Education

User Motown31 / Creative Commons

There is much at stake for the Michigan Education Association in these waning days of August.

That's because teachers and school workers who are MEA members have until Sunday to decide whether to remain in their union.

Dave Eggert covers Lansing for the Associated Press. He says this is a big litmus test for right-to-work in Michigan because the MEA is Michigan’s largest public sector union. There's a one-month window every year to allow members to opt out.

There are 112,000 active members. There isn’t an estimate on how many may opt out this month. Last year, only about 1,500 members left during the opt-out window.

Read Dave Eggert's story in the Detroit News here

*Listen to the full interview with Dave Eggert above. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

When the final bell rings, students stream out of Lansing’s three public high schools. And sometimes that’s when the trouble begins.

In 2013, an after-school shooting outside Lansing’s Sexton High School injured four students.

City officials are hoping a new team of volunteers may help head off problems in the future. 

Police Chief Mike Yankowski says the “school watch” program will operate similar to a “neighborhood watch”, keeping an eye out for trouble during the hours after school.

Detroit Public Schools

After a public outcry, the Detroit Public Schools is walking back plans to cut teacher pay and boost class sizes.

The district is battling a $127 million deficit, and the Michigan Department of Education approved its revised deficit elimination plan last week.

It called for cutting teachers’ pay by 10% (on top of another 10% pay cut imposed in 2011), and putting up to 43 students in some classrooms.

And suddenly, "sudden" became a noun

Aug 24, 2014

Maybe you've done this: You have an acquaintance who's a specialist of some sort – like a doctor or a mechanic – and you ask for their advice, even though they're not on the job.

That often happens to University of English professor Anne Curzan. She specializes in linguistics, so when someone asks her the origin of a word or why its use has changed, she becomes a language detective.

Recently, a neighbor asked Curzan about how the word "sudden" became a noun, as in "all of a sudden."

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Eighteen new charter schools are opening up in Michigan this year.

And while some of them haven’t even had their first day of school, they’re already in the midst of their first controversy.

The state superintendent’s “naughty list”

In Michigan, charter schools have to be "authorized" – usually it's a public university that does that.

But last week the state superintendent put out his version of the “naughty list:” 11 authorizers that could lose their authorizing powers, because of transparency and oversight issues.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A state emergency loan board  agreed to lend the Detroit Public Schools $111 million to make up for a funding shortfall, on the same day state schools superintendent Mike Flanagan approved the district's new deficit elimination plan.

The state expects to lend about 200 school districts money to help them start the school year. That is normal in Michigan, which doesn’t send its first school aid payments until October.

But in Detroit, the process has pitted the school board in the state’s largest district against its emergency manager.

Sharon Drummond / Flickr

A state loan board will choose between two competing proposals to give a short-term bridge loan to the Detroit Public Schools. One is from the district’s emergency manager. The other is an alternative proposed by the school board.

The district is under the control of an emergency manager while it digs out of a deficit. The district’s teachers are opposing a plan to close 24 schools and cut their pay by 10%. This would be the second round of pay cuts for Detroit teachers.

Gov. Rick Snyder says the district’s troubles require tough choices.

Outside Bagley Elementary in Detroit.
DPS

Michigan education officials approved a plan by Detroit Public Schools to cut teachers' pay by 10%.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced today that he signed off on the district's five-year deficit elimination plan.

The Detroit Public School district has been in financial trouble for quite some time. DPS currently has a $127 million deficit.

The Detroit News’ Jennifer Chambers reports that school closures are also part of the plan:

The pay cut, which will impact all teachers and administrators starting Oct. 1, came after the district was forced to make budget cuts to offset expected revenues from a failed countywide tax millage. The wage concession for teachers would generate $13.3 million in savings. District wide, the savings will be $21.1 million.

The district’s financial plan also calls for the closure of 24 schools or buildings over four years, starting with the 2015-16 academic year.

In addition to the cuts, Chambers reports the state’s Local Financial Assistance Loan Board approved a plan that will allow DPS to borrow $111 million in state aid notes to pay its bills.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan school districts are gearing up for the beginning of the school year.

Many school districts are holding kickoff events, including Grand Rapids Public Schools which drew hundreds of grade-school students and parents today.

Teresa Weatherall-Neal is Grand Rapids' school superintendent. She says it’s important for parents and children to realize summer is almost over.

"We need people to now switch gears. Summer is over. We need you to start thinking about school,” says Weatherall-Neal. “It’s time to come back.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A Flint nursing program is receiving a financial boost that aims to fill a health care employment gap.

The University of Michigan-Flint is one of three schools in the state to receive nearly $700,000 dollars from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The money is to support registered nurses becoming nurse practitioners.

The grant will provide about a third of the incoming students with enough money to pay for a year's tuition and fees.

Connie Creech is the director of Flint's graduate nursing program.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More Michigan schools are meeting goals in areas such as student performance on standardized tests and graduation rates. That’s according to the state’s annual school accountability report, which was released Wednesday.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

​Michigan’s top education official says he might stop 11 charter school authorizers from opening new schools. 

