education

DETROIT (AP) - Declines in school enrollment across the Detroit area are driving school districts into debt and forcing administrators to make additional cuts.

Data reviewed by the Detroit Free Press shows that during the five years spanning fall 2008 to fall 2012 enrollment declined 17 percent in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne county school districts. Highland Park enrollment declined 69 percent, while Detroit dropped 29 percent. Romulus and Inkster declined 26 percent.

Overall, 20 Detroit-area districts had double-digit enrollment losses.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

On Monday, The Grand Rapids School Board unanimously approved a district restructuring plan. Recommended by Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal, the plan aims to both improve student achievement and save money.

The “Transformation Plan” attempts to reinvent the school district by closing ten buildings, reopening one elementary and reforming other programs. The plan will save more than $22.4 million over five years, with at least half being re-invested in replicating and expanding effective school programs.

Stateside: Addressing Michigan's income disparity

Dec 12, 2012
Charley Ballard, Michigan State University economist, spoke with Cyndy about the health of Michigan's economy.
Michigan State University

The gap between the Middle and Upper class in Michigan has widened.

Michigan State University’s Charley Ballard spoke with Cyndy about income disparity in both the state and country.

“There is a lot of emphasis about the level of income, but I am talking about the gap between those at the top, the middle and bottom in terms of how much their household income is. A big story is that the gap has widened. Michigan is typical in that the gap between the gap and top and the middle has gone way up, but the gap between the middle and the bottom has not,” said Ballard.

The disparities in income are largely a result of varying degrees of education among Michigan workers.

“Those at the top tend to be college-educated. Those at the bottom tend to not be,” said Ballard.

According to Ballard, Michigan’s statistics are average when compared nationally.

“In a lot of ways we’re a middle-of-the-pack state. If you take that ratio of the household income for the person at the 90th percentile, upper-middle class, and compare that with the household income with someone at the tenth percentile, that ratio increased by more than 20% in Michigan.”

Jake Neher / MPRN

State lawmakers are mulling over a number of bills that would overhaul public education in Michigan.

One measure would expand a new state-run district meant to turn-around schools with test scores in the bottom five-percent.

The idea has many public school officials pitted against each other.

Schools like Detroit's Denby High school are at the center of the debate.

Last year, it was one of the lowest-performing schools in the Detroit Public Schools system. Now, it’s one of 15 Detroit schools the state oversees through its Education Achievement Authority.

VickieMarkavitch Twitter

Yesterday, we covered the proposed education overhaul bill that could drastically change the ways students attend school.

Today, we spoke with Dr. Vickie Markavitch about Michigan’s education system and her view of the proposed changes.

Markavitch, a Superintendent of Oakland County Schools, claims the changes would have a negative impact on Michigan’s schools.

“I’ve been an educator for 46 years. I don’t think we can turn over our next generation to something that is ‘anyhow, any one.’ It’s a corporatization of public education. It really has nothing to do with improving achievement,” she said.

Stateside: Education reforms aim to change schools' formats

Dec 3, 2012
James Sarmiento / Flickr

The Michigan House of Representatives and Senate are looking at a series of proposals that could drastically change the state’s education system.

Jeff Williams of Public Sector Consultants and MLive reporter Tim Martin addressed the various reforms.

According to Martin, the proposals were met with a variety of responses.

“The folks in favor of it tend to be people who now offer alternatives to the traditional K-12 school districts. Some of the traditional K-12 districts feel these changes are coming too fast. They’re worried about the model and what it might mean for them from a financial standpoint,” said Martin.

The proposals would change the way schools receive funding.

Michigan PTSA / Youtube.com

For the first time, Michigan could get a piece of President Obama’s Race to the Top prize money for education.

But not everyone’s celebrating.

The Education Achievement Authority was the only Michigan district to qualify as a Race to the Top finalist.

The new authority runs 15 of Michigan’s lowest performing schools in Detroit, but legislation at the state Capitol would expand the district statewide and cement it into law.

More than 100 Parent Teacher Association administrators, teachers and parents signed a letter this week asking Mr. Obama to reconsider his choice.

Dartmouth College

It was announced yesterday that University of Michigan provost Phil Hanlon will become the next president of Dartmouth College starting July 1, 2013.

Hanlon, 57, is a graduate of Dartmouth and will become the college's 18th president.

In a New York Times piece, Hanlon indicated that university funding, in its current form, is reaching a breaking point:

Dr. Hanlon, who will be the 10th Dartmouth graduate to become its president, said he expected to focus closely on the college’s cost structure and finances. “The historic funding model for higher ed is close to unsustainable,” he said. “We can’t continue superinflationary tuition increases.”

Stateside: Kalamazoo's Promise of lifelong learning

Nov 29, 2012
Kalamazoo Public Schools

Graduate from public high school in Kalamazoo and go to college for free.

It’s a rare offer- one that strives to show students that college is something crucial and attainable.  

In a recent New York Times feature, Ted C. Fishman examined the Kalamazoo Promise and its effect on both the city and the state of Michigan.

Seven years ago, anonymous donors started The Promise, hoping to encourage more Kalamazoo students to attend college.

