Education

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman wraps up her 12-year tenure on July 13, 2014.

She spoke on Stateside with Cynthia Canty today. Listen to our interview with her here:

Coleman oversaw a time of growth at the university – spearheading a capital campaign that resulted in the most money ever raised by a public university.

U of M also saw a building boom on Coleman's watch.

But there was another kind of boom during Coleman's tenure. Undergraduate tuition went up more than 75%.

Coleman says the university has worked hard to keep tuition affordable in spite of spiraling tuition rates.

"And what we've done here at the University of Michigan is to work extremely hard to raise money for financial aid and to make it available."

*Correction: A previous version of this story said that today was Coleman's last day as president. Her final day is July 13. We regret the error.

Off the Record

One of Michigan’s top charter school advocates is blasting the Detroit Free Press’ recent investigation into charters.

Reporter Jennifer Dixon and others uncovered incidents suggesting conflicts of interest, a lack of transparency, and mixed academic results in charters.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This week, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative is looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy.

Mayor Mike Duggan says his top priority is reversing the city’s long population decline.

But there are a couple key quality of life issues Duggan has no control over. One of them is the city’s schools.

Here’s the story of one Detroit family’s effort to find good schools.

Meet the Hills

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school district is sinking deeper into red ink.

Less than 12 months ago, an audit placed the district’s budget deficit at $10.4 million.  It's now pegged at $20.4 million.  

The Flint school district has been struggling to reduce its multi-million dollar deficit for years. But last night, school district officials described recent budget plans as being “far from reality,” even describing the district’s current budget as only ”close to reality.”

Isaiah Oliver is the president of the Flint Board of Education.  He calls the new deficit number “devastating”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Mosaica Education, the charter company running Muskegon Heights schools, only has a few days left in its contract. But the district still has lots to do to get everything in place for the fall.

Last night the district hired its superintendent at a special board meeting. But it still has to finalize agreements with a staffing agency to hire all of its teachers and few other vendors by Monday.

This summer it has to finish building repairs, and rearrange all the grade levels because an elementary school building will close.

Jane M Sawyer / morgue file

Michigan's Education Achievement Authority, formed in 2011, was created to help failing schools. It currently operates 15 schools in Detroit.

EAA Chancellor John Covington stepped down with one year left on his contract. What does this mean for the EAA and the students in its 15 schools?

Bridge Magazine education writer Chastity Pratt Dawsey covers the EAA extensively. She said there had been talk for months that Covington was going to resign.

Veronica Conforme was named the interim replacement. She’s from New York City, where she was Chief Operating Officer for New York City public schools. Pratt said it's unclear if they are going to keep Conforme at the helm or if they are going to hire someone new.

Pratt added that the EAA had to do damage control in the media and let everyone know that they are trying to do better.

“There were some misgivings about [Covington's] leadership and whether or not the EAA was going in the right direction,” Pratt said.

Pratt added that the EAA had problems since it was put together hastily in 2011. In its first year, it was supposed to be funded by donations, which has not been done for any school in the United States.

“The first year, the donations did not come in as expected. They get the kids the second year of operations, they don’t get the Title I money that they think they are going to get,” Pratt said.

The EAA had to borrow money, using the Detroit Public Schools as a conduit. They started to lose students. MEAP scores were lower than promised. Their online individualized education plan did not see the success people thought it would. State legislators even complained about a lack of transparency in the system, and that Covington had a lucrative contract.

Pratt said that the EAA needs to turn around their academics. Parents and teachers are saying they want results, not excuses.

“Do something, make it happen. Otherwise, what was the point?” Pratt said. 

*Listen to full interview above.

-Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Area Schools has taken the next step in process that could result in an emergency manager.

Gov. Rick Snyder announced today his appointment of a six-member review team. The team has 60 days to determine if the district is in financial stress.

The district’s superintendent, Leonard Seawood, told state officials a few weeks ago it is. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

College students should stop surfing the internet in class and start paying more attention to their professors. That’s the finding of a new report from Michigan State University.

