Education

How are you preparing for the new year? Cleaning the house from top to bottom? Clearing out paper and files? Changing smoke alarm batteries (yes, you really should do that)? Whether you're working, relaxing, or pondering what 2014 holds, click through to State of Opportunity and catch up on our thought-provoking documentaries. 2013 saw us cover what race means to kids today, the gap in educational achievement in two local school districts, and how we as a society are defining manhood. Listen on the State of Opportunity website. Or download the podcasts from iTunes and listen while you take down those outdoor holidays lights. Listening to stimulating radio guarantees you'll wrap the lights carefully this year.

Sharon Drummond / Flickr

Traverse City public schools are getting ready to welcome about 55  students from Dalian, China, in January. They will attend high school for two weeks and stay with local families.

In May, about 25 Traverse City high schoolers will do the same in China at a high school attached to Dalian University of Technology.

toshibatelecom / toshibatelecom

Michigan's economy may be slogging its way up the hill towards recovery, but life is not getting as good as it should for children in our state.

That's the takeaway from the latest Kids Count report.

Here to tell us more is Jane Zehnder-Merrell. She's the project director for Kids Count in Michigan, part of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Mark Halonen / Brighton High School

Maybe more than any other, high school can be a time when what you choose to wear has a huge impact on your sense of identity.

As students take their first steps into adulthood, they walk a fine line between fitting in with their peers and developing a unique sense of self.

Earlier this fall, a group of AP language students at Brighton High School were asked to read a memoir by Iranian author Azar Nafisi. The book detailed the experiences of women during that country's religious revolution, including dealing with new standards of modesty in the way they dressed.

To experience the material first-hand, several girls in the class in Brighton chose to spend a full school day wearing hijabs, the head-scarves worn by Muslim women in many parts of the world.

The exercise gave students a chance to learn about an unfamiliar culture and religion. But in a school community where no students and only one teacher outwardly practice Islam, wearing the scarves was a good way to draw curious looks, questions and a few unfriendly comments.

Teacher Diana Mason and three students at Brighton who took part recently told Stateside about the experience.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Back in 2010, the State Board of Education approved the Common Core State Standards for Michigan — a set of math and English goals for K-12 students.

School districts across the state have spent the past three years integrating the standards into their curricula. At the same time, we've heard a lot of political debate about Common Core, mostly about the involvement of the federal government in our classrooms.

But in October of this year, state lawmakers OK'd funding for Common Core, and now it is becoming a reality in Michigan classrooms.

We wanted to find out: What does this mean — day-in, day-out — for Michigan's students?

What does a school year under Common Core really look like?

Joining us is Naomi Norman, the executive director of Achievement Initiatives at Washtenaw Intermediate School District and Livingston Educational Service Agency.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan is creating a confidential tip line for students designed to prevent school violence.

A law signed Friday by Gov. Rick Snyder authorizes the creation of a hotline accepting tips by phone, text message, email or through a website or mobile app. The state attorney general's office and other agencies will cooperate to establish the OK-2-SAY program being modeled after one Colorado created after the Columbine shootings.

Homeless camp
Nicole Salow / Flickr

The number of K-12 students in the U.S. without a home is on the rise.

More than 1.1 million children in the U.S. were homeless in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the Department of Education.

Suzi Parker at takepart.com looked at the numbers and found that Michigan has one of the fastest-growing homeless student populations in the country.

In Michigan, 43,418 students were homeless in the 2011-2012 school year, compared to 30,671 in the 2010-2011 school year:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s public universities are “building the case” for more state aid.

The group representing the state’s 15 public universities released a report today showing the economic impact they have on Michigan. The study, by the Anderson Economic Group, claims the universities generated nearly $24 billion in direct and indirect spending in Michigan in 2012. 

The researchers say the money is spent across Michigan and not just in the towns where the universities are based.

What happens when a child is struggling to read at his or her grade level?

In too many cases, the student moves up a grade anyway and the struggle continues, resulting in high school graduates who are poor, ineffective readers. And that can impact that student's chances of going to college and then getting a job that provides a good level of pay over a lifetime.

There's a package of bills sponsored by Holland Republican Representative Amanda Price now working through the State that tries to tackle this problem. It's called the "read-or-flunk law."

In a nutshell, if third-grade kids aren't reading, hold them back.

Ron French reported on the pros and cons of these bills for Bridge Magazine, and he joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new report shows Michigan college students are carrying a lot of student loan debt.

The Institute for College Access and Success says Michigan college graduates who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2012 owed nearly $29,000 in student loans.

Debbie Cochran is with the institute. She blames the recession and declining government support for forcing students to borrow more to pay for college.

It's 3:40...do you know where your kids are?

