education

Education
6:42 am
Mon April 25, 2011

Governor to address educators, unveil school reform plans

Governor Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League

Governor Rick Snyder will address an education conference in East Lansing today. He is expected to call for an across-the-board shakeup in how Michigan prepares students for 21st Century jobs.

Governor Snyder is expected to say Michigan falls short in critical measurements like third grade reading scores, eighth grade math scores, and its number of college graduates. At the same time, his budget plans call for less money for schools and universities.

Bill Rustem is a senior advisor to the governor. He says education reform can save money, but it needs to start before children are born and continue past high school.

“We’ve got to improve in a way that enables that whole system from pre-natal all the way through college to be a better system producing people who are smarter, better, and able to compete in the 21st Century.”

Details of the governor’s school reform plans will wait until later in the week when he sends an education message to the Legislature.

Politics
2:07 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Michigan Senators vote on education cuts today

Today's tweet from the Governor... "Let's focus on doing the right things to get our fiscal house in order and create an environment where jobs can grow."

For a state with $1.5 billion budget deficit and leaders who want to ease taxes on businesses - that means cuts.

The Appropriations Committee has voted on some cuts in education today.

From the Associated Press:

A Michigan Senate committee has voted to cut state aid to school districts by an additional $170 per student for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

The Republican-led Senate Appropriations Committee approved the cut along party lines Thursday. The reduction would be in addition to a $170 per student cut already on the books for the current fiscal year that would be continued into next year. That makes the total reduction $340 per student.

The proposal advances to the Senate floor. The cuts recommended by the Senate panel aren't as deep as the additional $300 per student cut recommended by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, which would make the total cut $470 per student.

Most state departments will be cut next fiscal year as Michigan continues to struggle with budget problems.

The state's new fiscal year starts on October 1st. The State Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder are hoping to finalize the budget by June 1st.

Education
4:42 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Senate budget panel scales back K-12 cut

Cuts are in the works for Michigan's K-12 public schools.
user frank juarez Flickr

A state Senate budget subcommittee has rolled back the size of Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed cut to K-through-12 schools.

The Senate subcommittee recommendation would still cut school funding by $170 per student, but that’s less than the $300 per student cut called for by the governor in his budget proposal.

State schools superintendent Michael Flanagan says more money for K-through-12 education is always welcome, but Flanagan says he’s concerned about what might have to be cut to make up that money.

"I don’t want to see pre-natal care for moms go at the expense of a couple of bucks in the formula, so that we actually have a bigger problem than we would have had, and I hope that’s what we can start to get people to think about is the continuum of services for kids – not just the K-12 issue."

The full Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on the budget recommendation tomorrow, along with budgets for universities, community colleges, and state agencies.

The governor has set a goal of wrapping up the entire state budget by June first.

Education
4:30 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

MSU finds one of its education professors guilty of plagiarizing

MSU Education Professor Sharif Shakrani has been found guilty of 'research misconduct'
Jane M Sawyer morgue file

Michigan State University has found one of its education professors guilty of plagiarism in a 2010 report about school consolidation.

The Booth newspaper chain commissioned MSU professor Sharif Shakrani to do a study about school consolidation. Shakrani’s study found Michigan could save more than $600 million by consolidating school districts.

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Offbeat
2:22 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Graduation "Flash Mob" on the University of Michigan's Diag

The "mob" builds on the front steps of the Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan.
screen grab of YouTube video

flash mob - n - a group of people who organize on the Internet and then quickly assemble in a public place, do something bizarre, and disperse; also called inexplicable mob

Cindy Heflin at AnnArbor.com spotted this one - a "flash mob" performance on the University of Michigan's Diag:

The performance was coordinated by students and sponsored by online graduation announcement company GoEnnounce.com.

About 70 students danced to Rusted Roots' "Send me on my way," GoEnnounce said in an e-mail...The performance was choreographed by Erik Heitz, a musical theater major.

Hard to say whether 70 dancers constitutes a "mob" - which according to Websters is a crowd "bent on riotous or destructive action."

Seems more like a "flash dance" to me, but that name's been taken.

