Education

Tim Melton / Tim Melton

All teachers in Michigan may be evaluated based on the success of their students.

That’s the goal of legislation introduced by state representative Tim Melton this week. He wants student achievement to be 50 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says the state will take a dramatically new to approach to its worst schools--starting in Detroit.

Years of turmoil and power struggles over the Detroit Public Schools have left a polarizing legacy in the city. That history has left many Detroiters absorbing Snyder’s plan with a cautious sense of déjà vu.

flickr/ iboy_daniel

Michigan will try a drastic new approach to fix its failing public schools. The state will put what it designates as “persistently low-performing schools” in a special, statewide school district.

The effort will start in Detroit. The city’s public school system has gained national attention for its rock-bottom test scores and budget deficit. In fact, the school district is currently under an emergency manager.

Eastern Michigan University has been picked to oversee the lowest performing schools in the state.

The “Education Achievement System” will assist the lowest 5 percent of performing schools in Michigan. The new statewide school district will start in Detroit and eventually expand across the state. 

Jeoff Larcom is with EMU. He says Governor Snyder chose EMU because of its strong education program and proximity to Detroit.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A decision on the future of Grand Rapids Public Schools’ superintendent has been delayed again.

Despite no comments from the school board, several residents and parents talked about Taylor’s future. Tyrone Bynum admits he has not always gotten along with Taylor.

“My focus is what’s good for the kids. And I think we’ve got a winning team. And we can’t afford right now a new superintendent with paying that one and him too…this brother is expensive,” Bynum chuckled.

If they chose the option - it would cost Grand Rapids schools around $1 million dollars to buy out the remaining four year of Taylor’s contract.

The school board met twice Monday, once in a private morning meeting and a public one later in the evening. They did not approve Taylor’s evaluation for last school year or discuss the fact that’s he’s applied for jobs at other school districts.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Michigan will try a drastic new approach to fix its failing public schools.

The state will put what it designates as “persistently low-performing schools” in a special, statewide school district.

The effort will start in Detroit. The city’s public school system has gained national notoriety for its rock-bottom test scores, and is already run by a state-appointed emergency manager.

That manager will jumpstart the effort to put some Detroit schools in what the state is calling an “Educational Achievement System” starting in the fall of 2012.

Governor Rick Snyder, state Superintendent Mike Flanagan and Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts are scheduled to make an announcement regarding school reform later this morning in Detroit. The Detroit Free Press reports:

Gov. Rick Snyder will create an authority to run several failing Detroit public schools as part of sweeping changes to be announced today for the city's struggling school system, sources said Sunday.

The plan would restructure the failing Detroit Public Schools, which has a $327-million deficit on an operating budget of about $1.5 billion, by moving its underperforming schools under an authority to be run by the district's emergency manager, Roy Roberts, according to sources. Schools would qualify for the new system if they are deemed below certain academic standards by the Michigan Department of Education…

It's unclear exactly how many DPS schools would be transferred to a new authority. DPS already has a program under way that would close or convert to charter about half its schools.

Under the plan to be announced Monday, DPS schools not labeled as underperforming would remain under the authority of Roberts, a former top executive at General Motors, in the same manner as they are today. There are no plans to dissolve the school board, sources said.

Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, is scheduled to take part in the announcement via a live feed from Washington, D.C..

user: jdurham / morgueFile

Update 10:58 a.m.

Michigan State University trustees voted this morning to raise tuition by 6.9% for resident undergraduates, which translates to a nearly $800 increase for full time, in-state students.

10:29 a.m.

If you attend one of Michigan's 15 public universities, chances are you'll see your tuition costs go up for the 2011-12 school year.

Several universities have already announced tuition hikes. Here's a roundup of the schools that have voted so far:

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

School is out for the summer in Detroit. And for several schools in the cash-strapped district, classes are done forever.

Until today, that was the story at Catherine Ferguson Academy – an award-winning school for pregnant teens and young moms.

Changing the storyline

Preparations were under way at Catherine Ferguson Academy in the morning for a big rally to protest the school’s closure. Students were milling around in the hallways. Some were making signs. Across town, protestors were getting on a bus to join the demonstration.

How much does it cost to educate a child in Michigan?

The answer to that question is causing controversy for Gov. Rick Snyder.

Greenhills School -- where Gov. Snyder's daughter attends -- in Ann Arbor released a video asking for donations. In the video, officials from Greenhills claim that $20,000 per year per student isn't enough to keep the school running.

Michigan public schools receive an average of $6,846 per year per student, and that number has dropped since Gov. Snyder took office.

From the Michigan Messenger:

As the debate over deep cuts to the state’s per pupil allowance in education funding continues, Greenhills School in Ann Arbor has released a fundraising video in which school officials say the $20,000 per year tuition per student is not enough to keep the school running.

The video features students and faculty from the school, where Gov. Rick Snyder sends his daughter, reading from a script and saying that money raised from an annual auction was necessary to keep the school going. One student, who is not identified, says, “Tuition alone does not cover the costs of a Greenhills education.”

The video asks viewers to consider a donation of “$10,000, $500 or $50″ to help the school defray the school’s operational costs.

