education

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The Michigan Department of Education will end its exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to oversee some of the state's lowest-performing schools.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has sent a letter to the EAA notifying it that the contract will be terminated a year from now.

The MDE says it still intends to use the EAA to turn around struggling schools. It says ending the contract will simply open up more options to other entities that can oversee the schools.

The EAA currently runs 15 schools in Detroit. 

Martin Ackley is a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education.

"There are situations where a struggling school may be better served by a neighboring school district or the local intermediate school district as opposed to the EAA."

Ackley says the state still intends to use the EAA to help oversee struggling schools. He says ending the contract will simply give state education officials more options.

"Now, this is in no way a statement or an indication of alack of confidence in the EAA or its academic strategies. This is just an action that needed to be taken in order to provide flexibility and to provide options other than the EAA in which to place these most struggling schools."

Critics of the EAA say it's struggling with declining enrollment, finances, and school safety. Lawmakers are considering legislation that would bolster the authority and allow it to expand it statewide. 

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.

User Motown31 / Creative Commons

Some at-risk schools in Michigan could soon get more state funding if they agree to go year-round. A state House panel heard testimony on the idea Tuesday.

In his budget address this month, Gov. Rick Snyder called for a state pilot program to encourage year-round schooling. School districts could get money to add air conditioning and other upgrades to old buildings so they could operate during the summer.

Supporters of the measure say students lose a lot of what they learn during the school year after long summer breaks.

user Marlith / Flickr

How far should a school go to accommodate its transgender students? What federal or state laws and ordinances might impact policies for transgender students?

School districts around the nation are wrestling with these questions, even as parents and civil rights groups mount court challenges against districts whose policies are not supportive of transgender student rights.

The ACLU of Michigan's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Project is now crafting a comprehensive model policy for transgender students – a policy that could be adopted by local school districts. Jay Kaplan is a staff attorney who is part of this effort, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Despite a renewed push, expansion of a state turnaround entity for failing public schools beyond Detroit remains in trouble in the Legislature.

Some majority Republicans say it's too early to know whether the 15-school Education Achievement Authority is working.

Others contend a version of legislation floated this week doesn't guarantee a role for local intermediate school districts to run the worst schools instead. Critics also say there's no promise schools can return to their home districts once being improved.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Saginaw school officials are spending today crunching the district’s budget numbers.

They have two days to come up with a deficit elimination plan that will do away with the district’s $6.1 million deficit over the next two years.

“We’re going to work furiously to make sure we’re going to put forward the best plan that can not only sustain Saginaw public schools but also help us rebuild in a way that would be very vibrant,” Saginaw School Superintendent Carlton Jenkins said after last night’s school board meeting.

Matthileo / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the top political headlines of the week. This week's topic include:

  • Proposals to boost school funding.
  • Drama over Michigan's restrictions on how ballot campaigns can collect signatures.
  • How a bankruptcy plan for Detroit might come as early as next week.
  • How Detroit Public Schools have lost a collective 160 days from power outages.

Listen to the full interview below

Adam Glanzman

University of Michigan students are holding an all-night event later this month to discuss race on campus.

The event, billed as a "Speak Out," is being organized by the United Coalition for Racial Justice, a student organization consisting of students and faculty members.

The event will build on momentum gained by the university's Black Student Union to make the campus more inclusive and diverse.

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There is a two-bill package making its way through the state Legislature that could impact students in every third-grade classroom in Michigan.

It would hold back third-graders who have poor reading skills. If a child fails a third-grade reading exam, he or she does not move along to fourth grade.

Backers say it can help get a struggling student back on track. Critics say flunking that struggling student is a punishment. State Superintendent Mike Flanagan panned the legislation, saying it should be up to local schools and parents.

Amber Arellano is the executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Saginaw school board members will meet again Tuesday to discuss how to deal with the district’s multi-million dollar deficit.

Saginaw school board members have met three times in the past week to hash out a deficit elimination plan.

The most recent proposal called for laying off employees and closing three schools, including Saginaw High School.

Parents and students have attacked the plan and the board for considering it.

Flint Community Schools

There is no doubt that teachers in the Flint Community Schools will be paid through the end of the school year.

That's according to Interim Superintendent Larry Watkins.

Watkins said the state approved the Flint school district's deficit elimination plan today.

The district will get a $2.3 million advance on its state aid payments, and Watkins said the state authorized the district to borrow $3.6 million.

Yesterday, I talked about the challenges the University of Michigan’s new president faces. One of those is, of course, the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to afford an education.

That provoked a lot of reaction, and I was surprised by the tone of a lot of it.

Specifically, many people feel that especially with the lagging economy, it makes no sense for students to study things that won’t clearly pay off in a job.

"There's nothing wrong with art appreciation. There are plenty of books, DVDs and YouTube clips out there," one man said. But he thought it was outrageous that someone would spend a vast amount of money on something "that will turn out to be a nice hobby," and then "complain about the lack of job opportunities."

The long road ahead for Detroit education reform

Feb 3, 2014
Brian Widdis

Benchmark: Schools

Ana Rosa Cabrera joined several moms in a classroom at Bennett Elementary for a Zumba session one morning earlier this month. The moms stretched and danced as their instructor, a Spanish-speaking ball of energy dressed in fluorescent greens, directed them in merengue-like maneuvers from a DVD playing on a TV screen.

Melissa / anotherlunch.com

For a new State of Opportunity documentary, Dustin Dwyer spent six weeks at Congress Elementary School in the East Hills neighborhood of Grand Rapids. Does that conjure images of a fully grown man crammed into a very tiny desk, watching the traffic to the pencil sharpener?

KidsCount

A new report finds the state's poorest children have failed to make up any ground in their reading skills in the past decade.

According to the the latest Kids Count report, 81% of low-income 4th-graders in Michigan are not reading proficiently.