What's Working
7:05 am
Mon April 18, 2011

Children focus in on nature

Pictured Rocks on Lake Superior
user Rhonda Noren Flickr

With the spread and advancement of home technology such as televisions, computers, cell phones, and video games, American children are spending less and less time outdoors. A baseball glove has been traded in for a remote control, and parents have gone from fretting over grass-stained jeans to fretting over their child’s apparent reclusiveness. Most kids today are more comfortable walking a parent through setting up Facebook account than they are walking through a forest. But the Udall Foundation, based in Arizona, is trying to reacquaint kids with the joys of exploring the natural world with their Parks in Focus program.

Parks in Focus is all about bridging the gap between technology and nature. Children, mostly middle school aged, are put in touch with Parks in Focus through the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Big Brothers Big Sisters. After providing each child with a digital camera to document their explorations, Parks in Focus program leaders take the children on camping and hiking trips in some of America’s most scenic parks. While trips originally went only to the Grand Canyon, Parks in Focus has expanded to several other states, including Michigan.

Bret Muter is the Michigan Program Coordinator for Parks in Focus. He says digital cameras act as security blankets for the kids, allowing them to have a familiar piece of technology in an unfamiliar world of mountains, streams, and creepy crawlies.

“If kids aren’t comfortable with nature, they’re typically comfortable with technology such as a camera, even if they don’t own one. So cameras serve as that safety net for exploring the environment, which may otherwise be unfamiliar or even scary to some kids.”

On top of just making the children more comfortable with the initial shock of being out in the middle of the woods, Muter says the cameras allow the kids to interact with their surroundings more than they normally would.

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Education
11:10 am
Fri April 15, 2011

Bike program sneakily teaches basic social skills

Ethan Alexander addresses the crowd
Eric Sweet

Riding a bicycle is a classic part of childhood. But plenty of kids don’t have bikes. One program in Kalamazoo teaches kids simple bike maintenance and at the end of the program, kids get their own bike. But the people who run the Open Roads workshop say the heart of the program is about teaching basic social skills.

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State Legislature
1:03 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

House panel approves cut to Michigan universities

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flickr

A state House panel has voted to cut aid to the state's 15 public universities by about 15 percent. The Associated Press reports:

The Republican-led state House appropriations subcommittee dealing with higher education funding approved the plan by a party-line vote Wednesday. The measure next goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

The funding plan started by the House is similar to one proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder but it has a few differences.

The House plan calls for an across-the-board funding cut of 14 percent to each of the state's 15 public universities in the budget year starting Oct. 1. Another 1 percent would be weighted depending on how much state aid each university gets on a per-student basis.

Funding cuts could be higher if universities don't agree to certain tuition restraints.

It's been a busy couple days at the state Capitol as Governor Rick Snyder and Republican legislative leaders announced yesterday that they had agreed on a tentative tax deal. And, earlier today, a GOP-led Senate committee approved measures to require public employees in Michigan to pay at least 20 percent of their health insurance costs.

Governor Snyder has said he wants a completed state budget for the new fiscal year by May 31st. The state is currently facing a projected $1.5 billion deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

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Education
9:02 am
Mon April 11, 2011

Rethinking Public Schools

There's been a flurry of speculation lately that perhaps the best choice to replace Robert Bobb as Emergency Financial Manager of the Detroit Public Schools might be ... Robert Bobb himself.

Bobb's contract expires at the end of June. While he has faced endless financial problems, his main frustration during his two-year stint running the schools seems to have been a court decision that his powers did not extend to determining what kids actually learn.

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Education
9:56 am
Fri April 8, 2011

Robert Bobb hints he may want to stay on as Detroit Schools EFM

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit schools emergency financial manager Robert Bobb says he's willing to consider staying on the job beyond June in the wake of Michigan's new financial oversight law. Robert Bobb told the Detroit News  editorial page that he's "not lobbying for the job." But he says the "pace of change" possible under the new law is appealing.

Bobb was hired in 2009 by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm to fix the district's finances. His latest contract was extended through June by Gov. Rick Snyder, who signed a law giving Bobb and other emergency financial managers the right to oversee not just a school district's finances but also its academics. 

Snyder's office says if Bobb is interested in staying he would be among the candidates considered.