During his time writing the piece, Fishman was personally impacted by the stories of the students with whom he spoke.

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

Stateside: Improving students' access to higher education

Nov 28, 2012
user BES Photos / Flickr

Students’ transitions to college are often determined by the rigor of their high school education.

How a student views attending college is often shaped by the adult voices around them.

Today, we spoke with Brandy Johnson and Nathan Daun-Barnett.

Johnson, the Executive Director of the Michigan College Access Network and Barnett, a professor of Higher Education Administration at the University of Buffalo both stressed the importance of an informed body of high school students to better ensure their college attendance.

The Michigan College Access Network’s goal  is to boost the percentage of Michigan residents with post-secondary degrees or credentials to 60% by 2025. According to Johnson, Michigan still has further to go.

How a Nobel Prize-winning economist became an advocate for preschool

Nov 28, 2012
heckmanequation.org

There's a growing consensus that more needs to be done to prepare children for kindergarten. 

But does preschool really have a significant impact on the lives of children? State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer recently sat down with economist James Heckman to find out.

Sorting out Michigan's proposed education overhaul

Nov 21, 2012
James F Clay / flickr

In recent days there has been much made of a proposed overhaul to Michigan’s education system.

The overhaul consists of three parts:

  • two bills currently working their way through the state House and Senate,
  • and one draft of a bill that has yet to be introduced.

The bills are part of a package devised in part by Governor Rick Snyder’s education advisor Richard McLellan in an attempt to achieve the Governor’s goal of providing an “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace” learning model.

There’s a lot more than usual going on in this lame duck session of the legislature. The governor is pushing for personal property tax relief for businesses, and for completing the task of converting Blue Cross Blue Shield from a state-regulated charity to a nonprofit mutual insurance company.

There also may be a drive to get some form of legislation to replace the rejected emergency manager law.

But there is a vast amount of buzz going on about something that won’t be taken up in this session, but which could provoke the mother of all battles in the legislature next year.

And that’s a proposal that has the potential of radically altering how Michigan elementary and high school education is funded, and how millions of Michigan kids receive their education.

In his address on modernizing public education in Michigan in April of 2011, Governor Snyder said:

Like the Model T car or the one-room schoolhouse, our education system did what we asked of it at the time – but that time has passed. The dramatic influences of globalization and technology on today’s society demand a more prepared, skilled and sophisticated work force.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State Board of Education President John Austin published a commentary in MLive yesterday.

He's raises big concerns over a series of education overhaul bills working their way through Michigan's lame duck legislative session.

Austin writes these bills have the potential to upend Michigan's public school system.

These would allow a host of new schools and learning venues to be created. Working together, these proposals would replace a coherent education reform strategy—that has enjoyed bipartisan support, with a “Wild West” of unfettered, unregulated new school creation, decoupled from the goal of improving learning and student outcomes.

If implemented, it could erode or destroy completely our current public schools and education system in favor of a chaotic, often for-profit-provided education marketplace.

This legislation creates an unlimited and largely unregulated marketplace of new online schools, for-profit-run schools, schools run by businesses, universities, community organizations, and municipal governments. It would allow new authorizers to create schools in any location, for any reason, with little oversight.

If the bills aim to create a robust school choice marketplace, Austin writes, then the bills should explicitly say this.

He says debate should then occur as to whether all families in Michigan would truly have access to all the options.

The bills he's questioning are HB 6004, SB 1358, and a "yet to be introduced financing bill."

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Proposed changes to K-12 education

There's a proposed bill being drafted that could make some major changes to K-12 education in Michigan. As the Detroit Free Press reports, highlights of the bill include, "[the ability for] students to choose school districts, make greater use of online learning and earn financial incentives of $2,500 per semester for completing high school early."

Charter school enrollment rises in Michigan

"Charter schools are becoming a more common choice for Michigan students. A new report finds five Michigan cities are now among the top 20 in the nation for the percentage students in charter schools. Detroit is No. 2 -- with 41 percent of its students enrolled in charter schools. Flint ranks fourth and Grand Rapids is ninth. Lansing and Traverse City are 19th and 20th,' Rina Miller reports.

Local government leaders want Michigan's personal property tax changed

"A new poll shows local government leaders in Michigan are leery of proposals to do away with Michigan’s personal property tax. Republican state lawmakers want to repeal or greatly change the tax, possibly before the end of this year. Businesses complain the personal property tax is cumbersome and discourages investment.  Legislation repealing the personal property tax already passed in the state Senate, but the legislation has sat in state House since last Spring," Steve Carmody reports.

A school board will be appointed Monday for the merging Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts.

What this election means for low-income families

Oct 31, 2012
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

After months of political rancor and over $2 billion raised, the 2012 presidential race is almost over. Yet with only six days left until Election Day, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have largely ignored the issue of poverty.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Eighty percent of Detroit parents say they do not believe the city's public schools are the best choice for their child. But they’re split on the other options as well.

A new survey from the Detroit News and the Thompson Foundation asks Detroit parents how they feel about their school choices.

Only one in five parents picked DPS as the best for their kid. But even with the recent increase in school options - charter, private, public schools outside the city - none was a clear winner.

