hours of the governor signing it. Judge Rosemary Aquilina said retired teachers deserve more time to choose whether they will pay more for their existing benefits, or choose reduced benefits. The new law gave them a month and a half to make their decision," Rick Pluta reports.

Special primary election today in southeast Michigan

"Five Detroit-area Republican candidates are competing for the chance to serve the final weeks of former U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter's term in Congress. A special GOP primary election is being held Wednesday to pick a candidate to face Belleville Democrat David Curson in the Nov. 6 special general election. The winner of that race will serve only from mid-November until the end of the year. A separate contest on the Nov. 6 ballot will decide who fills the seat for the next two years. Republican ex-teacher Kerry Bentivolio faces Democratic Canton Township Trustee Syed Taj in that race. McCotter resigned this summer during an investigation of irregularities in the nominating petitions that kept the Livonia Republican from seeking re-election. Three former aides are charged with scheming to submit false signatures," according to the AP.

UAW president to address the DNC tonight

"United Auto Workers says union President Bob King is scheduled to address the Democratic National Convention. The Detroit-based union says King will speak this evening during the event in Charlotte, N.C. The UAW says 89 of its members are delegates to the convention," according to the AP.
 

user kconnors / morgueFile

The first day of classes was also the day Governor Rick Snyder made some big changes to how teachers and other public school employees will save for retirement.

The new law will require teachers to pay more for retirement benefits. New employees will no longer get retirement health care coverage, but a savings account to help them buy insurance.
    
Teachers unions are already in court to challenge the law, but Governor Snyder said he's not worried about the lawsuit. He said he expects to be sued when his administration makes big changes.

"So I sort of take that as part of the course of action, but we feel good about our litigation position in these matters. These are good things to do. We are doing them in good faith in partnership with the Legislature passing good statute," said Snyder.

The governor and many school administrators say the teacher pension system is over-burdened with debt, and the changes will ensure teachers' benefits will be there when they retire.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Biden's Labor Day visit

Vice President Joe Biden rallied in Detroit Monday during the Labor Day parade. "He talked about how America is better off today, in part because of the auto industry bailout.  That message will be a central theme for Democrats at this week’s national convention," Kate Wells reports.

Teacher retirement changes

"Governor Rick Snyder will sign legislation today  that will change how teachers and other school employees save for their retirement. Most school employees will have to pay more for their retirement benefits. School employees hired after today will no longer have a retirement health plan, but will pay into a medical savings account to purchase coverage when they are no longer working. Snyder says it will shore up the state’s credit rating, and ensure taxpayers won’t be saddled with the costs of a bailout years down the road. Teachers unions say the plan breaks promises made to school employees, and went to court on Friday with a legal challenge," Rick Pluta reports.

Voters decide on replacement for US Rep McCotter tomorrow

Some voters in Souteast Michigan are heading to the polls Wednesday to vote for a temporary replacement for Republican U.S. Representative Thaddeus McCotter. "McCotter quit in July after it was discovered that petition signatures were forged or copied in at least two of his campaigns. Five Republicans are vying for the seat. They'll face a Democrat, a Libertarian and a U.S. Taxpayers Party Candidate in the November 6th general election. The taxpayer tab for the special election will be at least $650,000 thousand dollars. Low voter turnout is predicted. Four of McCotter's former staff  members have been charged in the petition scandal. McCotter has not been charged," Rina Miller reports.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder will sign legislation into law Tuesday that will make some changes to how teachers and other school employees save for their retirement.
    
School employees will have to pay more for their benefits, and those hired after today will no longer get retirement health coverage.

Instead, they will get savings accounts to help them buy insurance once they are done working.
    
Governor Snyder said he understands that many school employees are upset.

“We had to make some reforms to make it fiscally viable and financially sound f or their future, too, in terms of their retirement benefits," said Snyder. "So, it’s a case of us all working together, and sometimes change is tough on people and I appreciate that. We’re just trying to make it something that lasts for the long term for the benefit of all."

Snyder said the new approach will begin to retire a long-term pension liability estimated in the billions of dollars.

He said it will also shore up the state’s credit rating, and ensure taxpayers won’t be saddled with the costs of a bailout years down the road.
    
Teachers unions say the plan breaks promises made to school employees, and went to court on Friday with a legal challenge.

(courtesy of KQED)

In 2011, a new teacher tenure law was put in place by the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Snyder. It called for teacher evaluations, but it didn't specify how these evaluations should be done.

Now the panel put in charge of figuring that out will test 4 national teacher evaluation models in 14 Michigan school districts.

More from Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press:

Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled unconstitutional a state law forcing school employees to pay 3 percent of their salary toward retiree health care.

A copy of Thursday's 2-1 ruling was released Friday.

The contribution was put into place in 2010, and unions representing teachers filed suit. In 2011, retired Ingham County Circuit Judge James Giddings, who was hearing the case before he stepped down and returned to finish the job, ruled that school employees were paying into a system that may not ultimately benefit them.

The contribution was instituted as part of an effort to save hundreds of millions of dollars for the state. MLive.com reports some unions want the money to be refunded.

CedarBendDrive/flickr

It was a busy day for lawmakers at the State Capital on Wednesday. They came in from summer recess for a one day session.

Out of that meeting, Gov. Snyder is expected to sign legislation that will require teachers and school employees to pay more for health insurance and pensions.

Teachers and other school employees will soon be paying more of their salaries for health care and pensions.

Governor Snyder is expected to sign bills that require school workers to pay four or seven percent of their salaries for retirement benefits, depending on what plan they have.

School employees will also pay more for their health insurance when they retire.

Randy Richardville is State Senate Majority Leader.

http://www.ypsd.org/district/superintendentsmessage/

Superintendent Dedric Martin says the school system could need an emergency manager, unless staff agree to deeper cuts. 

Martin acknowledges staff already took a 10 percent salary cut. 

“That comes on the heels of additional concessions that they've made. And we've had reductions at all levels. Unfortunately it's not enough to carry a balanced budget and pay back money that has already been borrowed and spent," he said.

Martin says he knows the "emergency manager" card could be perceived as a ploy to get further concessions from unions.

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