Education

A state wide teacher evaluation system is finally seeing some movement in the legislature. The plan would rate teachers and administrators based on student growth on standardized tests and in-class observations. If teachers and administrators are found to be ineffective for three year in a row, they would be fired.

Representative Lisa Posthumus Lyons is the Chair of the House Education Committee. She joined us today.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A University of Michigan student is suing the school over a sexual assault case, but this time, the student says the school took its investigation too far.

Drew Sterrett was a rising sophomore the summer of 2012, when he was accused of sexual assault.

He says the school suspended him until 2016, at least, without ever giving him a fair shot at defending himself.

There's no indication that there was ever a criminal complaint or investigation.

flickr/Schlüsselbein2007

As many as 200 kids per year from the west side of Grand Rapids will get a chance at a free college education, thanks to a new scholarship program announced today. 

The scholarships come out of a program that started a few years ago at Harrison Park Elementary in Grand Rapids. The Challenge Scholars program, a project of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, started with a single class of fourth-grade students, with the goal of doing whatever it would take to prepare those kids for college. 

"From about 2008 to 2011, we just did a deep dive into 'what are we going to do?'" says Diana Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. "We started with the fourth grade, but really what we're trying to do is influence that whole school."

So the school got what Sieger calls a "college pathways coordinator," a person who basically prepares kids and their families for what it will take to be ready for college. The school also got added support in math and literacy. 

But 97 percent of kids at Harrison Park Elementary are eligible for free or reduced lunch, which means many of them are living in poverty. Just getting them prepared for college wasn't going to be enough. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Mary Sue Coleman has spoken to graduates for the last time as president at the University of Michigan.

Coleman got a standing ovation from graduates Saturday at Michigan Stadium. She says they're off to pursue their first job or an advanced degree while she is ending 45 years in higher education.

Coleman leaves the Ann Arbor campus this summer after 12 years. She mentioned students who have inspired her, including football player Denard Robinson and Chris Armstrong, an openly gay student government president.

Editors of the New Republic saw this tweet from NYU professor and Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer:

In the classroom.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The way Michigan schools are funded is complex and emotionally charged.

Proposal A was passed in 1994. It was a new system for funding schools. It stopped the use of local property taxes as a source of school funding. Instead, it created a new state education tax, and it boosted the state sales tax from four to six cents on the dollar. The extra two cents goes to the school aid fund.

Twenty years after the changes, one thing many Michiganders agree on is that it's time to overhaul Proposal A, but there are many views on how to do that.

This week, Bridge Magazine is featuring a series of reports by Chastity Pratt Dawsey looking at how we fund schools in Michigan.

Dawsey joined us today.

*Listen to our conversation with her above.

The Detroit Public Schools is hiring new teachers for the upcoming school year.

The district is hosting a teacher recruitment fair Wednesday at Renaissance High School.

The district is looking to fill 300 to 400 positions, says DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski.

In its ongoing effort to cut costs, the district is offering more generous buyouts to some of its more highly-paid teachers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A White House task force will release recommendations today for dealing with sexual assaults on college campuses. It’s an issue that has attracted a lot of attention at some Michigan colleges.

President Obama formed the ‘White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault’ back in January and gave the panel 90 days to return a list of recommendations for dealing with the problem.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

State law gives a special board up to $50 million to loan to schools in financial distress. The long-term, low-interest loans are supposed to help school districts restructure and pay down their debt.

But it appears $50 million isn’t going to be enough.

With the loans the Emergency Loan Board issued Monday, it's nearly reached that cap, four years ahead of schedule. Treasury Spokesman Terry Stanton says the board has issued $48.5 million to schools so far.

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

In 2011, state lawmakers passed a measure that was designed to toughen up Michigan's teacher evaluation system. The idea was that a teacher who repeatedly got poor evaluations could be fired.

How do you measure a teacher's effectiveness? 

One big way is to determine how much students learned and grew during the school year, and that is done through academic testing. 

But, three years out, the Legislature hasn't managed to agree on how those evaluations should be conducted, or even which test should be used to measure student growth.

And, left twisting in the wind, are school administrators, principals, and teachers who are wondering which standardized test they're supposed to start giving this fall. 

Brian Smith joined us to give an update on where things stand as this school year winds down. He's the statewide education and courts reporter for MLive.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A group of Michigan athletes and coaches is calling on state lawmakers to spend more money on early childhood education.

Governor Snyder is asking for an additional $65 million for the Great Start Readiness Program.

Jeff Kirsch is with Champions For America’s Future. He says children learn important skills in pre-K, like teamwork, getting along with people, and sticking to tasks.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Updated 5:10 p.m.

Mosaica Education and Muskegon Heights Public School Academy have come to a mutual agreement to end their working relationship.

“This was a difficult decision for us and our board,” Mosaica Chief Executive Officer Michael Connelly said in a written statement.

“We are very proud of the academic turnaround we were able to achieve under the leadership of Alena Zachery-Ross, our regional vice president and the superintendent for the system,” he said.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan is warning Michigan lawmakers against trying to take a step back on school testing.

An amendment to next year’s school aid budget would require schools to give the MEAP exam next year. Some lawmakers are upset the state has contracted with a new company using a test tied to Common Core standards.

Flanagan says the MEAP test is not an option at this point. He says changing now would cost the state.

David Schott / Flickr

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he hopes there will be a final vote this week on a bill to expand the state’s controversial Education Achievement Authority.

That’s the state-run authority meant to turn around some of Michigan’s lowest-performing schools. Right now, the EAA runs 15 schools in Detroit. The bill would pave the way for it to expand up to 50 schools statewide.

Michigan Public Radio Network’s Lansing reporter Jake Neher joined us to talk about the EAA.

