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Education

Detroit charter school teachers working to unionize

Apr 15, 2015
Liza Lagman Sperl / Flickr

Teachers at three charter school districts in Detroit could vote as early as next month on whether to unionize.

Teachers at University YES, University Prep Academy and University Prep Science and Math have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to be represented by the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers & Staff (ACTS). ACTS is a union local affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.

U.S. Department of Education / Creative Commons

Officials at Michigan’s Department of Education say schools are ready for the new standardized test. The eight-week window to take it opens today.

The new test measures kids’ understanding of core subjects. But unlike the old test, the new one is online.

Working World / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

It's being billed as the largest anti-bullying rally in the state: 13 of Detroit's public schools are gathering with Special Olympics Michigan this week. 

The students will sign a pledge not to use the word "retarded."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school district needs a new superintendent. Larry Watkins announced today he's retiring.

During Watkins’ two years as interim schools superintendent, the Flint school district has seen its budget deficit grow (from $4 million to nearly $22 million), staff laid off and enrollment continue to decline.

flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Fifty-six Michigan school districts and charter schools started this school year in deficit. The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, made up of community leaders in Detroit, is asking the state to assume $350 million in school debt. State lawmakers are being asked for $725,000 dollars to cover unpaid debts of the former Buena Vista school district, the one they dissolved two years ago.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Nearly 800,000 Michigan students are scheduled to take a new standardized test this month. But some parents may opt their kids out of the test.

The new Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, or M-STEP, is replacing the old MEAP test.  Third through 8th grade students will take the M-STEP exam beginning next week.  Roughly 80% of the students will take the test online. 

But some groups oppose the new test and its ties to Common Core standards.  They are encouraging parents to pull their children from the testing.

SpecialKRB / flickr

More than 2,800 students log online to attend Michigan Virtual Charter Academy. The state’s largest virtual school is also one of its worst performing districts. Yet every single teacher was rated “highly effective” for the last two years, according to data recently released by the state.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Today, we reported about how much teacher evaluations vary from district to district. It makes comparing teachers across the state pretty much impossible.

But here’s a breakdown of where districts report the best and worst teachers are.

Andrew Taylor / Creative Commons

We know we want to attract and keep the best teachers in Michigan, but how do we know who the best teachers are?

School leaders across the state started measuring how teachers stack up in 2011. But the teacher effectiveness ratings, as they’re called, can be pretty useless.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

All this week we’re talking about teacher training.

But there’s one thing that’s almost impossible to teach students in college: how to manage a classroom.

FLICKR USER DREAD PIRATE JEFF / FLICKR

As part of our “Learning to Teach” series this week, we’ve been talking about teacher effectiveness.

Paramount to that effectiveness are teacher evaluations.

“There’s nothing more powerful to move the needle in student learning gains than great teaching,” said John Austin, president of the State Board of Education.

Austin says evaluations must be improved on all levels of a teacher’s career. That includes supporting new teachers in their learning, professional development, and creating rewarding teacher career paths, so that teachers advancing in their careers don’t solely end up  in administration and out of the classrooms.

We asked all 148 Michigan lawmakers the following questions:

"Do you have K-12 school-aged children?"

"If so, what type of school do they attend?"

"What type of K-12 school did you attend?"

See our infographic below.

The chambers inside Michigan's Capitol.
user CedarBendDrive, ae1106, and Lester Graham / Flickr/Michigan Radio

Jeff Salisbury asked us this question as part of our M I Curious news experiment. It's where you ask a question, questions are put to a vote, and we investigate the question with the most votes. 

EMU president will step down this summer

Mar 31, 2015
Susan Martin, EMU president.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin announced today she'll step down as president in July.

Martin will take a one-year sabbatical before returning to EMU as a tenured professor in the Department of Accounting and Finance in the College of Business.

(courtesy of KQED)

In our informal survey, 61% of teachers indicated that better pay is the best way to retain teachers. As part of our "Learning to Teach" week at Michigan Radio, Joshua Cowen, an associate professor at the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, discusses teacher pay in the state.

