education

(courtesy of KQED)

In 2011, a new teacher tenure law was put in place by the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Snyder. It called for teacher evaluations, but it didn't specify how these evaluations should be done.

Now the panel put in charge of figuring that out will test 4 national teacher evaluation models in 14 Michigan school districts.

More from Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press:

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Kettering University is getting a $15.5 million pledge from the C.S. Mott Foundation, the largest such gift in the school's history.

C.S. Mott Foundation's pledge of support announced Monday is aimed at strengthening the school's leadership in higher education and expanding its role as a strategic partner in the Flint area's revitalization efforts.

The C.S. Mott Foundation intends to provide a series of grants to Kettering over three or more years. The first, of $2 million, was made in May.

The grants aim to increase enrollment, nurture the school's economic impact on the Flint area, communicate the university's identity to a broad audience and build alumni relationships.

Woodley Wonder Works / Flickr

Michigan will change how it measures success and what it calls under-performing schools. In the future, schools that fall short will be called “priority schools,” and receive some coaching, and other help developing improvement plans.

The state recently won a waiver from the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act  to give it more flexibility in its school improvement plans.

http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/bystate/StateLanding.aspx?state=MI

A new report on child well-being ranks Michigan in the bottom half of all states: 32nd overall, down two spots from last year. 

Last week, Dustin Dwyer from our State of Opportunity team showed us how upward mobility isn't so easy in the U.S., especially for disadvantaged kids. This week, Dustin shows us how some might break that pattern.

http://www.ypsd.org/district/superintendentsmessage/

Superintendent Dedric Martin says the school system could need an emergency manager, unless staff agree to deeper cuts. 

Martin acknowledges staff already took a 10 percent salary cut. 

“That comes on the heels of additional concessions that they've made. And we've had reductions at all levels. Unfortunately it's not enough to carry a balanced budget and pay back money that has already been borrowed and spent," he said.

Martin says he knows the "emergency manager" card could be perceived as a ploy to get further concessions from unions.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing school district will launch a multi-faceted plan this fall to improve student academic performance.  The plan is about more than just teaching.

Richard D. McLellan
Richard D. McLellan / Wikimedia Commons

An overhaul of how Michigan pays for public schools could be on the way. Gov. Rick Snyder wants that to be a big part of his budget proposal in early 2013.  The governor has named Lansing attorney Richard McLellan to lead the process.
    
McLellan says the state’s funding system is overdue for a shakeup.

“This is a 1979 law. It’s quite out of date," he said. "It’s a school district-centric model that doesn’t necessarily provide the flexibility for parents and for students that people are now demanding."

The other day, I was thinking that if Governor Snyder wants to leave a lasting mark on this state, he might want to try to be more like Richard Nixon. Now, before you are offended, let me explain.

There were actually two Nixons. The one we tend to remember today is the scheming architect of dirty tricks, the foul-mouthed paranoid who bugged himself, and whose worst utterances were captured forever on the famous White House tapes.

Courtesy photo / Michigan Democratic Party

A Michigan house representative, who made a controversial switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party last month, will face a political novice in the fall.

Winnie Brinks filed paperwork today to run as a Democrat. She’s a case worker at a non-profit organization, and she’s never run for political office before.

“I think it’s time for some new eyes. It seems that the direction we’re heading in Lansing is not what our middle class needs; it’s not what our schools need. And not being part of that negative history, sure, I think that’s a good thing,” Brinks said.

Brinks has lived in Grand Rapids for 22 years. The 44-year-old has three daughters, aged 11, 14, and 16. She’s active in her public schools’ legislative committee and once worked for Godfrey Lee Public Schools. She says restoring education funding would be one of her top priorities.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do in a short period of time, but I am confident we can do it. We’ve got a lot of good energy. We’ve got a lot of support behind me,” Brinks said.

Several hundred people will need to write in Brinks name on the August primary ballot in order for her name to appear on the ballot in the general election in November.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It’s going to cost the average Michigan State University student $210 more to attend the fall semester.

The MSU Trustees today approved a 3.5 percent tuition increase for next year.  

The increase will be slightly higher for out-of-state students.

Lou Anna Simon is president of MSU. She says no one wants to raise college tuition.

“There are stories about students who are definitely in debt at a higher level than they should be,” Simon told the MSU Board of Trustees before the vote.