Listen to the full interview above.

Benton Harbor High School
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Area Schools has been running a deficit since 2007. A review in 2011 found financial stress, but the district was in the middle of making changes to save money. No emergency manager was appointed under a previous version of the law.

But State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says BHAS isn’t making enough progress on the deficit.

The deficit is $14.7 million. For perspective, its revenues this year were $31.8 million.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Dozens of high school students have completed a trek from Detroit to Lansing to highlight their concern about ‘zero tolerance’ policies in Michigan schools.

The students say violating even minor ‘zero tolerance’ policies may land them on suspension.

gracey/morguefile.com

Hundreds of girls from across Michigan will have the chance to try out some hot technology this week in the hopes they see a fit for themselves in a high-tech career. Eastern Michigan University will host the fourth annual "Digital Divas" conference on Friday.

EMU Program Manager Bia Hamed says the free one-day event for middle and high school girls aims to help close the gender gap when it comes to careers in science, math, engineering and technology-related fields, often referred to as "STEM."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights' charter school board acknowledged at a meeting Monday night it doesn’t know how it’ll fund operations for the rest of this school year. But it is reassuring the community it’ll figure something out by next week at the latest.

“As soon as we have something I will share it with you. That’s a promise,” Muskegon Heights Academy’s school board president Arthur Scott said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Three-quarters of Michigan voters support a state school budget proposal that increases per-pupil funding and gives local schools more control over how they spend the money.

That's according to a recent poll commissioned by the group that came up with the proposal.

The Classroom & Kids Coalition is made up of educators, administrators, and local school boards.

Its proposal would increase the per-pupil grant by $250-$291 by cutting $186 million from other parts of the School Aid Fund. (Gov. Snyder's proposal would increase the per-pupil grant by $167.)

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Buena Vista township has a debt to pay.

Though the Saginaw County community closed its school district last July, the non-existent district still owes more than $6 million to the state.

The district owes more than $2 million on a bond that voters approved in 2005 and more than $4 million on its general operating budget.

How exactly the $4 million from the general budget will be repaid is a question to be decided by voters next year.

Have you forgotten about the snow already?
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan is giving school districts more flexibility in making up for snow days this academic year.

Districts that had scheduled more than the required 174 days of school can now hold just that number if they still meet the required 1,098 hours per school year. Schools that exceeded the six canceled days allowed under state law may not need makeup days.

Schools that need to add more days to the end of the school year can receive state funding as long as they have 60% of students in attendance on those days. That's down from the regular 75% attendance requirement.

Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed legislation allowing for the changes after record snowfall and harsh temperatures this past winter.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Muskegon Heights charter school district owes the company that’s operating its schools a little more than $2 million. That’s according to Mosaica Education’s CEO. 

The new charter district was created in Muskegon Heights when severe cash problems prompted a state takeover of the traditional school district by an emergency manager in 2012. Now the charter district is having cash flow problems of its own.

user Cbl62 / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Michigan is using what it calls its own interpretations of privacy laws to keep student investigators and media from understanding why it took four years to expel Brendan Gibbons for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy. 

The university, however, has not disclosed what those interpretations are, or if they are a written internal policy.

Sarah M. Stewart / Creative Commons

Online learning. Make no mistake about it: It is here and it is growing.

The number of students taking online courses has grown 52% in the past three years. In the 2012-2013 school year, some 55,000 students in Michigan took a virtual course.

A new report from the Michigan Virtual University looks at virtual learning for K-12 students –who’s taking online classes, what kinds of classes and how effective the classes are.

The results are mixed.

Jamey Fitzpatrick is president and CEO of Michigan Virtual University, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

There could be movement soon on bipartisan legislation that would revamp teacher evaluations in Michigan. A number of groups that did not previously support the bills now say they’re on board.

Education advocates, bill sponsors, and lobbyists have been meeting this week to hammer out changes to the legislation.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System is asking the state to front $191,000 to cover paychecks that are set to go out this Tuesday.

It’s the second time this month the district has asked for an advance.

The advance would come out of the district’s state aid payment April 20. Earlier this month the state advanced $231,000.

State treasury officials say the district typically gets roughly $455,000 a month after debt obligations.

School board officials have previously declined requests for comment from Michigan Radio. Reports out today say board members also declined to comment to reporters at the special board meeting today, which lasted approximately five minutes.

Charter company Mosaica Education is running the district. The company’s CEO has not returned repeated requests for comment this week.

Mosaica’s Regional VP of Operations Alena Zachery-Ross says advancements for struggling school districts aren’t completely uncommon. She says the district is working on a plan to meet payroll for the rest of the year but couldn’t comment on the details of those negotiations.

Tulane Public Relations / Creative Commons

More parents and grandparents are setting up savings accounts to cover college expenses for the next generation, according to a national report released today.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

State officials and the Muskegon Heights School Board are trying to figure out how they’ll be able to pay staff for the rest of this school year, although the district’s emergency manager is “confident” they’ll work something out.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

Michigan's economy may be pulling itself up and out of the Great Recession.

But our schools are still mired in an "education recession" and all of our children are paying the price.

That's the finding of the newest state of Michigan education report from The Education Trust-Midwest.

It's an eye-opening exercise to see how our state's schools and student performance compare to two states that are powering ahead in the national assessment: Massachusetts and Tennessee.

What lessons can Michigan learn from those two states?

The co-author of the new education report, Amber Arellano of The Education Trust-Midwest, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report gives Michigan failing grades for student academic progress.

During the last decade, Michigan’s fourth-graders lost ground in math and reading, according to a new report out today from Education Trust-Midwest.

Amber Arellano is with the trust. She says Michigan now ranks among the bottom five states in student academic progress.

She says the state must raise the bar for students and teachers.

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