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says they would be able to continue to operate the charters they already oversee. It’s a reaction to a recent Detroit Free Press series that suggested conflicts of interest, a lack of transparency, and mixed academic results in Michigan charters.

Gary Naeyaert directs the Great Lakes Education Project – a lobbying group which advocates for charter schools. He says Flanagan did not evaluate the authorizers fairly before putting them on the list.

“To take all of the students of an authorizer’s portfolio and lump them all together and treat them as if they’re one big school building, that’s just not the way that it is out there,” Naeyaert said.

Some charter school critics say Superintendent Flanagan’s warning does not go far enough. They say bad charter schools and their authorizers should be shut down right away.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The state Board of Education will urge the state Legislature to revisit Michigan’s charter school law. It’s a reaction to a recent Detroit Free Press series that suggested conflicts of interest, a lack of transparency, and mixed academic results in Michigan charters.

John Austin is the president of the state Board of Education.

“We need clarity on who’s policing the system and when they pull the trigger and who’s responsible for shutting down schools or preventing authorizers from authorizing new schools.”

State Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan says he’s already considering using his authority to stop some institutions from authorizing charters. Charter school supporters say Michigan already has some of the toughest regulations on charters in the country.

User: 21innovate / Flickr

​LANSING – Several Michigan schools are expected to get money to help transition from the traditional school calendar to a year-round calendar as part of a pilot program.

MLive.com reports the State Board of Education is set to approve grant requests for four schools at next week's meeting and two additional schools received money through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to help offset their costs.

The Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System is set to get $750,000; charter school GEE Edmonson Academy in Detroit will get $395,000; and Ypsilanti Community Schools will get $146,000.

Baldwin Community Schools and Madison District Public Schools each received $750,000 through the MEDC.

Wayne State University

Wayne State University is hoping new tuition incentives will push more students to graduate in four years.

Starting next year, Wayne State will offer some full-time students a 30% tuition discount during the spring and summer semesters.

The idea is to encourage students who may need a more staggered courseload during the regular school year to keep taking classes all year.

User: Enokson / flick

The school boards in Ann Arbor and nearby Whitmore Lake have voted to pursue Ann Arbor Public Schools' annexation of the much smaller school district to the north of the city.

Over the past few years, Whitmore Lake Public Schools has suffered steep enrollment drops as the community's population declined – and the district is moving grades out of its middle school building this fall to balance its budget.

Voters will decide the question in November. A "yes" vote in both communities would result in annexation next July.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school board last night approved a plan to eliminate its $20.4 million deficit.  

But the plan relies on the district being able to do something it has struggled to do:  retain students.

The Flint school district delivers its revised deficit elimination plan to the state Department of Education tomorrow.  The plan calls for zeroing out a $20.4 million deficit by the end of 2021.    

Jake Neher / MPRN

Michigan education officials are in the process of finding a new standardized test … again.

More than a hundred people were in Lansing Wednesday to tell the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) what they want out of a new assessment.

MDE had already chosen the Smarter Balanced assessment three years ago. But many lawmakers were not happy with that test because it’s aligned with the controversial Common Core school standards.

MichigansChildren / YouTube

There was a lengthy meeting today between the Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction and some of the state’s largest charter school authorizers. Its purpose was to review the rules to ensure the independent academies are performing as promised.

The meeting went on for about three hours. It was closed to the public, and there were few details made public. Some of the state’s largest charter authorizers, including representatives of universities and community colleges, were invited.

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

Scores from this year’s standardized test at one southwest Michigan elementary school will count after all. The state is reversing its decision to throw out the test scores after the district appealed.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

Two years ago, Muskegon Heights made history by becoming the first school district in Michigan to convert entirely to a charter district, and turn the operation of its schools over to a for-profit company. 

This week, Michigan Radio's Dustin Dwyer and Lindsey Smith take an in depth look at the changes in the Muskegon Heights School district and what that could that mean for other troubled districts in the state in a new State of Opportunity documentary called Tiger Pride.

Why focus on Muskegon Heights? How does it impact other struggling school districts in Michigan?

Dwyer and Smith joined us today to give us a preview of the documentary. 

Tune in tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm to hear Tiger Pride

Biologycorner / Creative Commons

Michigan students have been taking the same standardized test for decades. It’s known as the MEAP.

But this year the MEAP test will be completely re-done and students will take it in the spring instead of the fall. After next year, it’s not clear what test students will take.

The state was all set to switch over from the MEAP to a test called “Smarter Balanced.” But state lawmakers balked at the idea, because the test aligned to the controversial common core standards.

Lawmakers wanted the state to stick with the MEAP.

Lawmakers ordered the Michigan Department of Education to stop preparing for the Smarter Balanced Assessment and return to a revamped MEAP test.

How is this playing out for the teachers and administrators who have to teach and give this overhauled MEAP test?

