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A state panel will be named soon to look into improving Michigan’s dismal literacy rate. Governor Rick Snyder signed an executive order Wednesday creating the new PreK-12 Literacy Commission.

Michigan has one of the nation’s worst literacy rates. It’s ranked 40th when it comes to student literacy in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Allen Academy is unimstakably a former Catholic church.
Allen Academy / via Facebook

How do you decide if a so-called “failing” school should shut down, and is there a right way to do it?

Three Detroit charter schools shut their doors forever at the end of this school year.

One of them, Allen Academy, was one of the city’s very first charters. And its closure leaves a wake of upheaval.

"The kids are going to be better off"

The ornate, red-brick complex on Detroit’s west side is unmistakably an old Catholic church.

The Saint Theresa of Avila parish closed in the 1980s. Since 1999, it’s been Allen Academy.

“When we defer [capital expenditure] or investment in a school district, we’re knowingly ensuring that our students won’t keep up with their peers across the state or the country or the world,” Saunders said.
wikimedia user motown31 / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

Michigan school boards are facing a dearth of candidates in the November election. Nearly 1,600 seats will open up in 540 districts across the state. Yet, in the 2014 elections, approximately 70 seats remained empty. Why are people so reluctant to serve on their school boards?

Pre school classroom
FLICKER USER BLOOMBERRIES / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

For working parents with young children, child care is not a luxury. It's a necessity. But for many low-income families in Michigan, it's out of reach.

Consider this: it costs around $10,000 a year to send a toddler to high-quality child care.

That is almost as much as it costs to send a kid to college at a public university.

A student inmate reads in class
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

For a convicted felon, getting a shot at an education might begin in prison.

Typically that means job training or a GED.

But a new program offers something more often associated with quiet campuses and ivy-covered walls.

The Calvin Prison Initiative is bringing the liberal arts and theology to inmates at a west Michigan prison.

According to Moran, the statistics prove that African Americans are more likely to be wrongfully convicted than white people.
flickr user Thomas Hawk / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There are 2.2 million people now incarcerated in American prisons. 

Each year, hundreds of thousands of those inmates are released.

One of the most important ways of keeping them from re-offending and winding up back in prison is education. 

College graduates
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

According to a new report, it’s taking Michigan students more than four years to get a four-year degree.

The state’s Center for Educational Performance and Information has released its first report on postsecondary success rates for students at Michigan public universities and community colleges.

Children
Credit Flickr user Herald Post/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

Who are Michigan's homeless students? And how does being homeless affect their education?

These are crucial questions for the state, as education plays an important role in homeless students' ability to escape the chains of poverty and homelessness.

Joshua Cowen is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University. He recently published a study examining these important questions. His study reveals exactly who Michigan's homeless students are and where they come from. It also reveals how homelessness affects a students performance in schools.

Photo courtesy of Sean Ahlquist, University of Michigan

The Next Idea

For a child on the autism spectrum, there can be challenges to learning and engaging with the world.

Our latest contributors to The Next Idea are Sean Ahlquist and Leah Ketcheson. They're on a team from the University of Michigan that's developing exciting new technologies to help autistic children tackle those challenges.

Dorothy Aldridge and Sylvia Morgan in front of an exhibit at the National Civil Rights Museum​ in Memphis​ showcasing Detroit activist Viola Liuzzo, who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan while driving black voting rights activists between Selma and Montgom
Eric L. Hood

How do you get students to really appreciate history?

One powerful way is to get those students out of the classroom and take them to historic sites, bringing that history off the page and making it real.

That's the idea behind the Freedom Tour. 

According to the International Dyslexia Association, as much as 20% of Americans have some symptoms of dyslexia.
pixabay user picjumbo / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

By the time they leave kindergarten, kids are supposed to have learned the building blocks of literacy. 

They should be able to connect letters to sounds and spell simple words like "cat" and "book."

But for an estimated one in five children with dyslexia, those basic skills aren't so easy to master.

Flickr user Brian Turner/Flickr
HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

A group says free speech is threatened on college campuses.

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, rates colleges and universities based on how they restrict free speech.

Its mission is “to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities.”

That includes protecting freedom of speech, freedom of the press, due process and more.

Shelby Emmett, Legal and Legislative Policy Advocate for FIRE, said she views the group as an “empowerment organization for students.”

DPS EM Steven Rhodes, center, takes notes at a meeting with Detroit's elected school board.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools’ board of education met for the final time ever on Thursday.

The board has very little to do now as part of the "old,” debt-ridden DPS.

It will be replaced by a “new” district, run by a “transition manager”—currently the district’s last emergency manager, Judge Steven Rhodes.

Gov. Snyder just signed bills setting up this bankruptcy-style restructuring just last week.

A new charter school in Whitmore Lake offers a "classical education" and a Hillsdale College connection
Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A long-awaited, state-sponsored study has put a minimum price tag on what it takes to educate the average Michigan public school student.

The Michigan Education Finance Study set out to answer a simple question: How much money does it take to educate a student that’s proficient by state standards, every year?

Finding the answer, it turns out, is complicated.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Three Michigan colleges will participate in a program to give inmates a chance at higher education.

Jackson College, Delta College and Mott Community College were selected to participate in The U.S. Department of Education's Second Chance Pell Pilot Program. 

It hopes to give prisoners a college education.