Education
6:42 am
Tue April 5, 2011

Meetings in Detroit to detail school closings

The first of several workshops to educate Detroit parents on the schools district’s future plans is scheduled for this afternoon, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Detroit Public Schools' Parents Speakers Bureau will hold the meetings starting Tuesday afternoon at Priest Elementary and Central High. Six other meetings are scheduled through April 14.

Thirty schools are slated to be closed this year and two more in 2012 as part of the district's plan to help eliminate a $327 million budget deficit.

District officials say they hope to turn over 18 of the buildings to charter operators as neighborhood schools. Schools not selected as charters will close. An additional 27 schools also have been identified as possible candidates for charters.

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Education
2:32 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Top Ten 8th Grade MEAP Scores at Michigan's public schools

MEAP test scores for grades 3 through 8 were released today in Michigan
Kevin Wong Flickr

Math - 8th Grade - Top Ten Public Schools in Average MEAP Scores

  1. Ann Arbor Public Schools - Clague Middle School    - 855
  2. Troy School District - Boulan Park Middle School     - 853.4
  3. Birmingham City School District - Birmingham Covington School - 852.8
  4. Bloomfield Hills School District - Bloomfield Hills Middle School - 849.2
  5. Bloomfield Hills School District - East Hills Middle School - 847.4
  6. (TIE) Novi Community School District - Novi Middle School & Canton Charter Academy - Canton Charter Academy - 846.8
  7. Bloomfield Hills School District - West Hills Middle School - 846.4
  8. Ann Arbor Public Schools - Forsythe Middle School - 845.9
  9. Troy School District - Smith Middle School - 845.5
  10. Saginaw City School District - Saginaw Arts And Sciences Academy - 845.4

Reading - 8th Grade – Top Ten Public Schools in Average MEAP Scores

  1. (TIE) Grand Rapids Public Schools - City Middle/High School & Birmingham City School District - Birmingham Covington School - 843.3
  2. Saginaw City School District - Saginaw Arts And Sciences Academy - 843.1
  3. Troy School District - Boulan Park Middle School - 842.9
  4. Rochester Community School District - Van Hoosen Middle School - 841.8
  5. Ann Arbor Public Schools - Clague Middle School - 840.9
  6. (TIE) Okemos Public Schools - Chippewa Middle School & Leland Public School District - Leland Public School - 840.8
  7. Birmingham City School District - Derby Middle School - 840.7
  8. Ann Arbor Public Schools - Ann Arbor Open At Mack School 840.3
  9. (TIE) Rochester Community School District - Hart Middle School & Woodland School - Woodland School - 839.9
  10. Forest Hills Public Schools - Eastern Middle School – 839

Science - 8th Grade – Top Ten Public Schools in Average MEAP Scores

  1. Martin Luther King, Jr. Education Center Academy - 882.6
  2. David Ellis Academy West - David Ellis Academy West - 864.5
  3. Woodland School - Woodland School - 848.8
  4. Troy School District - Boulan Park Middle School - 846.5
  5. Grand Rapids Public Schools - City Middle/High School - 843.1
  6. Superior Central Schools - Superior Central School - 842.5
  7. Ann Arbor Public Schools - Ann Arbor Open At Mack School - 840.6
  8. South Lyon Community Schools - Millennium Middle School - 839.5
  9. (TIE) Hudsonville Public School District - Baldwin Street Middle School & Birmingham City School District - Birmingham Covington School - 838.8
  10. Forest Hills Public Schools - Northern Hills Middle School - 838.7
Education
1:37 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Governor Snyder denies making choice to replace Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager

Governor Rick Snyder, (R) Michigan
(courtesy of the Michigan governor's office)

Governor Snyder insists he has not chosen a replacement for Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb. Bobb’s contract to oversee Detroit’s troubled school district expires in June. A Detroit TV station reported Snyder had made his choice to replace Bobb. But the governor insists he has not. 

 "We’re still looking at candidates, both locally and nationally, and we’re going through that process.  My preference would be to find somebody from southeastern Michigan that has the right skill sets and such.”

The Detroit Public School District is hundreds of millions of dollars in the red and its latest MEAP test scores were mixed.

Education
12:29 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Statewide MEAP scores released today

Standardized test
Casey Serin Flickr

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) released the standardized test scores for schools across the state today. Students in grades 3 through 9 took the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test last fall.

