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Education

Matt Katzenberger / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

It wasn’t one thing that put Litchfield Community Schools’ elementary school on a path to becoming a “priority” school.

When Mary Sitkiewicz started teaching at Litchfield in the mid 1990s, she remembers there being more than 800 students. According to state data from last school year, the student count was down to 248.

There are so many people, places and things in Michigan that are mispronounced, like Mackinac Island.
Josh Grenier / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Do you know the proper way to pronounce the community of Presque Isle and the county of Presque Isle? (Hint: they are different). Or how about the cities of Charlotte or Milan? How many non-Michiganders have you heard mispronounce Mackinac Island?

There's no shortage of Michigan towns, locations and personalities with, let's say, challenging pronunciations. If you're a Michigander, a visitor, or anything in between, there is now a definitive guide for these tricky words or names. 

The Michigan Braille and Talking Book Library now gives people audio and phonetic pronunciations for more than 2,200 places, people and things in or connected to Michigan.

Detroit school leaders point to Coleman A. Young Elementary School as a successful turnarond effort led from within the district.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit school leaders say they’re ready to take on the task of transforming some of the state’s lowest-performing schools.

But first, they’re inviting counterparts from around the country to a “learning summit” next week, to discuss and formulate a broader school turnaround strategy.

Courtesy of Aaron Robertson

President Bill Clinton, astronomer Edwin Hubble, singer and actor Kris Kristofferson, ABC journalist and former White House spokesman George Stephanopoulos, Senator Cory Booker and former Senator and basketball Hall-of-Famer Bill Bradley.

That's just a shortlist of people who've won the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships. 

Now, you can add Aaron Robertson to that list. 

Robertson was born in Detroit and currently calls Redford Township home. The Princeton undergrad is one of just 32 Americans awarded a 2017 Rhodes scholarship, and he joined Stateside to talk about it.

MOTOWN31 / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

On Friday, Michiganders learned that state officials are preparing to shut down as many as 38 under-performing schools in Michigan. Twenty-five of those schools are in Detroit.

What, if anything, could keep the School Reform Office from closing the schools? And how should we, as a state, deal with schools that are turning out unprepared students?

bottom of chalkboard, with an eraser and chalk sitting on the ledge
user alkruse24 / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Education released the state’s School Score Cards and the “Top to Bottom” list today. The Top to Bottom list is used by the School Reform Office to identify low-performing schools.

The “Priority List” is made up of the lowest-performing five percent of schools in the state, and schools that were previously in the five percent and haven’t improved enough to get off the list.  Schools on the list for three years could be subject to closure.

Betsy DeVos testified at a hearing earlier this month.
Screenshot / C-SPAN

About a week ago, as attorneys and staffers helped Betsy DeVos prepare and file paperwork required as part of her confirmation process to become the next U.S. education secretary, somebody asked her about her ties to her mother’s foundation.

“She said, ‘Well wait a minute. I’ve never been on that board or never been involved with that foundation.’ Nor did she ever give consent for her name to be used,” DeVos family spokesman John Truscott said. “Best we can figure it was an error on behalf of the foundation staff and was never run by her.”

Besty DeVos during her hearing.
SCREENSHOT / C-SPAN

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the U.S Department of Education went before the Senate education committee yesterday for her confirmation hearing.

Senators asked many questions of Betsy DeVos – some about her Michigan family’s donations of millions of dollars to Republican candidates, others about whether she would mandate that public schools become charter or private schools.

Yet, it was an exchange between Minnesota Senator Al Franken and DeVos that caught our attention.

Take a listen:

Betsy DeVos testified at a hearing earlier this month.
Screenshot / C-SPAN

School choice advocate Betsy DeVos answered a wide range of questions during a three-hour confirmation hearing in Washington D.C. Tuesday night. The billionaire from West Michigan could head the U.S. Department of Education soon.

