Education

Education
6:01 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

Detroit teachers' union threatens to sue over re-hire process

WzrdsRule flickr

The Detroit Federation of Teachers is threatening a lawsuit that could force a legal showdown over Michigan's new teacher tenure law.

The union says Detroit Public Schools' process for re-hiring teachers this fall violates the union's contract.

The district has issued layoff notices to all its teachers. It will re-hire them based in part on performance evaluations.

Union President Keith Johnson says under its 2009 contract, the district and the union were supposed to come up with an evaluation tool together.

But Johnson says instead, district officials are now conducting what he calls "drive-by evaluations."

"It pretty much involves principals or even retired principals going into a teacher's classroom, staying for as little as four minutes, and then determining whether or not that teacher was effective, ineffective, minimally effective or whatever the case may have been."

Under Michigan's new tenure law, teachers are rated on a scale from highly effective to ineffective.

But Johnson says seniority can still be considered. He says if the district ignores that, he'll go to court.

A district spokesman says it's complying with the law and current collective bargaining agreements.

 

Education
11:16 am
Fri May 25, 2012

MSU offers bachelor's program to community college nursing students

taliesin MorgueFile

Nursing students at two community colleges in Michigan will be able to work toward their bachelor's degree under a new agreement with Michigan State University. 

MSU says the collaboration with Lansing and Macomb County Community Colleges will let nursing students enroll in two summer sessions at MSU while simultaneously finishing their associate degree program.

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Education
11:09 am
Fri May 25, 2012

A Michigan school district may be completely replaced by charter schools

Muskegon Heights High School

The Muskegon Heights School District could be completely turned over to charter schools this fall.   That would be a first in the state of Michigan.   

The district’s emergency manager is submitting his plan to replace the entire school district with charter schools with the state Treasury and Education Departments today.  He says that’s the only way to get the district out of its financial crisis.

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Education
7:25 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Flint school district laying off hundreds of teachers

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - The Flint school board has voted to lay off 237 teachers as part of an effort to eliminate an estimated $20 million deficit for the coming year.

The board voted Tuesday to lay off 108 elementary and 129 secondary school teachers.

Earlier this month, Mlive.com (http://bit.ly/JnOdC1 ) says the board voted to close both middle schools, along with Bunche and Summerfield elementary schools.

Education
4:00 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

Urban Forest Stewardship Program wraps up first year in Detroit

Belle Isle Nature Zoo Manager Mike Reed shows off a new nature trail DPS students helped clear.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Some Detroit Public Schools students involved in the Urban Forest Stewardship Program showed off their work this past weekend.

Eight Detroit middle and high schools participated in the program on Belle Isle this year.

Their projects included beach clean-ups, water quality testing, invasive species control, and clearing a new nature trail.

Tracy Ortiz, a sixth-grade science teacher at Detroit’s Clippert Academy, says the projects have introduced many of her students many of her students to natural world—and taught them science in a way that sticks.

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Education
5:02 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Flint to consolidate middle, high schools

Flint Community Schools today announced it will consolidate all of its middle and high schools.

Superintendent Linda Thompson says there will be three schools for seventh through 12th graders.

Thompson says the plan will benefit younger students because they'll have access to higher-level language, math and science teachers and labs.

Some parents expressed concerns about younger students' exposure to upperclassmen, but Thompson says the district has a plan to avoid that.

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Education
5:29 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Debt collectors pursue more unpaid student loans in Michigan

hmm360 MorgueFile

Michigan students who default on their college loans are more likely to be sued in federal court.

That's according to a Syracuse University study, which shows the eastern half Michigan has the second highest rate per-capita of suits against students who don't pay their loans.

Dorothy Barrick is with GreenPath Debt Solutions of Farmington Hills.  She says ignoring the debt just makes things worse.

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Education
5:22 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Muskegon Heights schools emergency manager send out 158 pink slips

Three members of the Muskegon Heights’ school board have resigned, the same day the district’s emergency manager also announced he’s laying off more than 150 employees.