DPS website

For the first time in six years the Detroit Public Schools' proposed budget does not call for any schools to be closed. 

The district expects it will bring in about $50 million fewer than it planned for next year. But officials say despite that, they are planning new programs and won't close any schools. 

The idea is to keep the city's schools competitive with charters and suburban districts. 

But there is still the matter of a $127 million deficit the Detroit school district is battling. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Students at two of Michigan’s largest universities will be paying more in the fall.

The University of Michigan’s Board of Regents increased in-state undergraduate costs by 2.6% yesterday.

For out-of-state students, the increases will be higher: According to The Michigan Daily, out-of-state undergraduates will see their cost of attendance rise by 3.4%.

That brings the total cost of in-state attendance to $13,158. For out-of-state students, cost of attendance will be around $41,578.

Michigan State University followed suit today, increasing its in-state costs by 2.6% for in-state underclassmen, and 2.9% for in-state juniors and seniors.

The state’s budget increased its funding for higher education this year by 5.9%.

For the University of Michigan and its three campuses — Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn — that translates to $295 million coming from Lansing. That’s an increase of $18.5 million.

via Education Achievement Authority

The Education Achievement Authority’s new leader says that system has already “shattered the status quo” in some of Michigan’s most troubled schools.

But Veronica Conforme says EAA leaders also need to “take a hard look” at how the district is performing.

Conforme outlined her vision for the state-run school reform district Wednesday, one day after the EAA board named her interim chancellor.

Former Chancellor John Covington, who had led the district since it launched in 2012, stepped down Monday.

via Education Achievement Authority

It’s only Wednesday, but it’s already been a very turbulent week for the Education Achievement Authority.

The EAA board met Tuesday, the day after former Chancellor John Covington announced he was resigning for personal reasons. Covington was not in attendance as board members accepted his resignation.

The EAA is a state-led “reform district” for Michigan’s lowest-performing schools.

It’s Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief education initiative, and Covington has been at the helm since it launched in 2012 with 15 former Detroit Public Schools.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights schools’ emergency manager thinks a new setup to run the district next year will be more economical than hiring another charter company.

For the last two years, a for-profit company ran Muskegon Heights schools. But it ran into cash flow problems. The state had to give the district two cash advances this spring to pay staff and give it an emergency loan to keep schools open through the end of the school year.  

“We are in a survival mode,” Muskegon Heights schools emergency manager Gregory Weatherspoon said at a press conference Tuesday. “We will go for whatever will work and save us money and this was a cost savings to us,” he said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Updated: Emergency manager says new arrangement will be more economical than charter school company

Muskegon Heights schools will not hire another for-profit charter company to run the district. Instead, the district plans to hire its own superintendent, a staffing company and the intermediate school district in Muskegon County to run schools for the next three years.

All this year, producer Zak Rosen has been reporting on the first year of the James and Grace Lee Boggs School in Detroit. Whitney Walker is the office manager at school, which her daughter Zoe also attends. Whitney Walker is also a poet, and in this installment of the Boggs School series she offers a documentary poem about her transformative experience working at the school.

http://www.broadcenter.org/academy/network/profile/john-covington
The Broad Superintendents Academy

Let's do this MEAP style. Choose one of the following.

John Covington is:

A) an education visionary, brought in to turn around some of Detroit's worst schools using a model that lets kids learn at their own level, regardless of age or grade;

B) an overpaid, underperforming puppet of a state takeover of Detroit's schools;

C) It just depends on whom you ask. 

Right or wrong, the chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority is stepping down. 

Hired to fix Detroit's failing schools, amidst political turmoil 

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

One of the many decisions made by state lawmakers during their budget actions last week was to keep the MEAP in place for another year.