Other Michigan public colleges and universities also approved tuition hikes this week, including the University of Michigan and Michigan Tech.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint business and civic leaders sat down with Governor Snyder today to discuss possible solutions to the city’s problems.

The closed-door session focused on crime, education, economic development and other urban issues.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Seventy-four people have been selected to participate in a program to develop math, science, engineering and technology teachers for several Michigan rural and urban school districts.

The state announced Wednesday the second class of fellows will receive $30,000 to pursue master's degrees at University of Michigan and Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Grand Valley State and Wayne State universities.

The program recruits recent college graduates and those seeking a different career. This year's fellows include a fighter pilot, police chaplain, biologist and kayak instructor.

About two thousand people applied.

They will teach in districts including Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Wyoming and Ypsilanti.

The Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched the program in 2009. It's administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Infographic on literacy.
Thea Card / Michigan Radio

It’s one of the most fundamental parts of our daily lives. Something you have probably taken for granted.

It's the ability to read.

In the United States, more than 40 percent of adults with very low literacy live in poverty.

One in five Americans read below the level needed to earn a living wage.

And more than 70 percent of the U.S. prison population cannot read above a fourth grade level.

In collaboration with WBEZ's Front & Center project, Michigan Radio peels back the layers of low-literacy.

In our hour-long show, we explore the impacts that illiteracy has on our communities and what literacy, in an every changing digital world, will really mean in our future.

Literacy is a big issue of concern for our educational system. Illiteracy can prevent people from filling out a job application or earning living wage. It also affects your civic participation.

Take a listen to our show using the "listen" button above, and share your thoughts with us!

Lake Shore High School in St. Clair Shores, Mich., is pretty typical as American high schools go. Walking the halls, you find the quiet kids, the jocks and the artsy crowd.

But a visitor will also see what sets Lake Shore apart: The school's large number of exchange students from China. This year, more than 70 Chinese students are enrolled at Lake Shore, which has a total student population of 1,200.

The students are from the Beijing Haidian Foreign Language Experimental School, an elite, private K-12 boarding school in China's capital.

For now, four-year-olds in Michigan can enroll in kindergarten as long as they turn five by December 1, but that may change over the next few years as legislators consider when kids are socially mature enough to enter school.

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that would gradually change the age requirement of kindergarten enrollees over the course of three years.

Hundreds of school districts that now get the minimum amount of state aid would get $120 more per student this fall under a compromise reached by state lawmakers. A conference committee has voted today to raise the minimum per-pupil grant. The school aid budget now goes to the state House and Senate, which are expected to pass it later today.

The Muskegon Heights School District could be completely turned over to charter schools this fall.   That would be a first in the state of Michigan.   

The district’s emergency manager is submitting his plan to replace the entire school district with charter schools with the state Treasury and Education Departments today.  He says that’s the only way to get the district out of its financial crisis.

SpecialKRB / flickr

The State House recently passed legislation that would allow an increase in the number of Michigan cyber schools.

Cyber schools provide instruction via the internet. There are two currently operating in Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Republican State Representative Dale Zorn. He voted in favor of the legislation after promising to vote against it.

Students at Michigan State University have published a book about bullying in the age of social media. The book is a project of an advanced undergraduate journalism course on the East Lansing campus.

Most people would probably say their presidents. Based on a non-scientific experiment I’ve been conducting in casual conversations, a fair number of people, can even name the presidents of those schools.

Well, at least the one they attended.

user kconnors / morgueFile

Around 4,100 Detroit Public Schools teachers received layoff notices and will have to reapply for their jobs next month if they wish to continue to work for the district.

The Detroit News reports the layoffs are effective just days ahead of the next school year on August 24.

School district spokesman Steve Wasko said the letters were mailed on Tuesday.

"This was done previously; what's different and what parents should be aware of is the process to call staff back," Wasko said. "Based on new state law, all school districts are precluded from making hiring decisions based solely on seniority; thus decisions will be made based on evaluations."

Wasko said this will help ensure that the district brings back "the right number of teachers given its need to downsize andplaces only teachers in the top categories based on objective evaluations" in front of children.

The News reports DPS did the same thing last year "and spent the summer calling back teachers for positions."