This is the second week on the job for the emergency manager of Muskegon Heights schools. On Wednesday, Don Weatherspoon made two announcements; that he’s delivered pink slips to 158 employees – including teachers, administrators and support staff. And two, that he’s accepted the resignations of three members of the school board.

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Education
1:44 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Kindergartners in Grand Ledge, Michigan are getting iPads

Lexie Flickinger Flickr

All 370 kindergartners entering the Grand Ledge school district will get an iPad next year.

Students will be able to use the devices for their first few years of school for spelling and math lessons. 

Superintendent of Grand Ledge schools Brian Metcalf said the kindergartners will use the iPads until second grade.

"We're really focused on the younger students with the iPad because it does not require the use of a keyboard," said Metcalf. "A touch screen allows the youngest children that do not have the well-developed motor skills to navigate with ease."

Metcalf said each iPad will also be customized to meet every kindergartner's needs.

"The students coming to us now are what we are calling digital natives and the iPads really provide lots of different apps to reach each and every student," said Metcalf.

Metcalf said the district is working with one company that programs apps based on students' test score results and other information.

- Emily Fox, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Education
5:59 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Teacher retirement fund needs help

There’s an ongoing debate about how to sustainably fund the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System.

According the Bridge Magazine, an online publication of the Center for Michigan, the retirement system is underfunded by $45 billion.

Bridge Magazine staff writer, Nancy Derringer, has taken an in-depth look at this issue.

Derringer notes that Senate bill 1040 would change the way the retirement system is funded. "If you are a new employee your contribution to the retire system would increase to 8%. And they currently pay 3 and 6.2 % of their salary. And then if you are a retiree you currently have your health care premiums 90% paid by the state and you pay 10%, that would switch to 80/20."

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Education
4:10 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Pontiac school finances face state scrutiny

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan
Michigan.gov

The state is set to take a preliminary look at the financial situation of Pontiac's public schools, a step that could eventually lead to the appointment of an emergency manager.

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Newsmaker Interview
8:33 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

More cyber schools for Michigan?

SpecialKRB / flickr

The State House recently passed legislation that would allow an increase in the number of Michigan cyber schools.

Cyber schools provide instruction via the internet. There are two currently operating in Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Republican State Representative Dale Zorn. He voted in favor of the legislation after promising to vote against it.

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Education
2:56 pm
Sun April 29, 2012

New anti-bullying book

Students at Michigan State University have published a book about bullying in the age of social media. The book is a project of an advanced undergraduate journalism course on the East Lansing campus.

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Education
7:00 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Detroit students suspended over walkout start "Freedom School"

Western and Southwestern High School students staged a walkout Wednesday
via ourvoicessouthwestdetroit.tumblr.com

More than 100 students were suspended from Detroit’s Western International High School this week.

Those students were part of a group that walked out of school to protest district policies, and what they say is a poor-quality education.

Now, some of the students are setting up what they’re calling a “freedom school” to attend while they’re suspended.

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Education
2:55 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

U of M, Focus Hope team up on Detroit community development inititaive

Detroit skyline
user Bernt Rostad creative commons

Focus Hope, a well-known social services organization in Detroit, has spent decades providing food, career training and other services to people throughout southeast Michigan.

Now the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute is kicking in roughly $200,000 to help the nonprofit with its Focus Hope Village Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to transform the 100-block area around the Focus Hope campus, where thousands live at or below the poverty line.

John Callewaert is leading the U of M side of things. He says they’ll be working on six projects ranging from legal issues around vacant land to developing playgrounds to "moving towards college readiness" within the community.

He says the strategies developed could be used as a model for other areas with "lots of open space and economic decline." 

According to Focus Hope, their Village Initiative is based on a successful model being used in New York:

This initiative is inspired by the adage that it "takes a village to raise a child.” Much like the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, the HOPE Village Initiative will bring together whatever resources are necessary to transform our community. Already, parents, businesses, retirees, educators, block clubs and others are working together to create opportunities for our children.