The more than 40-year-old MEAP exam stays put even though Michigan adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010. And the state's education department has been working for the past three years to bring in the new testing that is aligned to the Common Core. That new test is called the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

The state lawmakers' recent decision could mean that educators and students have to hit the reverse button and go back to MEAP. But State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said in April that the MEAP was simply “not an option."

Brian Smith has been reporting on the Common Core and Smarter Balanced vs. MEAP tussle. He said that as the issue moved forward, the Department of Education started to talk to testing vendors and see what could possibly be done.

OCC

The robotics students at Oakland Community College are getting a gift today. 

General Motors is donating robots that were once used to make cars on its assembly plant floors. They are going to the school's industrial robotics program at the Auburn Hills campus. 

The equipment is valued at $20,000  and will be used for hands-on training for students learning how to program and maintain robots.  

Dr. Timothy Meyer is chancellor at Oakland Community College. He says the donation will help prepare students for manufacturing jobs that can help boost the local economy. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed House Speaker Jase Bolger's father to serve on the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees.

James Bolger is a retired Michigan State Police official who lives in Whitehall. The Kalamazoo Gazette says he'll fill the seat vacated when Trustee Michelle Crumm resigned.

Bolger will complete Crumm's eight-year term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

Bolger earned a master's degree in public administration from Western Michigan.

William Mu / Flickr

State lawmakers have backed down from penalizing Michigan State University over controversial courses about organized labor. The $500,000 fine was taken out of a budget bill approved this week in the Legislature.

“As we’ve made the rounds and talked to a number of members, I think as we give them all information, I think there’s fewer concerns than were originally raised,” said David Bertram, MSU’s assistant vice president for state affairs.

Bertram says no taxpayer money is used to support the program.

“As a matter of fact, we actually make a small profit off of this that goes into the graduate program at our school of human resources and labor relations,” he said.

The program is offered to groups hoping to learn more about union organizing. It is not open to regular undergraduate or graduate students.

The state budget for the fiscal year starting in October is on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When you are a school district where more than 80% of your students live in poverty, every penny that helps those students is critical.

And that's why there has been a collective gasp of disbelief, even anger, with the news that Detroit Public Schools has lost $4 million in Head Start funding.

The reason DPS lost the money is because they missed the application deadline.

A school spokesperson blamed a technical problem in uploading the application.

Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley joined us on our show.

*Listen to our conversation with Rochelle above.

User: Ken Colwell / flickr

Are the liberal arts becoming too politicized? Are politics – and political ideology – taking too strong a hold on higher education?

A growing number of academics worry that the answer may be "yes."

With that in mind, there's a three-day summit coming up at Grand Valley State University. It's billed as "A Meeting of Minds, Left and Right," exploring these questions.

We were joined today by Gleaves Whitney. He's the director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

At the beginning of the school year, Jennifer Guerra spent a lot of time at two different schools for her documentary, The Education Gap. One of the schools had plenty of resources, the other did not.

Jen went back to the school where poverty is a real struggle for nearly all of the students. There have been some changes since she last visited. For example, school officials now say its OK for us to identify the school on air (we refer to the school as School X in the documentary.) 

It's Myers Elementary in Taylor. But whether it's referred to as School X or Myers, the school is still caught in the nexus of having few tools to deal with some of society's most complicated problems. 

But there have been several smaller, more personal victories. The principal has convinced some kids that college is an option they can and should be serious about. And some of the kids hungry for more challenging academics have gotten more attention. 

Read and listen to what difference a year makes at State of Opportunity

 

Kalamazoo Public Schools

The Kalamazoo Promise, an anonymous benefactor, is providing four-year-scholarships to almost all of the students who graduate from Kalamazoo Public Schools.

One student from Kalamazoo Central High School, Jay Valikodath, said the Promise changed his and his classmates’ lives, because they'll be able to start their careers after college debt free.  

Bob Jorth, the director of the Kalamazoo Promise, says they have covered 43 state-supported community colleges and universities in Michigan. They are partnering with the Michigan Colleges Alliance, which will add 15 private colleges and universities in Michigan.