You can watch the hearing here or below:

Courtesy of Tashaune Harden

 

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is a long-time Republican donor. DeVos is an advocate of charter schools, school voucher programs, and tax credits for businesses that give private scholarships.

Her likely appointment excites many in Michigan’s charter schools.

But not everyone.

There hasn't been a more controversial pick for secretary of education, arguably, in recent memory than Donald Trump's choice of Betsy DeVos. The Senate confirmation hearings for the billionaire Republican fundraiser and activist from Michigan start today.

A ceiling hole at Noble Elementary Middle-School in early 2016
Detroit Federation of Teachers

There was movement Thursday on two federal lawsuits filed over poor learning conditions in Detroit schools.

The American Federation of Teachers announced a settlement with the Detroit Public Schools over decrepit building conditions in some schools.

The settlement lays out a process for reporting, logging and prioritizing requests for building repairs, as well as timelines for following through.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

New Detroit school board members officially took office Wednesday night.

It’s the first time the district has had a true school board since a series of emergency managers took over in 2009.

The district is in much better financial shape after a state-sponsored aid package passed in June. In fact, it currently has a budget surplus.

But it faces a number of chronic problems, including 264 vacant teaching positions. 163 are now being staffed by substitutes, interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather told board members.

user cedarbenddrive/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Lawmakers, business experts, and school superintendents are tackling Michigan’s schools from multiple angles in the first weeks of the New Year.

On the first day of session, Senator Phil Pavlov plans to introduce a bill to get rid of Michigan’s so-called “failing schools” law. The law determines Michigan’s worst-performing schools and puts them under the supervision of a state school reform officer.   

Sen Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Twp., is the bill’s sponsor. He says the current law was passed with good intentions, but has not worked.

 

Write Michigan authors take part in a book signing
Kent District Library

The Write Michigan short story contest is the only fiction contest exclusive to Michigan writers.

It's a joint effort of the Kent District Library and Schuler Books in Grand Rapids. The contest is embarking on its fifth year and submissions are up by 200% from last year.

Heidi Nagel from the Kent District Library joined Stateside to talk about the contest.

Matt Katzenberger / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

This is an important week for Detroit schools. For the first time in seven years, an elected school board is in place. The board takes control of the schools that have been run for nearly 20 years by state-appointed managers. 63 candidates were on the ballot. The voters chose seven of them to make up the new school board.

One of those is Sonya Mays. She graduated from Detroit Renaissance High School and then went on to the University of Michigan, where she worked her way to a bachelor's degree, an MBA and then her law degree.

Two of the biggest topics of the week when it comes to Michigan politics involved the proposal to mandate employers to let workers earn paid sick time and the effort to put gerrymandering on the ballot in 2018.
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A new state law bans the use of restraint or isolation to discipline students.

  

The law was recommended by a task force looking at reforms in special education. Students with physical or developmental disabilities are more likely to face the use of restraint or seclusion.

  

Advocates for special education students say harsh disciplinary measures have been used by teachers and administrators who did not know how to handle students with disabilities. Calley says the new law shows times are changing.

Andy / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Need for scholarships for former foster kids is running higher than funds available.

Michigan's Fostering Futures Scholarship Fund helps people who've aged out of foster care pay for college. It supplements other financial support students receive.

To be eligible for a grant, a student must have been in Michigan foster care after their 13th birthday because of child abuse or neglect.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Many students received digital devices for Christmas and Hanukah presents this year. 

But a new Michigan State University study suggests the students should not go online when they return to class.

EMU is expanding online degree programs

Dec 21, 2016
Eastern Michigan University
F. Delventhal / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Eastern Michigan University has entered into a 5 year agreement with Academic Partnerships, a private company, to offer four fully online degree programs.  

According to Kevin Kucera, EMU's Vice President for Enrollment Management, the programs will increase educational opportunities for non-traditional students while generating revenue for the University.

"This on-line marketplace is really one where we can assist primarily working individuals who would have a difficult time accessing ground-based courses because of their work and family commitments," said Kucera.

