Changing Gears
12:49 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

Trickle down effects of changes in education, a student perspective

Wednesday we heard from some teachers at Saline High School in Michigan about changes in education over the past year. Today, we’ll hear from two students at the school about how these changes have trickled down to them. Christine Houle and Aaron Mukergee are the co-founders of a student group called STRIVE.

They work on school reform issues. Aaron says their voice, as students, has been lost in the debate over changes in education.

Saline is an affluent district and its high quality schools are known to draw people to the community. But Christine says even in Saline, funding cuts are affecting students in very real ways.

“The largest effect just this year that we’ve seen as some of the policy changes here at Saline are our larger class sizes,” Christine explained. “Now you can have up to 42 people in a class and I know almost all of my classes have been at the 42 maximum. It just makes it really difficult to have any kind of class discussions.”

Aaron and Christine are over-achievers, not struggling students. Even they are worried the education they’re getting now might not be preparing them for college next year.

Using data from the state’s ACT scores, it’s estimated that less than 20 percent of Michigan’s students are ready for college. For kids who are economically disadvantaged, that number is less than 10 percent.

Aaron will be going to Harvard next fall. Christine doesn’t know yet, but even her “safety” schools are in the Ivy League. These are the students Michigan, and states across the Midwest, want to retain to help grow their economies.  But do these students see a return to the region in their future?

“I think I’d like to come back to Michigan but I think there will definitely need to be some changes in the state, and obviously some jobs created before I’m ready to come back to this environment,” said Aaron.

“I definitely agree with that,” Christine chimed in.

STRIVE will continue to work with the district superintendent, principal and school board to push changes in their district. Over the next year they would like to see the pressure on their teachers decrease. Aaron also says he wants to see Michigan move away from what he calls “the idea that education is a business.”

Click here for a recap of our live chat with teachers across the region. Share your own story here.