Michigan is among six states that have seen no improvement in that rate since 2003.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell is the project director for Kids Count Michigan and she joined us today.

Virginia Gordan

More than a dozen Michigan and Washtenaw County government officials listened attentively yesterday while students and recent graduates spoke about their experiences in Washtenaw County high schools.

The event, called YouthSpeak, was one of a series of youth public forums organized around the state by youth service organizations.

Some students said school policies do not take into account the poverty, homelessness, and family issues many students face. They said this has a negative impact on their education.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new report finds Michigan’s poorest children have failed to make up any ground in their reading skills in the past decade.

According to the latest Kids Count report, 81% of low-income 4th-graders in Michigan are not reading proficiently. Michigan is among six states that have seen no improvement in that rate since 2003.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell is the project director for Kids Count Michigan. She says fourth grade is a pivotal age, since that’s where children stop learning to read and start reading to learn.

user: Liza Lagman Sperl

The DTE Energy Foundation plans to donate $1 million to the Michigan Science Center in Detroit.

According to their press release, the donation will span a period of five years, specifically funding the science center's STEM educational program (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Lead in text: 
Today in Tech & Opportunity, State of Opportunity asks educators and parents: what is your school doing to encourage students from all backgrounds to pursue educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math?
Education
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.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

It's been a year and a half since state education leaders called for reforms to Michigan's "zero tolerance" discipline policies. Critics say too many students are still being booted out of school because of zero-tolerance measures and the result is the kids who are getting in trouble and being expelled are the ones who most need help. And they point to the statistics: A disproportionate number of the students who are punished are minorities.

Bridge Magazine contributing writer Ted Roelofs wrote a piece in a recent issue titled "Zero tolerance school reforms hit resistance in Michigan.” He joined us today along with Annie Salsich, director of the Center on Youth Justice at the Vera Institute, to explore zero-tolerance policies and what can be done to promote a safe and productive school environment.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lead in text: 
Think Again is the name of a new feature on our State of Opportunity blog. Maybe there are stories you missed that we think deserve your attention. Or perhaps there are new developments on issues impacting Michigan's kids. Click over to State of Opportunity and see what we're highlighting for your reconsideration. Today's topic: the discipline gap in school suspensions gets federal attention.
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Erik Hersman / Flickr

State of Opportunity's Kimberly Springer tells us how "the specter of an exclusive, our boutique, access internet looms" after the recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision striking down many of the FCC's "net neutrality" rules.

For the privileged, the demise of net neutrality might mean paying even more for broadband access to Netflix or YouTube---no more buffering...buffering...buffering? But for the less privileged, losing net neutrality puts all of the world's information further out of reach and condemning some to "pay to play" deals. 

Go here to read more.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Legislature formally kicked off 2014 with no heavy lifting. But voting could occur this week, when lawmakers also gather to hear Governor Rick Snyder's annual State of the State speech.

Budget work will dominate the first half of the year. Legislators have nearly $1 billion more to work with than expected, and one priority is spending more on road upkeep without raising taxes.

Lawmakers also are talking up an election-year tax cut, perhaps in the state income tax.

Lead in text: 
Every week on the State of Opportunity blog we have a feature called, "Ideas & Stuff." It's meant to give you some background into the research that informs our stories about helping Michigan kids get ahead. Today, Dustin Dwyer give us a peek into the studies he's been reading in preparation for a new documentary on high-stakes testing. The studies question whether there's a class bias in which kids are tracked into gifted and talented programs. Are children living in poverty recognized as gifted and put into the appropriate programs? Swing by our blog and see what the research says.
Education
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Just last year, when I brought up the Common Core to my non-educator friends, I would usually see a furrowed brow and a tilted head.

They’d never heard of it.

That’s certainly changed. Most people have at least heard of Common Core by now. 

Still, I find very few folks have anything more than the vaguest notions about the Common Core. They seem to know that most states are a part of it, but not much more.

toshibatelecom / toshibatelecom

Michigan's economy may be slogging its way up the hill towards recovery, but life is not getting as good as it should for children in our state.

That's the takeaway from the latest Kids Count report.

Here to tell us more is Jane Zehnder-Merrell. She's the project director for Kids Count in Michigan, part of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Back in 2010, the State Board of Education approved the Common Core State Standards for Michigan — a set of math and English goals for K-12 students.

School districts across the state have spent the past three years integrating the standards into their curricula. At the same time, we've heard a lot of political debate about Common Core, mostly about the involvement of the federal government in our classrooms.

But in October of this year, state lawmakers OK'd funding for Common Core, and now it is becoming a reality in Michigan classrooms.

We wanted to find out: What does this mean — day-in, day-out — for Michigan's students?

What does a school year under Common Core really look like?

Joining us is Naomi Norman, the executive director of Achievement Initiatives at Washtenaw Intermediate School District and Livingston Educational Service Agency.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan is creating a confidential tip line for students designed to prevent school violence.

A law signed Friday by Gov. Rick Snyder authorizes the creation of a hotline accepting tips by phone, text message, email or through a website or mobile app. The state attorney general's office and other agencies will cooperate to establish the OK-2-SAY program being modeled after one Colorado created after the Columbine shootings.

What happens when a child is struggling to read at his or her grade level?

In too many cases, the student moves up a grade anyway and the struggle continues, resulting in high school graduates who are poor, ineffective readers. And that can impact that student's chances of going to college and then getting a job that provides a good level of pay over a lifetime.

There's a package of bills sponsored by Holland Republican Representative Amanda Price now working through the State that tries to tackle this problem. It's called the "read-or-flunk law."

In a nutshell, if third-grade kids aren't reading, hold them back.

Ron French reported on the pros and cons of these bills for Bridge Magazine, and he joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

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