The district experienced an attendance spike in September and after many classrooms became overcrowded had to call back additional teachers. All but about 400 teachers were eventually called back.

President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers Keith Johnson said "they are doing this again like they did last year and it's going to be chaos again in September... I'm preparing for battle."

Woodley Wonder Works / Flickr

The school board in Benton Harbor has voted to consolidate its schools as part of a five-year plan to eliminate the southwestern Michigan district's deficit.

WSJM-AM and WNDU-TV report the board voted Tuesday night to go forward with the reorganization, which faced opposition from some students and parents. Following the changes, the district will have four K-8 schools, a high school and a Pre-K program. The district's administrative offices also will move.

Superintendent Leonard Seawood says the district plans to complete the changes by 2016. He says the changes will be "historic for our students."

Officials say the consolidation is part of an effort to avoid the possible appointment of a state-appointed emergency financial manager because of the district's financial difficulties.

Shawn Allee / The Environment Report

Update 5:02 p.m.

Rick Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the University of Michigan, responded to concerns raised by an environmental group about Dow Chemical’s $10 million gift to the university.

The Ecology Center wants the university to release more details about the agreement between Dow and the U of M. In a press release, The Ecology Center’s Tracy Easthope urged the University “to make public the details of this gift, including whether the gift comes with strings attached.”

Fitzgerald said the University of Michigan has lots of partnerships with corporate funded research and other corporate philanthropy and has a “long track record of working very effectively with corporate partners in research projects.”

“We never turn over control of any research opportunities to the donors,” said Fitzgerald. “The program itself is directed by Don Scavia, the special counsel to the U of M President for Sustainability… and the program will continue to be directed by him and by the University of Michigan, and certainly when it comes to any curriculum development, that remains solely the responsibility of the U of M faculty and staff.”

Fitzgerald said there would be “a loaned employee from Dow” who would serve as a link between the U of M program and Dow Chemical, and who would provide some other program support.

Fitzgerald said if people are interested in the details, they are available upon request from the U of M’s public affairs department, the U of M’s Freedom of Information Office, or through Don Scavia’s office. Michigan Radio has requested a copy of the agreement.

“I think this is an exciting program,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s a great example of corporate philanthropy at the University of Michigan and we think it will be managed well and effectively to the benefit of society.”

2:12 p.m.

Environmental health director at the Ecology Center Tracy Easthope is calling on the University of Michigan to release the details behind Dow Chemical's gift to the university

It was announced yesterday that Dow will give U of M $10 million to establish a sustainability fellowship program.

The program will support the work of around 300 masters, doctoral, and post-doctoral students for a period of six years. From the University of Michigan:

Fellows will develop knowledge and seek breakthroughs across myriad components of the sustainability challenge, including human behavior, energy, water, mobility, climate change, built environment, land use, and global health.

In a statement, Easthope said, “while a major gift to further sustainability education is laudable, it is important to assure the complete independence of the University... We urge the University to make public the details of this gift, including whether the gift comes with strings attached.”

The group cites a University of California at Berkeley case as cause for concern. They say, after a giving a gift to U.C. Berkeley, a Dow Chemical employee was hired into a position where he teaches students - raising questions of academic independence.

From the Ecology Center's press release:

Dow Chemical is a global leader in manufacturing chemicals, some of which have problematic health and environmental attributes. Dow’s advocacy to continue production of these problematic chemicals suggests the company’s definition of sustainability is not in agreement with the mainstream.

“Dow is responsible for one of the largest contamination sites in Michigan, stretching more than 50 miles to Saginaw Bay and into Lake Huron,” said Rita Chapman, clean-water program director at the Sierra Club. “Until recently, they have delayed cleanup action, which has put people’s health at risk.”

Michele Hurd of the Lone Tree Council has been closely involved in the fight to get Dow Chemical to clean up its dioxin contamination in Michigan. In the release, she says "Dow has not earned a major voice in sustainability education."

A phone call was made to the University of Michigan for comment.

East Detroit Public Schools

EASTPOINTE, Mich. (AP) - A suburban Detroit school board member warns that his district's participation in a Michigan Schools of Choice program could lead to white students leaving the district.

On Monday night, the East Detroit Board of Education in a 5-2 vote approved opening the district to neighboring Wayne County schools, including Detroit and Harper Woods.