Chris Gautz is a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections and he says Michigan has been on the forefront of educating its inmates. 

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Three Detroit charter schools are closing and two are merging this year, adding to the school turnover and churn families in that city are seeing.

One of the larger charters, Allen Academy, is being shut down because of poor academic performance.

“The test scores over the last several years, they’ve been outperformed by the resident district, Detroit Public Schools,” says Ron Rizzo, director of the Charter Schools Office at Ferris State University, which authorized Allen Academy.

Today's the day that will largely determine you school district's funding for the next year.
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Members of the Detroit Board of Education have voted to reject a set of state-proposed loans to help bail-out the struggling district.

Last week, Governor Snyder signed off on a $617 million package to create a new, debt-free Detroit school system. The two rejected loans are part of the state's bail-out plan and total $385 million.

Board president LaMar Lemmons says the interest rates on the loans are too high.

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

Governor Rick Snyder traveled to a middle school in Oakland County to sign a $16 billion education budget for the coming fiscal year. He approved it despite questions over a provision that sends money to private and religious schools.

FLICKR USER ALBERTO G./FLICKR / HTTPS://FLIC.KR/P/91DHSU

 

It was not long ago that serious questions were raised about how well Michigan's education schools were preparing their students to be teachers.

 

Critics pointed to the teacher certification test, which had a pass rate of 82 percent statewide. Prospective teachers were passing their exams at the same level as those seeking a cosmetology license.

 

A workshop of Mayan women learning about solar power.
Courtesy of Appropriate Technology Collaborative

 

The Mayan population in Guatemala is one of the largest indigenous population in the Americas. Yet many of the Mayan families don’t even have basic electricity.

The Appropriate Technology Collaborative is trying to bring light to rural Guatemala. Their Mayan Power and Light Project hopes to empower Mayan women to develop sustainable energy solutions and help them create small businesses. The program teaches Mayan women about solar energy and how to install solar energy panels, along with assistance in business development.

Does an oxford comma clutter up a sentence? The debate rages on.
Rasmus Olsen / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Whether you love it or hate it, the oxford comma evokes some pretty strong feelings – both among people who study language and the rest of us. 

Why?

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Around 90% of a child's brain is already developed by the time they are five years old.

And that means the learning that takes place before a kid even reaches kindergarten can have a lifelong impact.

DPS emergency manager Steven Rhodes.
John Meiu / Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC

At a public meeting Thursday, Detroit Public Schools leaders tried to reassure still-nervous teachers and parents there should be a “seamless” transition to a new school district in the city.

Governor Snyder signed bills splitting the old Detroit school district in two this week.

Those bills create an “old” district, which will remain a legal entity solely to pay off existing debts; and a new, yet-to-be-named entity that will take over running schools and educating children.

DPS website

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a $617 million bailout of the Detroit Public Schools – which he says represents a fresh start for the financially and academically struggling district.

The plan creates a new debt-free Detroit school district, which will focus on educating the district’s 46,000 students while the old district pays down the old debt. 

The bills signed by the governor also return control of the district to a locally elected school board following seven years of state control that saw it sink deeper into debt.

Stateside 6.21.2016

Jun 21, 2016

On our show today, school board veterans reflect on changes to Michigan education. And, we hear how the EA Sports FIFA video game has helped make soccer more popular in the United States.

A new charter school in Whitmore Lake offers a "classical education" and a Hillsdale College connection
Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Most Michigan school districts operating at a deficit are making progress in balancing their budgets, according to the latest quarterly deficit report submitted to the state legislature by the Michigan Department of Education. 

Of the 40 schools that began the 2016 fiscal year with operating deficits, 18 project they'll be deficit-free by the end of June, and another 15 are planning on reducing their deficits by the end of the fiscal year.

Gary Jensen
State of Michigan

For the first time, Michigan’s State School Reform/Redesign office has appointed a CEO to take over some low-performing schools in one district.

That’s despite an ongoing lawsuit by district officials to stop the state intervention.

Gary Jensen will take control of four “chronically underperforming” East Detroit Public Schools. The district has seven schools altogether.

Jensen was named Michigan’s Principal of the Year in 2014. He’s credited with leading an academic turnaround at Lakeview High School in Montcalm County.

Yahad-In Unum

This week Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill adding genocide instruction to social studies curriculum in eighth grade through high school.

Most people are aware of the Holocaust, in which Germans murdered millions of people during World War II.

A lot of instruction around that event concentrates on the death camps, some of which had gas chambers where Jews and others were killed.

In their report, Mike Wilkinson and Chastity Pratt Dawsey call school choice Detroit's new white flight
flickr user frank juarez / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The bailout of the Detroit Public Schools passed by the legislature and awaiting Gov. Rick Snyder's signature includes a provision to allow uncertified teachers.

Those who support the move say that it would help address a growing teacher shortage and allow more professionals who have a passion for teaching to enter the classroom. Detractors say that it discredits the skill and craft of teaching and is just a political move to weaken teachers' unions. 

Flickr user Michigan Municipal League (MML)/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Detroit Public Schools could soon return under the control of an elected school board and become debt-free if Gov. Snyder signs the bailout package approved by Michigan senators last week. Reaction to the legislation has been mixed, and one of the district's veteran teachers is speaking up.

Asenath Jones is a world history teacher at Cass Technical High School. She told Stateside that DPS teachers watched the district’s debt accumulate firsthand.

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