William Heath is the Superintendent of the Morrice Area Schools and the Principal at Morrice Junior and Senior High School in Shiawassee County.  He said the changes have been very difficult.

“We need some consistency. We need a target to shoot at. We don’t need the target to keep moving around,” he said.

Heath said they are judged by the growth from the previous year and when the assessment changes, they don’t know how they can measure that growth.

“If we are taking different tests, it’s a weird science experiment that there is too many variables in there. It’s going to make it that much harder to realize what exactly our students know and don’t know,” Heath said.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Wikimedia Commons

More and more students in Michigan are taking five or more years to finish college and get their degrees. Ron French from Bridge Magazine has been researching this for his new article, and he talked about the trend today on Stateside. French said nationally, 31% of students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. In Michigan, 12 of the 15 public universities are below that average.

Staying in school longer is more expensive, as extra semesters add cost. French said the fifth and sixth years are usually the most expensive, because financial aid dries up after eight semesters.

“Student debt nationally is over $1 trillion now,” said French.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan is complicated.

That much is already clear to Mark Schlissel, who wraps up his first week as president of the university this week. 

It has certainly been a busy one.

gvsu.edu/techshowcase / gvsu.edu/techshowcase

How can cutting-edge new technologies be used in the classroom?

Sure, devices like Google Glass or a 3-D printer are cool.

But how can they be used to teach and to learn?

Eric Kunnen is the emerging technologies coordinator at Grand Valley State University.

"Trying to find that sweet spot there between teaching learning and technology is where we are focused and having access to the technology is one piece," Kunnen said.

Kunnen said that Google Glass could be useful in the classroom by providing hands free operations.

“Think in terms of a visual demonstration maybe in a science classroom, where you need both hands as the instructor,” Kunnen said. “Also the ability in wearing the glasses and having information on top of what you are seeing has a lot of potential as well.”

But where is the boundary in using technology for a good purpose, versus using it because it’s cool?

Kunnen said when figuring out when to use the technology, they start with trying to solve an instructional problem.

“How do we address a difficult concept that is very challenging to explain perhaps, or very difficult to visualize, and how do we apply technology to that as a solution?” Kunnen said.

An example he gave was difficulty in visualizing 3D protein molecules, but a 3D projection image could help solve that problem.

New technology are on display in Grand Valley’s Technology showcase, located in the Mary Idema Pew Library on campus.

“The concept really is to interact, learn, discover, and share how technology can transform teaching and learning at the university,’ Kunnen said.

*Listen to full interview above. 

Instead of using "right" and "wrong" to describe Standard American English versus African-American English, Craig’s model uses "formal" and "informal" designations, so there’s no judgment attached to either language.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A state review team is hosting a public meeting today in Benton Harbor. The six-member team is trying to determine if Benton Harbor Area Schools is in financial stress.

The Benton Harbor school district has been running a deficit since 2006. It's cut costs, but at the same time, it also has low-performing schools that need to improve test scores to meet state and federal standards. Plus, it’s lost students every year.

It’s already closed buildings, privatized support services and gotten concessions in wages and benefits from teachers.

MichigansChildren / YouTube

Michigan’s schools superintendent wants to meet with charter school authorizers and advocacy groups this month as he figures out a way to hold them more accountable.

The vast majority of Michigan’s charter schools are set up by Central Michigan University, Grand Valley State University and Bay Mills Community College.

Earlier this month State Superintendent Mike Flanagan warned these and other entities, known as charter school authorizers, that he was not going to allow them to open new schools if their existing schools “do not measure up.”

Flanagan is concerned some charter authorizers aren’t being held accountable for the schools they run, academically or financially.

A state Department of Education spokesman said charter authorizers and other interested parties were invited to meet privately with Flanagan later this month to discuss his concerns.

Authorizers have come under scrutiny in the wake of a big investigative report the Detroit Free Press published earlier this month.

The report found some charter schools run by for-profit management companies aren’t transparent about how they spend taxpayer money.

Flanagan said the report and a meeting he had with charter advocates earlier this year have prompted him to make charter authorizers more accountable for the schools they set up.

University of Michigan

A group of doctors and researchers is getting in on the Ann Arbor Art Fair fun this week. 

The program is called Bioartography. Faculty and staff across the university submit images of cells and tissue from their research labs.

The images are photoshopped to add bright colors and patterns. The winning prints are then sold. All proceeds go to help graduate students and post-docs travel to medical conferences.

Dr. Deborah Gumucio helped develop the fundraiser in 2005. She said roughly $40,000 to $50,000 has been collected over the past nine years. That's been enough to give more than 80 students $500 travel awards.  

"It’s really important to get out to the public to tell them about what we do," said Gumucio. "How our work with the fruit fly and work with yeast, for example, can make huge differences in human health."

The prints are a representation of the intersection between art and science. 

They will be sold at the Ann Arbor Art Fair this week. They're also for sale online. 

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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