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detroit public schools

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some students and staff at Detroit’s Catherine Ferguson Academy say their education is so lackluster, it violates their civil rights.

The Detroit Public Schools handed the school for pregnant and parenting girls over to a charter operator in 2011, after students and teachers fought to keep it from closing.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Students in Michigan’s state-run district for the lowest-performing schools are making “impressive” strides.

At least, that’s how officials with the Education Achievement Authority are interpreting new test data.

The third set of online Scantron Performance Series tests administered to EAA students this year show what Chancellor John Covington calls “phenomenal” progress in reading and math.

District officials say 56% of all students demonstrated at least a year’s worth of progress in reading, and 65% did so in math.

Covington says most EAA students start out way behind, so it makes sense to measure growth rather than specific benchmarks.

He says these scores prove the district’s philosophy of “student –centered learning” and “meeting students where they’re at” is yielding results.

“Children aren’t able to move from one level to the next until they have clearly demonstrated they have mastered those standards and those requisite skills they need to move to the next level,” Covington says.

The district for the lowest-performing 5% of schools is only operating in 15 former Detroit Public Schools right now.

Governor Snyder is pushing to take the EAA statewide. But it’s faced considerable questions and opposition from Democrats and other critics, as legislation to codify the district in state law recently stalled in the State Senate.

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US education secretary to visit Detroit schools

"President Obama's education secretary will be in Detroit on Monday for a town hall meeting on education issues and visits to three area schools," the Associated Press reports.

Palisades nuclear power plant shut down after water leak

"Operators of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwestern Michigan removed it from service Sunday because of a repeat water leak from a tank that caused seepage into the control room last year. The plant has been under extra Nuclear Regulatory Commission scrutiny after numerous safety issues. There were four shutdowns last year and at least two this year," the Associated Press reports.

Michigan voters head to the polls Tuesday

Many Michigan communities will be voting in local elections on Tuesday. Local elections including filling the vacant mayor's seat in Troy, choosing a new state senator in Genesee County, and in many parts of the state, residents can vote on school board issues.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This "week in review," Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the U.S. Senate race, allowing health coverage for live-in partners and the retirement of the emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools.

Roy Roberts, emergency manager of the Detroit Public schools for the last two years, is leaving. His contract ends in two weeks, and he says he isn’t interested in extending it.

You can hardly blame him. He is 74 and thanks to a successful career at General Motors, doesn‘t need the money. Roberts especially doesn‘t need more aggravation.

Being emergency manager of what is, in effect, a dying school system has meant 14 hour days and many angry people. There’s no way it could have meant anything else. His predecessor, Robert Bobb, was roundly hated, and whoever the governor appoints next will be too.

Detroit Public Schools

The state-appointed emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools announced his retirement today. 

Governor Rick Snyder appointed Roy Roberts to manage the state's largest school system in 2011.

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Lawmakers try to block referendum to wolf hunt

"The state Senate has approved legislation that would make a voter referendum on wolf-hunting in Michigan irrelevant – even before the question has been formally approved for the November ballot. The measure would name the wolf and 38 other animals as game species. That’s despite a looming voter challenge to a new state law that allows wolf hunting," Rick Pluta reports.

Education Achievement Authority in financial trouble, borrows $12 million from DPS

The state run school district meant to turn around the lowest performing schools has been found to borrow $12 million from Detroit Public Schools.  The Education Achievement Authority took over 15 former Detroit Public Schools this school year.

Unemployment rate down statewide

"Michigan says that the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate is down statewide and in all 17 major labor markets. The lowest rate in the March report was for Ann Arbor at 5.1 percent. The highest was for the northeastern Lower Peninsula at 13.1 percent," the Associated Press reports.

flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

There's a movement in Michigan to expand the Education Achievement Authority, a new school system for Michigan's lowest-performing public schools.

Since last fall, 15 Detroit schools have been run under the EAA. Now, there's movement to expand the EAA to include more under-performing schools.

The State House has already passed legislation that would expand the system, despite objections from Democrats who say the legislation is premature. Democrats say that there needs to be more research that suggests the EAA is really working before moving ahead with any sort of legislative expansion.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Education Achievement Authority is up and running right now in 15 Detroit schools.

Michigan’s state-run “reform district” for the lowest-performing schools is already controversial.

In the eyes of Governor Snyder and its champions, the EAA is the best way to assure that schools don’t linger in failure for years on end.

In the eyes of critics, it’s already a failed experiment that threatens the very heart of public education in Michigan.

Ellen Cogen Lipton is a patent attorney who was born in Philadelphia, grew up in Alabama, and ended up in Michigan 20 years ago, after marrying a fellow law student from Southfield.