Scores improved significantly in math, but remain flat in reading. The Detroit News highlighted the improvement in math scores:

Since 2005, scores have improved markedly in mathematics...In 2005, only 59.6 percent of seventh graders were proficient in math; that number has soared to 84.6 percent.

Improvement in reading scores, however, have remained flat. From the Detroit Free Press

Even though large numbers of students passed the exam, the percentage was down in 2010 from 2009 and showed little movement over the last six years. For example, the pass rate for third-graders dipped from 90% to 87%, while the pass rate for seventh-graders declined from 82% to 79%.

Some experts caution against making too much of the reading results. Elizabeth Birr Moje, with the University of Michigan's School of Education said, “schools are not necessarily neglecting literacy instruction. If anything, I see much greater attention than ever before.” Moje told the Free Press that the dip in this year's reading results could be 'anomalous.'

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State law
7:51 am
Wed March 30, 2011

Harsher punishment for teachers who go on strike?

A state law that would require punishment for Michigan teachers who go on strike appears to be on a fast-track in the state legislature, Steve Carmody reports. Republican State Representative Bill Rogers has authored one of two bills that would require a two year license suspension and a large daily fine for striking teachers. Carmody reports:

Rogers expects the anti-teacher strike bills will move quickly through the legislature and may reach the governor's desk before a possible statewide teachers' strike next month. The state's largest teachers' union is mulling possible job actions, including teacher walk-outs, to protest cuts in school funding and other issues.

A press release on Rep. Rogers' website explains the rationale behind the measures:

Teacher strikes put the education of students and teachers' jobs at risk and have recently been encouraged by Michigan Education Association (MEA) President Iris Salters. Striking is illegal in Michigan, although penalties for doing so are hard to enforce.

House Bill 4466... will fine the Michigan Education Association $5,000 per teacher for each full or partial day that public school employees are engaged in a strike or strike like activities. The bill also orders employees to pay a fine in the amount equal to one day of pay for every day or partial day in which an employee participates in a strike...

House Bill 4465... requires that state superintendents suspend a teacher's license for a period of two years or permanently revoke their license, if caught breaking existing strike laws.

"This legislation discourages teachers from striking by putting teeth into the current strike law," said Rogers, R-Brighton. "We need to put the focus back onto educating our children. Children are the ones who suffer from teacher strikes and this legislation makes sure those who choose to participate face consequences for their actions."

Governor Snyder says he hopes teachers won’t authorize their union to call a statewide strike in response to his budget plans. Snyder proposed a $470 per-pupil-cut in state education spending earlier this year.

State lawmakers are on a Spring break until April 11th.

Politics
4:48 pm
Tue March 29, 2011

Snyder hopeful teacher union won't call for a strike

Teachers protest in Lansing on February 26th, 2011. Could a strike be next?
mea.org

Governor Rick Snyder says he hopes teachers won’t authorize their union to call a statewide strike in response to his budget plans.

The Michigan Education Association is in the process of collecting answers to a member inquiry.

The MEA is querying its 155,000 members and 1,100 local bargaining units.

Union members are mad over Michigan’s new emergency manager law that could threaten collective bargaining agreements in financially troubled school districts. And many of them oppose Governor Snyder’s proposed big cuts to K-through-12 education and requiring teachers to pay more for their pensions and health coverage.

The governor says he’s confident the controversies will not spill over to classrooms.

"We have fabulous teachers in our state and I have confidence that the teachers in our state understand, and really appreciate – because they’re doing it for a living – that the most important thing in front of them is the students they’re teaching, and I don’t think they’ll look at using their students as a pawn in a broader game," said Snyder.

It is illegal for teachers and other public employees to strike in Michigan, but the MEA says cuts in school funding and rollbacks in collecting bargaining rights may demand drastic actions.

They've asked its bargaining units to authorize job actions that could include picketing or walkouts.

They expect to have all responses in hand by mid-April.

Education Funding
1:24 pm
Mon March 28, 2011

Senate Democrats want K-12 funding constitutionally protected

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D)
Photo courtesy of www.senate.mi.gov/whitmer

Democrats in the Michigan Senate want a constitutional amendment passed next year that would protect K-12 schools funding. The amendment would not allow community colleges and universities to tap money from the state's school aid fund.