Each of the six projects will receive up to $30,000 over 18 months.

Education
6:51 pm
Sun April 22, 2012

Campus safety after Virginia Tech

Flickr/York College of PA

The shootings at Virginia Tech happened five years ago this month. That event caused many colleges and universities to reevaluate safety issues on campus.

Pat Gotschalk is associate dean of students at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.  She says after the Virginia Tech shooting, her university created what they call an “early intervention team.” The team is made up of staff members who identify students who may be struggling.

Gotschalk says originally the team looked for students with academic problems. But over time, they’ve broadened their focus. She says now they deal with students struggling with behavioral, conduct, mental health, or adjustment issues.

The team reaches out to about one-hundred students each year and helps connect students with counselors or support services. Gotschalk says most large schools and universities have programs that are similar.

Education
5:02 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Madison Heights teachers get 10% retroactive pay cut, may sue district

user kconnors morgueFile

A public school district in Oakland County imposed a ten percent pay cut on its teachers retroactive to the start of the school year.

Now it is likely the teachers will sue the district.

Teachers in the Madison Heights school district have been working without a contract for three years. In that time there’s been lots of bargaining, a fact finding mission, mediation - but to no avail.

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Education
4:31 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

Ann Arbor schools face $17.8 million budget deficit

user jdurham morgueFile

Michigan school districts are struggling with growing budget deficits. Even relatively wealthy districts are facing unprecedented cuts.

The Ann Arbor Public School district faces a $17.8 million deficit. The district's budget for the 2011-12 school year is $183 million. 

Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen met with the district's Board of Education on Wednesday, where he laid out three possible plans to deal with the deficit in Ann Arbor – each one progressively more severe. 

All three proposals include:

  • teacher layoffs: Plan A: 32 teachers; Plan B: 48 teachers; Plan C: 64 teachers
  • closing Roberto Clemente, one of two alternative high schools in the district
  • cuts to transportation*

*Plan C calls for getting rid of high school bus routes entirely.

Ann Arbor School Board president Deb Mexicotte says the cuts are "reaching the bone," and "if you keep cutting, you’re going to reach the place where you can no longer maintain what you do well."

Mexicotte blames the state for what she says its chronic under-funding of education:

"This is not the story of our smallest districts or our districts that have struggled because of their tax revenue package. We’re talking about districts that people generally think are insulated from these kinds of things." She adds, "we’re all in this together."

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Education
10:34 am
Thu April 19, 2012

Muskegon Heights schools 3rd district with emergency manager

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed Donald Weatherspoon to run the Muskegon Heights school district. The appointment is effective Monday, April 23rd. A link to the governor's press release is here.

Dr. Weatherspoon has spent the past 27 years working in the education community, both as a professor at Michigan State University and as a government executive, and currently serves on the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

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Education
6:06 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

U of M grad students challenge ban on forming unions

Members of the Graduate Employees Organization picketing on the North Campus of the University of Michigan in 2008.
U of M GEO

The issue of whether or not certain University of Michigan graduate students can unionize is back in the news.

Two graduate students at the University of Michigan have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in an effort to overturn a new state law that prohibits U of M graduate student research assistants, or GSRAs, from collective bargaining.

Public Act 45 effectively says GSRAs are primarily students, not public employees, and therefore don’t have the right to form a union.

Sam Montgomery is with the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), a labor union at U of M. She says the law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. constitution:

"It singles out this group of individuals and withholds them from a right that is granted to other public employees without giving a rational based in fact as to why they are not employees."

Last May, the U of M Board of Regents voted 6 to 2 to recognize the university's roughly 2,200 GSRAs as public employees with the right to vote to form a union.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission found otherwise in a 1981 ruling. The Commission was in the middle of holding its own administrative hearing on the issue when Governor Snyder signed Public Act 45 into law.

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