But she also comes from a family of educators, was a chemistry teacher herself, and has two kids in public schools in suburban Detroit. That’s a fairly interesting biography to begin with, but there’s more. She is also completing her third term in the state legislature.

Lipton wasn’t very political, until she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and felt it was urgent that Michigan approve a constitutional amendment allowing embryonic stem cell research.

Five years ago she won that battle, and got herself elected to the legislature that same year. Learning is important to her, and she knows that the Detroit Public Schools have not been doing the job.

You might think then that she’d be supportive of the experiment Governor Rick Snyder launched to try to fix our lowest-performing schools, the Educational Achievement Authority, known as the EAA.

If there’s a school near you that’s been deemed “persistently low-achieving,” it could soon come under the control of a new regime.

Governor Snyder is leading a controversial effort to create a statewide district for those struggling schools. Right now, that district—formally known as the Education Achievement Authority, or EAA--is doing a kind of pilot year in Detroit.

How well is that working out?  The answer to that question depends very much on who you ask.

Debate is underway in Lansing on bills that would expand on an educational experiment now underway in Detroit.

It's called the Education Achievement Authority, and its aim is to turn the lowest-performing schools—with changes like a longer school year, and more online learning.

In this first of a three-part series, Michigan Radio takes a look at the Education Achievement Authority - which could be coming soon to a school near you.

A new plan outlines a path for the Detroit Public Schools to grow again.

The “Neighborhood-Centered, Quality Schools” plan centers around the idea of “community schools” that offer a wide array of services to the community.

DPS emergency financial manager Roy Roberts says without Proposal S, the district would be severely crippled.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Updated at 4:16 pm:

Roy Roberts has been waiting for this day for months. 

Michigan’s new emergency manager law takes effect today. And that means Roberts just got a lot more powerful.

He's the emergency manager for Detroit's public school system.

But for months, he’s been locked in a power struggle with the elected DPS school board.

That’s because nobody really knew how things were supposed to work, or who was running what, during the tumultuous period between the old EM law getting overturned, and the new EM law taking effect.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The US Department of Education is now investigating the state of Michigan over alleged civil rights violations.

The department’s civil rights office was already investigating two civil rights cases against the Detroit Public Schools.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Court of Appeals has tossed a big jury award in a former Detroit school teacher's whistleblower lawsuit.

In 2004, Beverly Garvin claims a fourth grade student told her that two boys had forced her to perform oral sex. Garvin says she reported the alleged assault to her superiors and nothing happened. Garvin says when she persisted, including contacting police, she was transferred and eventually fired. 

A jury awarded Garvin $750 thousand in damages. 

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Public Schools is looking for more volunteer readers.

Reading Corps Week in Detroit begins Monday and runs through Friday. The district is planning a rally and training Saturday at Renaissance High School as part of its Reading Corps program.

Education, city and business leaders who have served as reading tutors will participate in the rally. Nearly 900 people have volunteered to help tutor Detroit students as part of the program.

New volunteers will be trained at the rally.

The week in review

Feb 23, 2013
Kate Sumbler / Flickr

This week in review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the second attempt to overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the great potential of Detroit getting an emergency manager, and debates over what control the Detroit Public School board has when they are under the control of an emergency financial manager.

via Detroit Board of Education

Detroit’s elected school board will have short-lived authority over some key decisions.

A Wayne County judge ruled Wednesday that the district’s emergency financial manager had exceeded his authority on some issues.

Judge Annette Berry said Roy Roberts must consult with the school board on school closings, security, and some other issues.

Roberts is supposed to share authority with the school board. He oversees finances, while the board supervises academics.

But the two are hard to separate, and both sides have brought court cases over how that should work in practice

Detroit school board President Lamar Lemmons says the ruling granting board members a partial injunction proves Roberts overstepped his authority.

"He’s used the fact that he’s had financial authority to, if you will, bully the staff into cooperating with him,” Lemmons said.  “And for all intents and purposes, ignoring the board and its designated superintendent.”

The arrangement will be short-lived, though. A new emergency manager law kicks into effect on March 28th, once again giving Roberts broad powers over the whole district.

Lemmons says the board plans a court challenge to the new law.

via Detroit Public Schools

There’s some good news for the Detroit Public Schools in newly-released Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) scores.

42% of the district’s 3rd-through-8th graders scored “proficient or advanced” in reading. That’s up more than 6% from the prior year.

Math scores jumped more than 4%, with fewer than 15% of students rated proficient.

In most subjects, Detroit students’ gains outpaced state averages. But the district’s scores still remain well below state averages.