Mumford High School is one Detroit school already under the EAA's control.
detroitk12.org

A statewide reform school district could become the largest in Michigan over the next five years.

The Education Achievement Authority of Michigan (EAA)—the district instituted in 2011 to operate the lowest performing five percent of schools in the state—may add as many as 45 schools reports Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press.

From the Free Press:

Image of the homepage for the WayPoint Academy charter school in Muskegon.
www.4waypoint.com

Student Count Day just took place across Michigan earlier this week. The amount of state aid a school receives is dependent on the number of students attending.

Now we hear news about a charter school director who may have falsified student count records.

Operation Kindness was inspired by the anti-bullying program Rachel's Challenge.
Rachel's Challenge

On any given day, as many as 160,000 students stay home from school because they’re afraid to face the bullies they may encounter in classrooms, lunchrooms and school hallways. 

As author Patricia Polacco noted in her interview with Cyndy, it seems that peer-to-peer programs are most effective and pack the most power against bullies.

Such a program is going on at Jeannette Middle School in Sterling Heights, part of the Utica Community Schools.

Detroit Public Schools' officials have found a new way to buy school supplies.
MyTudut / flickr

The Detroit Public School district has turned to an online site used mostly by federal contractors to get its school supplies.

Officials credit “FedBid” with helping the district save hundreds of thousands of dollars in just a few months.

Bidders announce their intent to buy a product. Suppliers then compete to offer the best price.

District spokesman Steve Wasko said it has helped fix some problems with getting supplies to classrooms.

“This has been, not only from a supply standpoint but from all standpoints, a very smooth start to the school year—at least by way of comparison with previous years,” said Wasko.

Wasko said it's also a good way to save money without compromising the quality of education.

The district’s current budget calls for cutting five million dollars from its procurement budget.

District officials estimate using FedBid alone could save up to three million.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A bill requiring public schools  in Michigan to make time for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.

The state Senate just approved a final version of the measure.

Another bill in the package mandates all public school classrooms have an American flag on display.

State Senator Roger Kahn sponsored the legislation. He said he wished it could have taken higher priority for the Legislature this year.

"It took longer than I wanted it to take. It ran into summer recesses. I didn’t want it to take a back-burner, but it ended up taking a back-burner," said Kahn.

But a few Democrats said the bills should have never moved at all. They said the measures are a distraction from more important things. They also said it could be a burden for some schools. The VFW of Michigan said it will encourage local posts to donate flags to schools.

(courtesy of KQED)

A new report suggests school districts in Michigan are not doing a good job of evaluating their teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom. A state law passed in 2011 requires districts to evaluate teachers, and rate them as highly effective, effective, minimally effective, or ineffective.

Kate Wells

Whether it's your show tunes-belting grandma, your Grand Rapids teacher getting Liberian schools named in her honor, or busted graffiti artists using their talents for good, this week Art Pod is a leeetle obsessed with the stories YOU tell us. So check it out, and keep those stories coming. 

Photo courtesy of Jackie Ladwein

This next story is about an epic friendship between a white, 76-year-old Grand Rapids teacher, and the driven Liberian boy she inspired 50 years ago when she was a young Peace Corps volunteer.

Their bond has survived hunger, poverty, and a brutal civil war. And it’s created ripples across Liberia, leading to the country’s first school for social workers . Now, it’s reuniting both friends back here in Michigan.

American Panel

Yesterday, Rick Pluta reported on a speech by Gov. Rick Snyder that called for a reemphasis on vocational and community college education over more  traditional four-degrees.

We posted his story on Facebook, and many of our fans responded with their thoughts. We decided to continue the discussion by sharing some of their comments here.

Facebook fan Karen Hupp Taylor was surprised to find herself agreeing with Gov. Snyder:

I never thought I would see the day I would agree with Governor Snyder, but this is one place that I do. Not everyone should go to college. A lot of young people do because they have been told they will never amount to anything if they don't. Lots of them would like to be carpenters, electricians, and other trades people.

Nothing wrong with a women getting into many of these professions.

So how many women seek this kind of education?

A report by the National Center for Education Statistics notes that participation in vocational education, also known as career and technical education (CTE), is higher for women than men.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Governor Snyder's office / State of Michigan

Governor Rick Snyder said Michigan and the rest of the country lost sight of the value of vocational training as young people were encouraged to get four-year college degrees. The governor spoke today at a business conference in Grand Rapids, the West Michigan Policy Forum.

He said too many students have been pushed toward getting four-year college degrees when vocational education or community college might have made more sense.

“And so we sorta messed up over the past 20 or 30 years, 40 years. We’ve lost the focus on how important those roles are,” said Snyder.

The governor said the result is thousands of jobs in skilled trades go unfilled while people are looking for work.

“How dumb was that? I mean, if you stop and think about it. So we did supply on one chart, demand on another chart, and when everyone knows we need to have one chart where we bring supply and demand together, and create talent, and connect it,” said Snyder.

Snyder says he intends to convene a summit of educators and employers early next year to get a better sense of where the demand for jobs is strongest – and use that information to help re-design Michigan’s education system.

The governor has also called for stronger integration of pre-school through post-high school education.

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