At a news conference today, the Associated Press reports that Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) said, “K-12 schools wouldn't need to absorb the $470-per-student cut Gov. Rick Snyder is proposing for 2011-12 if he wasn't trying to give nearly $1 billion from the $12 billion school aid fund to community colleges and universities.”

Dawson Bell of the Detroit Free Press explains:

To appear on the ballot, the proposal would need two-thirds majorities in both the state House and Senate. Whitmer and her Democratic colleagues believe a majority of Republicans, who control both chambers, would support the proposal.

Education
6:33 pm
Sun March 27, 2011

Teacher wants young people, especially boys, to read

"Knuckleheads" by Jeff Kass

Young people are not reading like they used to, at least that’s what one teacher has recently observed. Jeff Kass teaches creative writing at Pioneer High School and Eastern Michigan University. He also runs the Neutral Zone’s literary arts program in Ann Arbor.

Kass says about half of the kids in his classes are not reading in their free time and he adds it’s noticeably worse with boys. That bothers Kass, who says it’s vital that young people read.

“Reading is incredibly important in terms of developing empathy between people and understanding other cultures and other people’s insights. I mean people have to read. Boys have got to read and we cannot give up on them! I think we have to go after boys where they live, and find out what are their fears, insecurities, hopes, dreams? We’ve got to write the literature that speaks to them and gets to the heart of what’s really on their minds.”

He’s so jazzed up on this notion that he wrote a book of short stories called “Knuckleheads.” The stories take a look at what it means to be a guy growing up in America. Kass had a specific young person in mind while writing the book.

“I hope that kid in the back of my classroom who just wants to put his head down on the desk, who hides in his hooded sweatshirt is going to pick this book up and recognize something about himself in there and maybe that will allow him to reach out to some other stories and think about literature as a place to go to learn and grow. I mean, I just want my boys to be better. I want them to be happier, I want them to understand themselves and forgive themselves for some of the idiotic things we do as boys growing up.”

But Kass says these stories are for everyone. He wants girls and women to read the book, too. In fact he’d love to see this book go to high schools and colleges everywhere, and inspire conversations and of course, more reading. “Knuckleheads” by Jeff Kass will be released Thursday, March 31, 7 p.m. at The Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor.

Budget protests
2:47 pm
Thu March 24, 2011

College students rally against proposed higher ed budget cuts

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
thetoad flickr

A few hundred college students representing all of Michigan’s public colleges and universities rallied at the state Capitol today. They are protesting Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts for higher education. Many students held signs with angry and sometimes profane messages aimed at Governor Snyder.

Cardi DeMonaco is president of the Student Association of Michigan. He says he hopes lawmakers pay attention to the concerns of students. 

"Yeah, I think they need to have just talk about this, not just cut and cut and cut, and then they’re going to have issues just keeping up the value of their education. He needs to talk to them and do things with the money they got and not cut it, and work together, and make education better, not just cut and expect them to become better by cutting.”

Snyder has proposed a 15% minimum cut for public colleges and universities. University presidents have said cuts that deep would mean tuition hikes. 

DeMonaco thinks the student voices will be heard, and lawmakers will find other areas in the budget to save, rather than through cuts to colleges and universities.

Education
7:07 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Detroit schools still face huge deficit after two-years of emergency management

Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, has until June to come up with a plan to wipe out a projected $327 million deficit
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Even though the district has had a state-appointed emergency financial manager for two years, Detroit Public Schools still face a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Robert Bobb, the DPS emergency financial manager, was appointed by Jennifer Granholm in March of 2009.

From the Associated Press:

Robert Bobb has spent the past two years closing dozens of schools and firing principals in an effort to fix the failing Detroit Public Schools. Yet, he still hasn't solved the problem for which he was hired — erasing a legacy budget deficit that now stands at $327 million.

Now, in his final months as the state-appointed emergency financial manager, Bobb is proposing several headline-grabbing ideas — including a radical plan to shut down so many buildings that some high schools could see more than 60 students per class — in an attempt to wipe out the red ink.

The AP reports that it's unclear how Bobb might use new powers granted to emergency financial managers under a new law signed by Governor Rick Snyder last week. They say he "continues to push the charter school plan which is the one receiving the most support in the city at the moment — even from the school board."

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