Empty classroom.
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

State officials are crediting a new "early warning" law for reducing the number of school districts in fiscal crisis.

In 2015, 41 districts had budget deficits; this year, only 27 have deficits.

State Treasurer Nick Khouri says the state can now intervene before a district is in a serious financial situation.

"The easiest thing to do is to deny a problem for years and years until it's too late to solve," says Khouri, "so part of this process is to make sure that these issues are brought up early."

CPR training
Rama / creative commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan students would be required to learn CPR before they graduate from high school under a bill that's on its way to Gov. Snyder's desk.

This week, the state House voted in favor of legislation that would require students that students receive CPR instruction at least once between 7th and 12th grade. It would be up to school districts to decide when and how to incorporate the training into their curriculum.  

BRYCE HUFFMAN

On Monday, December 14th, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) President James Smith announced the President's Commission on Diversity and Inclusion's inaugural members. 

Flickr user Frank Juarez/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Schools might get more freedom in how they discipline students in the future. Legislation that would alter Michigan’s zero-tolerance policy in schools is headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.

The legislation would, in part, give schools options besides automatic expulsion or suspension when bringing potential weapons into schools. Proponents say it would help reduce the number of students out of school because of suspension or expulsion.

WoodleyWonderWorks / Flickr

Legislation important to Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is making its way through the legislature.

A package of bills banning the methods of restraint and seclusion on special education students in schools except in cases of emergency has passed through the state House.

Calley, who went on a special education listening tour across Michigan, said the passage is an example of the legislature giving a voice to people who don’t have one.

“It’s long overdue that we have some standards in schools with respect to how restraint and seclusion are used,” he said.

Protestors stand outside Roseville Community Schools building urging the removal of Vice President Alfredo Francesconi
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

The vice president of the Roseville Community Schools Board of Education is facing public criticism over racist, Islamaphobic, and transphobic posts on his Facebook page. 

A group of around 20 protestors gathered outside the district's administration building before a school board meeting on Monday night. The protestors moved inside during the meeting and urged the school board to remove Alfredo Francesconi from his position. 

"Black people don't necessarily need choice, they need power," Perry told us. "The reason why black communities' schools are not doing well is because black communities are not doing well."
Flickr user Bart Everson/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Proponents of publicly funded, privately run charter schools hail them as the way to keep public schools and public school teachers "on their toes" by creating competition. 

Here in Michigan we have roughly 145,000 students in more than 300 charter schools, according to Education Trust Midwest.

And a report that group released earlier this year showed that charter school enrollment in the 2014-2015 school year consisted of disproportionately minority and low-income students. 

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the DeVos family has given roughly $14 million to political campaigns and causes over the last two years.
BetsyDeVos.com

President-elect Donald Trump has selected longtime school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Department of Education. (Presidential cabinet picks are subject to Senate confirmation. See who Trump has picked for his cabinet so far with WaPo's cabinet tracker.)

Trump’s stance on education policy has, thus far, been difficult to discern. His pick of DeVos indicates how his administration likely sees education policy going forward.

Protesters chalked anti-hate messages outside Royal Oak Middle School, after reported incidents of race-based bullying there.
Alexis Gentile / via Facebook

Some school leaders and parents are wrestling with how to respond to hateful incidents in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.

There have been a number of such incidents reported in schools across Michigan since election day.

One happened at Royal Oak Middle School the day after the election, when a  group of students chanted “build the wall” in the cafeteria — an apparent reference to Trump’s pledge to build a wall across the Mexican border.

Alicia Ramon is the mother of the seventh-grade girl who took a video of that incident, which has since gone viral.

A Royal Oak middle schooler who admits to placing a noose is a school bathroom will not be in class Monday.

Royal Oak’s school superintendent released a statement Sunday saying the unidentified student admitted to placing a noose inside the middle school bathroom on Friday.

Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin says the district “will not tolerate intimidation, threats, harassment or bullying.” 

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