The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens and MLlive.com report board member Jon Gruenberg said Schools of Choice in other districts has caused a "second wave of white flight."

He predicted that could happen in East Detroit, where the number of minority students continues to increase.

East Detroit school officials long had opposed the Schools of Choice concept, but said the district needed to participate in order to survive financially.

Student debt: When fixing cars breaks the bank

Mar 7, 2012
Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

Americans owe close to a trillion dollars in student loan debt.

Changing Gears has been reporting on that debt, a lot of which comes from attending private, for-profit schools.  They’re the fastest growing part of higher education, popular for non-degree technical training. Call them career colleges, technical schools or trade schools - just don’t call them cheap.

So I’m at Cobra’s the Grind, eyes-avoiding-buttocks, walking up dimly lit stairs to meet the manager.

user: camrynb / morgueFile

Michigan State University is taking the zombie movie craze one step farther with a class that asks: What would you do if zombies actually attacked?

MSU's seven-week, online summer class looks at how people behave in times of catastrophe...real or otherwise.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The cash-strapped Highland Park schools will get help so schools in the district can remain open until the end of the school year, the Michigan Department of Treasury announced today. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is covering this story and will have an update later.

From a press release sent by Michigan's Treasury Department:

Highland Park Schools Emergency Manager Jack Martin, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, and State Treasurer Andy Dillon today signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that provides temporary assistance and support to Highland Park Schools from Detroit Public Schools. The MOA, which will be in place for the remainder of the 2011- 2012 school year, allows current Highland Park students to remain in their current classrooms with their current teachers, if they so choose, despite the district’s financial crisis.

Plans to reform the finances at Highland Park schools hit a snag when a judge ruled the state violated the open meetings act when a state financial review team appointed emergency manager Jack Martin to oversee the school system.

Martin was temporarily taken off his post and re-appointed to his post by Governor Snyder this morning.

In the press release, Martin said their goal is to "ensure that students face as little disruption as possible." He thanked DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts:

“I want to thank Mr. Roberts for his willingness to assist Highland Park Schools through such trying times. I would also like to thank the teachers and staff who have been in class and working all week despite not getting paid last Friday. They will be receiving paychecks later today.”

Detroit Public Schools, which has its own financial troubles, will receive "distressed district student transition grants" worth $4,000 per pupil.

State officials say Detroit Public Schools "will support personnel-related functions on behalf of Highland Park Schools."

GEO / YouTube

The Republican-led Michigan House has approved a bill aimed at blocking unionization efforts by graduate student research assistants at public universities.

The measure was approved Thursday by a 62-45, mostly party line vote. The House hasn't yet taken a procedural "immediate effect" vote or returned the bill to the Senate, which approved the bill last month. But the measure soon could be headed to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

The legislation specifies that graduate student research assistants would not be considered public employees as related to collective bargaining rights.

The measure comes as University of Michigan graduate student research assistants attempt to unionize.

That case is pending before an administrative judge after the Michigan Employment Relations Commission last year reaffirmed a 1981 decision that bars research assistants from banding together.

A spokeswoman says Governor Snyder is ‘inclined’ to sign the bill into law. If he signs it, the case before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission would be moot.

University of Michigan Graduate Employees Union president Sam Montgomery had a request for Governor Snyder.

“We ask that when the bill reaches the governor’s desk that he leaves this decision in the hands of the commission which is designed to make those decisions," said Montgomery.

A majority of the U of M Regents support letting the graduate research assistants form a union.   But University president Mary Sue Coleman and many U of M professors oppose it.

University professors who support the bill say allowing their research assistants to form a union would undermine their mentor-relationship.

Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Unions representing about 10,000 Detroit Public Schools employees and the district's state-appointed emergency manager have reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit over pay
cuts and health insurance contributions.

The school district says the settlement was approved Wednesday.

The unions filed the suit last year after Roy Roberts used new powers given emergency managers by state law to impose a 10 percent pay cut and 20 percent contribution to their health insurance.

State Treasury Andy Dillon approved the cuts and also was named in the suit.

Settlement terms include partial payment of accumulated sick days for employees who submit an irrevocable notice of retirement by March 19, a one-time lump sum payment of 2.5 percent of the
employee's 2011/2012 earnings and limited reinstatement of step increases.

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