10:54 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Stockbridge Series: Economic hardship makes college readiness mean something different

Technical and college prep courses are not mutually exclusive in Stockbridge.
Credit Logan Chadde

In the last piece in the Stockbridge series, State of Opportunity explores how the schools in Stockbridge, Michigan have in some ways a sad task in educating their youth.

Because Stockbridge is a rural village with very little economic opportunity, preparing kids to succeed often means preparing them to leave town.

Teachers and administrators at the high school there don't think it's enough to try to prepare their students for college. College is expensive, and though most of the kids will pursue higher education of one kind or another, paying for it can be tough. 

So teacher Duane Watson and a few others are heavily invested in technical education. Watson has three rooms he teaches in, to call them classrooms might give the wrong impression.  In one of them, the only desks are broken ones people hope his students will fix. 

The classroom is actually a garage and I was impressed three full cars could fit inside it before Watson corrected me.

“Four actually, and one compact utility tractor, a snowplow going on a truck, a completely student fabricated tandem-axle trailer, and an alternative fuel vehicle-a battery powered golf cart." He said as he laughed about the golf cart experiment.

This shop is part of a serious effort by Watson and the schools in Stockbridge to keep technical classes from slipping out of the curriculum, like they have at a lot of other places. Plenty of the equipment in the auto shop was donated by schools who shut their programs down.

Finish the story and listen to it and the work of the Stockbridge youth journalists at State of Opportunity.

5:24 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

After report, Muskegon Heights teachers get Michigan certificates, substitute permits

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Teachers in the new charter school district in Muskegon Heights have now obtained certificates or permits that allow them to legally work in Michigan classrooms.

This week Michigan Radio reported the state's first all-charter public school district had at least eight teachers who worked, in some case for months, without a valid Michigan teaching certificate or permit. It’s against state law to do that.

Now, public records show those who were still teaching at Muskegon Heights without proper certificates managed to get them this week. Most obtained teacher certificates. Two others obtained substitute permits.

Read more
5:04 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Stateside: Gender neutral housing at universities

University of Michigan Student Union building.
Wikimedia Commons

Universities across the country are opening up campus housing to transgender students and it's happening right here in Michigan.

The University of Michigan housing has announced it will set aside a block of gender neutral rooms for transgender and gender non-conforming students in the fall of 2013, as a part of the gender inclusive living experience.

We speak with Amy Navvab, a student at the University of Michigan and Chair of the Open Housing Initiative, and Amanda Hobson, Residential Coordinator at Ohio University where gender neutral housing is already available to students.

Listen to the interview above.

1:11 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

State of Opportunity: Is middle school worth the trouble?

Stockbridge's middle school has begun to implement programs to improve student behavior and build techinical skills.
Angie Eagle

Middle school can be a crucial turning point in a kid's education. It's a time when a student either chooses to succeed, or to stop believing in themselves all together.

Even though middle school stands at a very important crossroad in a student's education, it seems that almost everyone ignores it.

This is true even in a place like Stockbridge,  a small town in mid-Michigan town that takes pride in its school system.

Lately, their middle school has been craving more attention, just like many of the students it tries to educate.

Today, Sarah Alvarez from our State of Opportunity project takes a look at the current effects middle school has on the future outcome of students, and how staff and faculty at Stockbridge Middle School are working to improve student performance and success.

Read and Listen to the full story and other stories coming from the Stockbridge Series at State of Opportunity.

5:48 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Are we so different?

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

As part of the theme semester Understanding Race, the University of Michigan has brought in a special exhibit to further examine what race means. "Race: Are We So Different" is currently on display at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. I met up with Dr. Yolanda Moses, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside  - to take a walk through the exhibit.

5:11 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Stateside: Talking education with a 'Teacher of the Year' finalist

Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

After the Center for Michigan released its big report on public education in Michigan last month, one of the big themes that emerged for discussion was how to evaluate teachers, and how to better prepare teachers to do their jobs.