Dec 4, 2013
Adolph B. Rice Studio Collection / The Library of Virginia

What happens in impoverished neighborhoods after the bell rings at 3:40 pm? Afterschool activities are making a comeback in poor communities thanks to federal investment in community schools. On State of Opportunity this week, Jennifer Guerra spent time with kids and staff at Mackenzie Elementary and Middle School to learn about the "community school model." 

Beau Wade / wikimedia commons

A 2007 School Nutrition Dietary Assessment concluded that most schools in America exceed USDA guidelines for the quantities of saturated fat, total fat and sodium in our school lunches.

And the surplus beef and poultry that the USDA offers as free commodity items to our schools are held to a lower standard than fast-food chains like McDonald's. In the past ten years, the USDA paid $145 million for pet-food grade "spent hen meat" that went into the school meals program.

The average dollar amount spent per school lunch nationwide is just $1. Twenty-five cents of that is spent on milk.

What can school lunches tell us about the politics of welfare, food science and agriculture companies? And what can they tell us about inequality in Michigan and throughout America?

Susan Levine, a professor in the Department of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of the book, "School Lunch Politics: The surprising History of America's Favorite Welfare Program,” joined us today.

And Jean DuRussel Weston, the Director of Patient Education and program manager for Project Healthy Schools at the University of Michigan, also joined in on the conversation.

Listen to the interview above.

Nearly 80% of Michigan’s charter schools are managed by private, for-profit companies, according to a new report from the National Education Policy Center.

The report shows that when it comes to privately-managed public charter schools—those run by Education Management Organizations (EMOs)—Michigan is a stark anomaly.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last night, Flint school board members listened as auditors painted a bleak picture of the school district’s finances. The auditors blamed years of "poor internal controls" for the district’s big budget deficit.  Auditors say they did not find any "financial misconduct."

The Flint school district’s deficit is more than ten million dollars. The district also owes the Genesee Intermediate School District nearly nine million dollars.

Larry Watkins is Flint’s interim school superintendent.  He says the Flint school district will have to address its own budget deficit first.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint School Board will hear the findings of the district’s most recent audit this evening.

The audit is expected to show continued problems with misspent funds, lax oversight and other issues.

“Our students deserve the very best and we’re definitely going to do that. In order for us to do that, we’re going to have to turn this district around,” says Larry Watkins, Flint’s interim school superintendent.

Michigan’s attempt at a state-run “turnaround district” for the lowest-performing schools is bleeding students.

The Educational Achievement Authority is one of Governor Snyder’s signature policy initiatives. It launched in the last school year, with 15 former Detroit Public Schools.

State data now show the EAA lost more than 2,000 students since last school year. That’s nearly a 25% decline.

Navy Hale Keiki School / Flickr

A recent study coming out of Michigan State University reaffirms the need for one educational discipline that’s been continuously cut over the past decade — the arts.

Researchers found a startling link between taking part in arts and crafts activities as a child and patents received or businesses launched as an adult.

According to that study, which examined MSU Honors STEM students between 1990-1995, 94% of STEM graduates had musical training in their lives, compared to 34% of all adults.

Joining us is one of the authors of the study, Rex LaMore, the director of the MSU Center for Community and Economic Development. Cynthia Taggart, a professor of Music Education at Michigan State also talked to us.

Listen to the full interview above.

Here's what your name says about your future prospects

Nov 20, 2013
Alan O'Rourke / Flickr

Researchers have done all kinds of experiments to learn how our names can impact perceptions. If the research is to be believed, for some people creating a new identity other than the one given at birth might be a good idea.

The University of Chicago Business School and the National Bureau of Economic Research, for example, conducted a study that compared responses to identical resumes. The only difference was that some resumes were from applicants with African American sounding names and others had White sounding names.

After five years, the Detroit Public Schools has been removed from “high-risk status.”

The Michigan Department of Education gave Detroit federal high-risk status in 2008, after a federal audit revealed some serious financial discrepancies amounting to about $53 million.

But the state says the district has put enough safeguards in place now to relax its monitoring.

YouTube / YouTube

This week on State of Opportunity, Sarah Alvarez is taking a look at some radical decisions that have shaped the educational landscape of Detroit schools.

Today, families in the city are taking a gamble on brand-new charter schools, like the Detroit Achievement Academy.

The academy opened earlier this year, by 28-year-old Kyle Smitley. Smitley is the first to admit she lacks formal educational experience. "I’ve been laughed out of so many rooms coming into the education world," she says.

But that hasn’t stopped the unconventional school from getting national buzz. Earlier this year, Smitley and the academy were featured on The Ellen Degeneres Show.

Still, the odds are stacked up against the academy and other charter schools that pop up in Detroit. There are more seats in Detroit schools than students. Many students in the city haven’t met benchmark requirements in their grade levels.

So what do educational experts think about these experimental schools? Check out Sarah’s piece for more. 

clipping courtesy of Ray Litt / via Detroit Free Press

In short, the answer is 'we don't really know.'