Roy Roberts, the district’s emergency financial manager, says that’s exactly the sort of progress people should expect at this point.
 

“If I had walked in here and said we’ve improved every class by 25%, you oughta call the FBI,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t happen that way. It’s incremental improvement.”

The number of Detroit students tested did drop more than 20% this year, though, as the district’s enrollment shrunk significantly. 

The state-run Education Achievement Authority took over 15 of the district’s lowest-performing schools last fall, leaving fewer kids in DPS. The district also has a dramatic long-term enrollment decline.

But that’s not the case at Dixon Elementary-Middle school on thecity’s far west side. That school has actually increased
enrollment—and posted some of the biggest gains citywide on this
year’s MEAP scores.

Principal Ora Beard took over the school three years ago. She says boosting student achievement in a school takes time—and lots of reaching out to students and parents to build trust.

“Our first year was totally building relationships,” said Beard. “And trying to get them to understand that we’re not here to fight you…we’re here to help you. And that’s what school’s got to be about.”

A report says as many as 15 people sent complaints to the Attorney General Bill Schuette's office more than a year before an investigation into the water crisis was launched.
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has been arguing that seven of the eleven school board members on the Detroit school board are holding office illegally and he wants them removed.

He lost a challenge in court early this week.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey reports for the Detroit Free Press that "Wayne Circuit Court Judge John Gillis Jr. denied State Attorney General Bill Schuette’s motion for summary disposition and granted the school board’s motion, effectively allowing the school board to continue to hold office."

In a statement released today, the attorney for the school board, George Washington, called the lawsuit bogus:

George B. Washington, attorney for the Detroit School Board, said “We are glad that this lawsuit has been exposed as the bogus claim that it always was. Attorney General Schuette and Governor Snider [sic] filed this lawsuit to prevent the largely black and Latino citizens of Detroit from having any say over their own schools. The Attorney General should not appeal this decision and he and the Governor should stop trying to destroy elected government in the City of Detroit."

Schuette has argued that the Detroit school board members cannot be elected by district, because state law requires that a school district have 100,000 students or more to elect board members that way.

It's the difference between a "first class" school district, and a "general powers" school district.

He's argued that Detroit hasn’t met that threshold since 2008.

In his decision, Judge Gillis Jr. wrote that the state code does not address what should happen in a district where student enrollment has declined.

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Michigan Attorney General questions Hathaway's fitness as a lawyer

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked the Attorney Grievance Commission to investigate former Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway’s “fitness to practice law.” As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"Schuette requested the investigation as Hathaway, who officially retired Monday amid an ethics scandal, awaits a Tuesday appearance in federal court in Ann Arbor on a felony charge of bank fraud. She is expected to plead guilty. The federal charge relates to property transfers Hathaway made while seeking a short sale on a home in Grosse Pointe Park. But Schuette said in his letter to Attorney Grievance Commission administrator  that the allegations against Hathaway raise questions about her fitness to hold a law license, not just to be a judge."

Obama administration to address Detroit's abandoned buildings

"US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Senator Carl Levin and Michigan officials will host a meeting in Detroit today to talk about how tax breaks for historic preservation projects can help distressed cities. In a statement, Secretary Salazar says the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program has been used for 70 projects in Detroit since 2000. He says he wants to talk about how that program can help revitalize the city," Sarah Hulett reports.

Detroit Public Schools expect more cuts

"The Detroit Public Schools plans to shrink even more to wipe out its deficit by 2016. The district’s latest deficit elimination plan projects that enrollment will dip below 40,000 students. In order to 'stay ahead of the cost curve,' emergency financial manager Roy Roberts proposes some drastic cuts—including closing as many as 28 more schools," Sarah Cwiek reports.

The Detroit Public Schools plans to shrink even more to wipe out its deficit by 2016.

The district’s latest deficit elimination plan projects that enrollment will dip below 40,000 by then.
And in order to “stay ahead of the cost curve,” emergency financial manager Roy Roberts proposes some drastic cuts—including closing as many as 28 more schools, and cutting more than 1000 employees.

Detroit Public Schools worked to draw district alumni back to their
old schools for this Martin Luther King Day.

Thirty schools across the city are participating in the national day
of service, and former students are invited to join in.

Spokesman Steve Wasko said the district was searching for a way to
draw DPS alumni back to their former schools.

Roy Roberts, the state-appointed emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, will keep his job after the Michigan Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit attempting to remove him.

The Supreme Court refused to overturn an earlier decision by the Court of Appeals ruling that Roberts’ office remains in effect under Public Act 72—the state’s emergency financial manager law of 1990.