We wanted to bring a teacher into the discussion, so we brought in Robert Stephenson.

He taught elementary school for 18 years in Okemos, and he is currently an administrator at Donley Elementary School in East Lansing.

Robert Stephenson was also one of the top five finalists for National Teacher of the Year in 2010.

The report from the Center for Michigan took the thoughts and opinions of people all over the state.

Four out of every five people say they want teachers to be better prepared for the classroom, and two out of three said "we need to hold teachers more accountable."

We asked Stephenson about teacher evaluation, and about what's  missing when it comes to preparing teachers to stand in front of that classroom.

9:40 am
Wed February 13, 2013

Stockbridge series: An educational experiment on the cheap

Heritage Exploratory Academy kids discussing their remote-operated vehicles
Credit Courtesy of Stockbridge Exploratory Academy

State of Opportunity's latest story takes you inside the Exploratory Academy at Stockbridge's Heritage Elementary. It's a hands on learning experiment where kids use their hands to build things like underwater robots or a "wax-works museum" full of historical figures. 

The Academy has been around since September, and so far results are good. Test scores are on track and Principal Jim Kelly says he's never had so many dads involved in school. 

And the best part, it hasn't cost the district any extra money. More on how this innovation got off the ground and if it's likely to be successful at State of Opportunity. 

12:21 am
Wed February 13, 2013

Sequestration could cost Michigan universities millions of dollars in federal research funding

Michigan State University, East Lansing (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Tens of billions of dollars in federal spending cuts will take effect March first, unless Congress does something to stop the sequestration.

And Michigan’s major research universities may be among those feeling the sting.

Read more
6:27 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Stateside: A conversation about improving education in Michigan

user alkruse24 Flickr

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Last month, The Center for Michigan, a non-partisan, non-profit think tank, released its major report on K-12 public education in our state.

It was the largest effort ever to collect and analyze what the public thinks about Michigan schools and teachers.

As we heard here on Stateside, that report was based on hundreds of meetings with people all over the state.

And emerging from those discussions was a clear theme: the best way to improve Michigan schools is to improve the skills of the person standing at the front of the classroom.

Two-thirds of Michiganders say we need to hold teachers more accountable.

Four out of every five say they want teachers to be better prepared for the classroom.

Cyndy spoke with a high school principal, an education expert and a professor of teacher education to make sense of these statistics.

6:04 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Stateside: Uncertified teachers at Muskegon Heights charter school system

The Muskegon Heights emergency manager and representatives of Mosaica Education.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Lester Graham is filling in for Cynthia Canty on today's Stateside.

In her recent report, Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith found that teachers in the new charter school system in Muskegon Heights were hired without teacher certification.

The entire public school system in Muskegon Heights was recently turned over to a private company.

While there are teachers who do have certification, there are others who do not.

The question is, what will happen with those teachers that have not been certified?

We sat down with reporter Lindsey Smith, who joined us from Grand Rapids.

She told us how it became evident that there were uncertified teachers working in the school system. She also tells us what it was like speaking to the parents in Muskegon Heights and their reactions.

11:13 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Stockbridge series: High expectations for at-risk kids

Stockbridge's Smith Elementary uses a system of behavior and learning interventions keep expectations high and kids on track.
Credit Sarah Alvarez

Robin Lowe-Fletcher's son, Brenden, is considered an “at-risk” kid. But he’s also quick, engaging and funny. 

He was born with a cognitive impairment, which does make it harder for him to learn. His mom explains that Brenden was born with Down syndrome.

Brenden's special education status gets him the at-risk label. For those kids, economics, statistics, or in Brenden’s case, biology, work against them.

These kids are more likely to disengage from school and then have a really hard time living up to their potential. In Stockbridge what gets a lot of kids an at-risk label is economics. Over 40 percent of the kids qualify for free or reduced lunch. But that doesn’t mean their parents don’t want their kids to do well. 