Classroom
flickr user Ben W

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren released its recommendations for fixing the fractured system of educating Detroit's kids.

The 36-member panel of community leaders spent three months studying the many problems in Detroit's schools.

Learning to Teach: Series roundup

Mar 31, 2015

For our education series Michigan Radio turned its attention to teacher preparation and retention in Michigan. We talked to teachers and administrators about what it takes to become an excellent educator and how we keep teachers in our K-12 classrooms. 

The entire station was involved across our news, politics, and culture programs. Stories aired on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. On our website we has special features looking at one of the most talked-about, but misunderstood professions today. On Stateside with Cynthia Canty, we featured interviews with teachers and education researchers to find out more about the challenges to teacher retention.

Here's everything we covered. Listen to the teachers, administrators, parents, consultants, and student teachers working to improve Michigan's education system. 

Susan Martin, EMU president.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

David Jesse at the Detroit Free Press reports that Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin will resign at the end of the school year.

More from the Freep:

Kristen Van Ollefen leads 5th graders to her music class at TEP.
Dan Bobkoff / Courtesy of WBEZ in Chicago

This week, Michigan Radio is presenting Learning to Teach, a series of reports on the state of teaching in Michigan.

Teachers in Michigan average around $61,000 a year in salary, with starting salaries in the $36,000 range.

Would paying our teachers more lead to better teachers and more effective learning environments for Michigan kids?

A charter middle school in the Washington Heights area of New York City is testing this theory. It’s a school that serves mainly low-income Latino students.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children
Rebecca Kruth

A coalition of business and community leaders yesterday released their recommendations for improving Detroit’s struggling school district.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren said control over Detroit Public Schools needs to go back in the hands the school board and out from under emergency management.

Auburn Elementary

In many undergraduate education programs, students spend a lot of time in the university classroom to prepare them for their student teaching in the final year. 

Until that placement, theory sometimes has little chance to meet up with practice.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint school officials heard from the public last night for the first time on a plan to close more city schools

People who packed the meeting came to have their questions answered and their voices heard. They at least had their questions answered. But school officials only took written questions. 

The public hearing did not include actual public comment.

user Wonderlane / Flickr

There's wide agreement among education experts that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in how students do in school.

Kimberly Springer / Michigan Radio

All this week on Stateside with Cynthia Canty, we'll be hearing from some of the teachers who responded to our survey about retaining teachers in Michigan. 

This infographic summarizes what a lot of them had to say about what keeps them in their classrooms. But, some educators told us why they eventually left Michigan to teach elsewhere or left the profession altogether. 

We've heard so much about teachers as lawmakers and administrators go back and forth over educational reforms.

Isn't it about time we listened to what teachers have to tell us? 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Student enrollment at Muskegon Heights has been declining since the 2009-10 school year.

Five years ago, student enrollment at Muskegon Heights schools was double what it is now. But for the first time since 2009, student enrollment was stable this year. Technically, enrollment was up 5 students.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan is nearly out of money to lend school districts in case of financial emergencies.

The state treasury department had up to $50 million total to lend school districts facing financial emergencies. That amount was supposed to last through 2018. But that apparently it isn’t going to be enough.

Kids at a public school in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The State of Michigan wants its next generation of teachers to know more.

But raising educational standards for teachers is proving to be a challenge.


Here's what you remember your teachers saying to you

Mar 30, 2015

The Teachable Moment Project collected remembrances from you of the teachers in your life.

By intentionally leaving “memorable words” open to your interpretation, we heard from you about teachers who inspired you, as well as teachers who derailed dreams.

All next week, Michigan Radio will air a special series of reports looking at teaching and how well Michigan’s colleges and universities are doing at turning out effective teachers.

There is wide agreement among education experts that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in how students do in school. But how do we define what makes a good teacher? 

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Michigan charter school authorizers are trying to come up with independent ways to evaluate themselves.

Authorizers help create charter schools and are supposed to hold them accountable. They’ve been under a lot of scrutiny lately.

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