Stanford University's Sean Reardon studies achievement gaps - the difference between how one group of students performs compared to another group.

When comparing black, white, and Latino students, Reardon says you see the importance not so much of race, but of class.

"Over the last 40 or so years, the black-white achievement gap and the Hispanic-white achievement gap have narrowed a lot," Reardon said. "On the other hand, the gap between high and low income students has increased quite dramatically."

Reardon said that particular gap has grown about 40% since the 1980s. 

But while economic diversity might matter more in ensuring a quality education, that doesn't mean people want to give up on racial and ethnic diversity.

Ray Litt, a community activist involved in Detroit's Milliken v. Bradley case, reflected, "The desegregation action was to provide a quality integrated venue in which students and staff are exposed to and can interact with kids of different races religions and economic status," he said. "We all need to be able to be comfortable, not tolerating, a society that is the melting pot."

Racial diversity is not something you are likely to find in a majority of Detroit's schools, even after a hard fought desegregation plan.

Read more and listen to the whole story at State of Opportunity.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools will start issuing “child safety ID cards” in some elementary schools.

The ID card will contain a child’s picture, fingerprint, and other identifying information. Participation is voluntary.

District officials say the cards could help find and identify missing children more quickly.

The district will give one card to parents, and keep the information on file. They say the district will only share the card’s information with law enforcement in the event of an emergency.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Are Michigan colleges and universities so focused outward that they have become "placeless"? Are families being needlessly fractured by a growing emphasis on global engagement, and a move away from local involvement and commitment?

Jeffrey Polet, a professor of political science at Hope College in Holland thinks so. In a column for Bridge Magazine Polet argues that Michigan’s “hallowed halls may lead to the world, but they also contribute to the fracturing of communities.”

Polet talks to us about what he’s seen that caused him to write his piece, and where his criticism lies.

Listen to the full interview above.

clipping courtesy of Ray Litt / via Detroit Free Press

For State of Opportunity,  I've been wading through hours of audio and stacks of research for months about Detroit's mid-1970's busing controversy.

 More specifically, the educational fall-out from the Milliken v. Bradley case.  Here's what happened.

1. Busing was used as a last resort to fix segregated schools. 

Wikimedia Commons

All of Michigan's fifteen public universities are now offering in-state tuition to all veterans, regardless of their legal residence or active duty status.

In the past, this benefit was limited to active duty personnel.

Michael A. Boulus is executive director of the Presidents Council State Universities of Michigan. He said "Our message is that Michigan's public universities are dedicated to supporting our veterans and their families. We value veterans and are committed to helping them get degrees that are vital to their success and the success of the state."

Funnels.
dorena-wm / flickr

Every school day hundreds of kids from Detroit travel up Woodward and many other routes on their way to Ferndale’s schools. They don't need to move to go to these schools.

Ferndale has wooed Detroit students, exercising their ability to educate students from other districts under Michigan’s "schools of choice" policy.

The district has two high schools that cater almost exclusively to students from Detroit.

One of them, University High, has 426 students only seven of whom come from Ferndale.  

The school system has been called a "funnel district" because of traffic in and out of the district. Kids coming in from Detroit and some suburbs like Oak Park and Hazel Park make up one end of the funnel.

The other end of the funnel is made up of kids leaving Ferndale for suburbs a little farther out. 

You can learn more about how this got started and the financial and educational consequences of it on our State of Opportunity page.

This story is the first in our week-long series looking at how the neighborhood school and education in metro Detroit has changed over the past few decades.

From the John and Leni Sinclair papers / UM Bentley Historical Library

Next week, Sarah Alvarez from our State of Opportunity team will explore the long shadow of a busing and integration case 40 years ago, and the way the outcome fundamentally altered the notion of a neighborhood school for students in Detroit and many communities throughout the metro area.

Check out this post by Kimberly Springer that shows how some Detroit parents were notified that their kids were going to be bused to another school.

The series “Abandoning the neighborhood school” will focus on these topics:

Sarah Kerson / Michigan Radio

That's the largest fundraising goal ever for an American public university, and university officials say $1.7 billion has already been raised during what they call a two-year "silent" phase. Included in that $1.7 billion are several high-profile donations from alumni like Stephen Ross and President Mary Sue Coleman herself.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Our State of Opportunity team has been diving into the issue school funding over the past couple months.

The vast majority of Michigan K-12 schools get between $7,000 - $8,000 per pupil every year. But there are some schools that get more…a lot more. We're talking about roughly a $5,000 difference between the richest schools in the state and the poorest schools.

Morgue File

In-state tuition and fees at Michigan's four-year public colleges and universities rank sixth highest nationally, with a Michigan average of $11,600 per year.

But state support for higher education per full-time student in Michigan ranks fifth from the bottom. State support per student is $3,962 in Michigan compared to the national average of $6,646.

That's according to data recently released by the College Board in a report on "Trends in College Pricing 2013."

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