The principal at Brenden's school, Michelle Ruh, has put a system in place she thinks will help all kids do well, even those with the "at-risk" label. It comes along with high expecations. At State of Opportunity we find out if this system is working for Brenden and the other kids at Stockbridge's elementary. 

7:35 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Investigation uncovers non-certified teachers at Muskegon Heights new charter school

This Muskegon Heights teacher at Edgewood Elementary school holds a valid teaching certificate in Michigan.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Update: As of February 14th, these teachers have now obtained valid Michigan teaching certificates or permits.

Read more
10:50 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

In new MEAP scores, some good news for Detroit Public Schools

Emergency financial manager Roy Roberts with a first-grader at Detroit's Dixon elementary-middle school
Credit via Detroit Public Schools

There’s some good news for the Detroit Public Schools in newly-released Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) scores.

42% of the district’s 3rd-through-8th graders scored “proficient or advanced” in reading. That’s up more than 6% from the prior year.

Math scores jumped more than 4%, with fewer than 15% of students rated proficient.

In most subjects, Detroit students’ gains outpaced state averages. But the district’s scores still remain well below state averages.

Roy Roberts, the district’s emergency financial manager, says that’s exactly the sort of progress people should expect at this point.

“If I had walked in here and said we’ve improved every class by 25%, you oughta call the FBI,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t happen that way. It’s incremental improvement.”

The number of Detroit students tested did drop more than 20% this year, though, as the district’s enrollment shrunk significantly. 

The state-run Education Achievement Authority took over 15 of the district’s lowest-performing schools last fall, leaving fewer kids in DPS. The district also has a dramatic long-term enrollment decline.

But that’s not the case at Dixon Elementary-Middle school on thecity’s far west side. That school has actually increased
enrollment—and posted some of the biggest gains citywide on this
year’s MEAP scores.

Principal Ora Beard took over the school three years ago. She says boosting student achievement in a school takes time—and lots of reaching out to students and parents to build trust.

“Our first year was totally building relationships,” said Beard. “And trying to get them to understand that we’re not here to fight you…we’re here to help you. And that’s what school’s got to be about.”

5:04 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Stateside: Use your words

Tanya Wright is an Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at Michigan State University.
Michigan State University

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

According to a new study published in Elementary School Journal, the vocabulary lessons our children are getting in grade school fall woefully short of giving students the range and scope of words they need to become good, effective readers throughout their lives. 

Tanya Wright is an Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at Michigan State University.  She spoke with Cindy about the study and what it could cost our kids to be saddled with a deficient vocabulary.

4:55 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Stateside: State of Opportunity looks at Stockbridge

Autumn Blakeman is a Stockbridge parent.
Logan Chadde Michigan Radio

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

All this week, Michigan Radio is airing a special series of reports exploring the schools and the educational opportunities in Stockbridge, Michigan.  It's part of the “State of Opportunity” project.

Stockbridge is a village about mid-way between Ann Arbor and Lansing.  Like so many towns and villages around Michigan, the economy has taken a beating, industry has gone, and the school system is one of the few ways kids from Stockbridge can get a leg up.
Cindy talked with Sarah Alvarez from the “State of Opportunity” team about what can be learned from this rural town, and its efforts to make sure its kids get a great education, even in the face of shrinking state aid and a tough economy.

The Stockbridge series of reports will air during Morning Edition and All Things Considered all this week.  This is a part of Michigan Radio’s “State of Opportunity” project, looking at ways to break the cycle of poverty and build opportunities for Michigan’s most disadvantaged children.

State of Opportunity is funded by a great from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

2:15 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Fall MEAP results show reading and math gains

MEAP Scores are out for Fall 2012
Alberto G. Creative Commons

The results are out for the Fall 2012 Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP).

They show gains in reading, mathematics and writing in all grades and most demographic groups.

The Michigan Department of Education says the MEAP tests are "based on career- and college-ready standards and are the only statewide measure of what students know and are able to do in grades 3 through 9."

In the press release sent out today, Governor Snyder shared his perspective on the results

“We’re moving in the right direction and that’s a credit to our schools, parents and the students themselves,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “But much work remains..."