The Promise will cover tuition at colleges with the same average tuition rate as the University of Michigan’s College of Literature Arts and Sciences. Anything beyond that will be covered by the institution.

The promise has paid more than $54 million in tuition for 3,286 students, not including this current school year.

A total of 679 of those students earned associates, bachelors, or some form of post-secondary education degree. That’s a little more than 20% of those who have received grants.

“The biggest challenge is completion,” Jorth said. “The No. 1 factor in getting kids through college is making sure they are ready to start college.”

Jorth added that the main goal is to get as many students as possible pursue a post-secondary education.

*Listen to full interview above. 

-Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Kalamazoo Promise is expanding to include more than a dozen private colleges in Michigan.

The Promise provides scholarship money for Kalamazoo public school students to attend college. Until now, the Promise has made it possible for students to afford only public colleges and universities. 

But today, the Promise’s Janice Brown announced 15 schools, including Detroit Mercy, Hillsdale College, Hope College and Adrian College, will start matching Promise scholarships beginning in the fall of 2015.

Keith Elementary in Walled Lake, MI.
Keith Elementary / Twitter

Melody Arabo, a third-grade teacher at Keith Elementary School in Walled Lake, has been named Michigan Teacher of the Year.

“I think building those relationships is key. I think no matter what grade level you teach, no matter what area you teach in, making a connection with the kids and making them feel welcome at school – I think that's probably the most important thing,” Arabo said.

Arabo said she makes this work by showing an interest in their personal lives. “I can tell you what sports each kid is good at and what they love. I can tell you about their hobbies; they can actually tell you about mine,” Arabo said.

As Michigan’s teacher of the year, Arabo may attend the State Board of Education’s monthly meetings.

“I’m excited to see how that works and learn more about the political atmosphere around education,” she said. “And then be able to bring in the voices of teachers that I know, and the concerns that we have and the celebrations that we have so we can uplift the public education system.”

*Listen to full interview above. 

MichigansChildren / YouTube

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says the consequences of turning entire school districts over to for-profit charter school companies deserves more consideration from state lawmakers.

Flanagan told a state panel last week it’s not clear if the Muskegon Heights school district, or the for-profit charter company that ran it the last two years, will face any consequences for running up a deficit big enough to require an emergency loan worth $1.4 million and two cash advances to keep schools open through June. It’s unclear exactly what the deficit is for the 2013-2014 school year.

The Muskegon Heights school district is now looking for a new operator. That’s after the district and its emergency manager agreed to end its contract with Mosaica Education Inc. when the company couldn’t turn a profit.

“Now that (Mosaica) is leaving, they pretty much told us they’re not going to do (the district’s) deficit elimination plan. To follow up on that, we should wait for the new management company and deal with them,” Dan Hanrahan, Michigan Department of Education’s director of state aid and school finance, told the panel.

American Federation of Teachers Michigan

Teachers and staff at Detroit’s first unionized charter school have reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement.

Teachers at Detroit’s Cesar Chavez Academy formally joined the American Federation of Teachers in February 2013.

flickr/Schlüsselbein2007

Michigan is doing a better job calculating high school dropout and graduation rates. That’s according a new report from the state auditor general’s office.

An audit in 2006 showed the state was not providing reliable data on graduations and dropouts. It made a list of recommendations for how the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) could do better.

Now, the auditor general says the department has met all those recommendations.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

About 180 Marshall High School seniors will get their diplomas tomorrow.

Two dozen students from Albion will be among those in caps and gowns.

Last year, Albion school district officials decided to close their high school for budget reasons.

Most of the Albion students ended up at Marshall. There was concern the two student bodies would clash.

Dan Luciani is the  principal of Marshall High School. He credits the students with making the transition work.

“The resiliency of kids,” says Luciani. “They really outdid themselves in adapting to the situation.”

Marshall school leaders will hold a special orientation for incoming freshmen from both communities later this summer.

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