The lawsuit was brought by Robert Davis, a union activist and school board member in Highland Park.

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In this “Week in Michigan politics” Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition host Christina Shockley and Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss Governor Rick Snyder’s upcoming State of the State address and how a judge ruling over the Detroit Public School district could set a precedent for emergency managers in the state.

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Roads and bridges to be a focus of the State of the State address

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his State of the State address this evening. According to the Detroit News,

"Snyder, preparing to lay out a new road funding scheme in his third State of the State address tonight, admitted it will be tough to persuade lawmakers to approve raising $1.6 billion that a bipartisan legislative report says is needed to keep roads and bridges from crumbling faster than they can be repaired."

Snyder approval rating rises

A new poll shows that the controversial right to work legislation that Governor Rick Snyder signed last month did not hurt his approval rating. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

The poll by the Republican firm Mitchell Research and Communications -- released on the eve of Snyder's third State of the State address today -- is sharply at odds with a poll released Dec. 18 by a Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling of North Carolina. The Mitchell poll shows Snyder with a 50% approval rating, up 3 percentage points from a poll Mitchell took in December. It also shows 50% support for the controversial right-to-work legislation Snyder signed after it was passed by the Legislature in December.

In contrast, the PPP poll found 38% approval of Snyder, down 9 percentage points from an earlier PPP poll just before the Nov. 6 election. The PPP poll found 41% of voters support the right-to-work legislation, and 51% oppose it.

Judge ruling could set precedent for emergency managers

A court ruling today could determine what power the Detroit Public School board has over operations. The district is under the control of an emergency manager. The Detroit Free Press reports,

"The court hearing could indicate the effect -- if any -- the school board will have on district operations between now and March 27, when a new emergency manager law will strip the board of its limited authority over academic operations. The board will remain in existence under the new law and could seek to remove the emergency manager after 18 months.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette continues his effort to remove some Detroit school board members.

A Wayne County judge heard oral arguments Thursday about Schuette’s lawsuit to throw out seven board members elected by district.

Schuette says state law only allows so-called “first class” school districts to elect board members that way. He says Detroit hasn’t met that threshold since 2008.

School board attorney George Washington insists his clients followed the law "as the legislature wrote it."

Washington also noted the lawsuit was only filed in 2012, after Michigan’s emergency manager law was suspended.

“They were happy with the way the school board was elected, until they thought they might not have a financial manager," Washington said. "And then they said, ‘Well, we gotta get rid of the board. No matter what the law says, or what we’ve allowed to happen.'"

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Governor Rick Snyder says expanding a state-run district for struggling schools is one of his top priorities for 2013.         

The Education Achievement Authority is designed to turn around schools with persistently low student test scores. Right now, the authority oversees 15 public schools in Detroit.      

Snyder wants to expand the district across the state. The EAA would be able to take over schools that fall in the bottom 5 percent.

Bills to expand the system did not move in the final weeks of the legislative session.        

Snyder says more lawmakers would come around to the idea if they saw the state-run schools firsthand.          

The EAA has been operating for just four months. Opponents of the expansion say it’s too early to tell if the system is working.


(courtesy of KQED)

The Education Achievement Authority (EAA), Michigan’s new reform school district, has been selected as the state’s only finalist in the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top-District competition.

The EAA is one of 61 finalists nationwide, competing for close to $400 million in federal funds.

Tyrone Winfrey is the Chief of Staff for the EAA. He says he's optimistic about snagging the funds.

"I think we were chosen because it's not a one-size-fits-all model," he said, "and it's basically educating students where they are, individually, within those classrooms."

If awarded the top prize, $40 million, Winfrey says his district would fund professional development and leadership training for the schools' staff members in order to better prepare students for jobs and college.

The awards are meant to support locally developed plans to personalize student learning, prepare college-ready students, and close achievement gaps.

From the Department of Education:

“These finalists are setting the curve for the rest of the country with innovative plans to drive education reform in the classroom,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.

“This competition was designed to support local efforts to close the achievement gap and transform the learning environment in a diverse set of districts, but no matter who wins, children across the country will benefit from the clear vision and track records of success demonstrated by these finalists.”

The EAA was instituted in 2011 to operate the lowest performing five percent of schools in the state.

It began this school year with 15 Detroit schools and is expected to expand statewide. New legislation would cement the reform district into state law.

It's part of an education overhaul being promoted by Governor Snyder.

Opponents call the new district “impersonal,” saying it would erode local control of schools districts.

The Department of Education will select 15 to 25 districts for four-year awards ranging from $5 million to $40 million.

Award winners are expected to be announced by the end of the year.

- Jordan Wyant and Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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