Education officials say in particular, students in grades 3 and 8 showed gains in reading proficiency (4.1 and 5.2 percent gain respectively).

Mathematics also had proficiency gains at all grade levels, with the largest gains occurring in grades 3, 4, and 5 (4.6, 5.0, and 6.1 percent gain respectively). Writing proficiency saw a 4.4 percent increase in grade 7 and a 2.2 percent increase in grade 4.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports there were gains in Detroit as well.

Citywide, Detroit’s third-through-eighth graders showed gains that outpaced state averages, for the most part. But the district’s overall scores remain relatively low.

MRPN's Jake Neher is reporting that the overall scores in science did not fare as well.

... less than 16 percent of students had passing grades in science, and that number is dropping.

Joseph Martineau  is with the state Department of Education. He says that’s a serious concern, but the statistics might be a bit misleading.

“That’s simply a reflection of what is being expected by college and community college professors in science. They appear to have higher expectations of their students than, maybe, in some of those other content areas.”

The Detroit Free Press has a searchable database to see results for particular schools in Michigan. You can check it out to see how well your schools are doing.

Although the results were released publicly today, Michigan schools received them in December. This allows teachers to review and analyze those results, and use the information to potentially change their teaching.

- Chris Zollars, Michigan Radio Newsroom

10:39 am
Mon February 11, 2013

State of Opportunity: A close look at a rural school district

A view of downtown Stockbridge. The village is one square mile, surrounded by 145 square miles of school district.
Credit Logan Chadde / Michigan Radio

Stockbridge is a village similar to many places around the state. The economy is tough, industry has gone, and the school system is one of few ways kids from the town can get a leg up.

All this week we're going inside this small town school district. Like a lot places, they're trying to make sure their kids have educational opportunity, even in the face of shrinking state aid and a tough economy.

Today's story is a look at how the district made a push over a decade ago to try to convince parents early childhood education was worth the expense. The district now educates over half of their incoming kindergarten class in their preschool program.

In addition to these daily stories, youth journalists from Stockbridge High School report on what educational opportunity and coming of age in rural Michigan looks like from their perspective. 

Find the whole series at State of Opportunity.

2:05 pm
Sat February 9, 2013

Should Michigan make learning a foreign language optional?

Habla Espanol? Parlez-vous Français? Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Parli Italiano?

A bill in the state legislature would drop the foreign language requirement in Michigan high schools.

State Representative Phil Potvin dismisses the suggestion that learning a foreign language will better prepare Michigan teens for a globalized economy. He says the requirement has the opposite effect. Potvin says the foreign language requirement pushes kids to drop out of school.

“It’s forcing kids into frustration…it’s forcing kids into failure….at a time that I thought we were here to set up success,” says Potvin.

Read more
1:58 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

Michigan asks federal government to stop schools using American Indians as mascots

Some of the school signs and images listed in the complaint.
Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education asking the federal agency to issue an order prohibiting the continued use American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, slogans, chants and/or imagery.

MDCR's complaint asserts that there is new research which clearly establishes the use of American Indian imagery "negatively impacts student learning," and creates "an unequal learning environment in violation of Article VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

From the complaint:

"A growing and unrebutted body of evidence now establishes that the use of American Indian imagery reinforces stereotypes in a way that negatively impacts the potential for achievement by students with American Indian ancestry," the filing argues. "Continued use of American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, logos, slogans, chants and/or other imagery creates a hostile environment and denies equal rights to all current and future American Indian students and must therefore cease."

Read more
10:17 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Detroit charter school teachers vote to unionize

The Cesar Chavez Academy high school campus in Detroit

Teachers in Detroit's largest charter school district voted last night to be represented by a union.

Cesar Chavez Academy teachers and staff voted two to one to have a unit of the American Federation of Teachers represent them.

Only a small number of Michigan’s charter schools have unionized employees.

Nate Walker is with the AFT. He expects teachers in some other Michigan charter schools will also unionize this year.