At the same time that the school to which Snyder sends his own child can’t make ends meet with funding of $20,000 per pupil, the governor recently pushed through and signed legislation that cuts per pupil public school funding by $370 per student, bringing state funding to $6,846 per student. Some schools could qualify for an additional $100 per student if they adopt what Snyder and GOP lawmakers call “best practices.” Those practices include reducing employee costs by forcing an increase in insurance cost sharing and privatizing or consolidating some services.

According to an opinion piece from the Battle Creek Examiner, academic and athletic facilities at Greenhills include Smartboard technology in all classrooms, a state-of-the-art theater, an indoor batting cage, a climbing wall, and a weather station. The average class size is 15 students and the school scores 100 percent college entrance rate for graduates.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Mark Wolfe / FEMA

Since he left office in 2008, former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush has been heading up the nonprofit Foundation for Excellence in Education.

The foundation's goal is to "ignite a movement of reform, state by state, to transform education for the 21st century."

Today, Bush is in the state of Michigan.

Governor Snyder's office reports that Snyder and Bush will meet with Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger, and Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan at 11:30 a.m. this morning today to discuss education reforms.

From the Associated Press:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is coming to Michigan to meet with Republican leaders and testify about how he thinks states should change how they approach education....

Bush will testify before the Senate-House Education Committee Wednesday morning. He'll also join Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, state superintendent Mike Flanagan and the House and Senate GOP leaders for a news conference to discuss education improvements.

Snyder outlined a sweeping education proposal this spring that included new rules for teacher tenure, anti-bullying legislation and new ways for students to start taking college classes as early as the ninth grade. Lawmakers are working on the changes.

The good news: "At all grades, the average U.S. history scores in 2010 were higher than the scores in 1994, and the score for eighth-graders was also higher than in 2006."

The bad news: "Less than one-quarter of students perform at or above the 'proficient' level in 2010."

That's the word this morning from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, part of the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Members of the Grand Rapids School board discussed their superintendent’s future with the district for more than 8 hours Monday night. The discussions were not open to the public.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor was a recent finalist for two open positions at other school districts. He says he wants to lead a school district that’s more prepared for aggressive reform to improve student achievement.

Grand Rapids resident Fred Dryg says he’d like Taylor to stay, despite the tension.

Teacher Tenure

Jun 10, 2011

Everybody whose life has been at all successful has had at least one really good teacher. But most people have had some really bad teachers too. In high school, I had an algebra teacher during the last hour of the day who gave out assignments and promptly left for the racetrack. As far as I know, he was never fired.

On the other hand, there are many good teachers. I was married to one whose students topped the state, year after year, in their performance on the AP history exam. I don’t think she ever worked less than 70 hours a week.

The Ann Arbor school board passed its budget last night which eliminated teaching positions.

Kyle Feldscher from Annarbor.com reports:

Trustees passed the $183 million budget by a 5-2 vote, filling a deficit that eventually grew to about $16 million. The budget originally included the elimination of high school transportation and 70 full-time teacher positions. The final budget passed Wednesday included high school transportation and eliminated 62.3 full-time teacher positions.

Feldscher reports that teacher layoffs are not expected:

The budget includes no layoffs of full-time teachers, with all of the position reductions coming through attrition and negotiations with the Ann Arbor Education Association.

user: jdurham / morguefile

Professors at the University of Michigan plan to launch a statewide study of Michigan’s charter schools.

One criticism of past charter studies is that the data is skewed because they compare apples to oranges; since charter school participation is voluntary, some worry the kids who sign up for charter schools have different characteristics than those who attend traditional schools.

American Federation of Teachers

The leader of the nation’s second-largest teacher’s union made a pitch for empowering teachers in Detroit.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten toured Palmer Park Preparatory Academy. The district says the school has been transformed for the better in the past year, since teachers took control of most school functions, including the budget and curriculum.

The AFT touts the school’s success as “a model of successful union-district collaboration and teacher accountability.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids public school board will consider whether their superintendent should continue with the district. Superintendent Bernard Taylor was passed up for job at another school district today. This is the second time this year Taylor was considered as a finalist for another job.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Cleveland Metropolitan school district selected an internal candidate to be the next CEO at a special meeting this morning. Grand Rapids Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor was a finalist for the opening.

It was the second time this year Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor became a finalist for a job opening at another school district.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids Public School Board has a unique policy. People who want to talk about something that’s not already on the agenda must sign up 5 days ahead of time, and explain to officials what they want to discuss.

Opponents of the policy say it intimidates people from expressing their concerns.

A special committee recommended the board get rid of the advance sign up requirement. But the comments will not be televised.

This fall Grand Rapids Public Schools will be able to avoid cuts to transportation, art and music. But Michigan’s third largest school district will eliminate close to 140 positions as part of a plan to deal with a projected $22 million dollar budget shortfall.

The vote for the budget was unanimous, in sharp contrast to last year. That was a huge relief for Superintendent Bernard Taylor, for a moment anyway.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham moderated a panel discussion looking into the current state of education in Michigan (K-12 and higher education) at the Mackinac Policy Conference last week.

He spoke with Peter Spadafore, the Assistant Director of Government Relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, and Michael Van Beek, the Director of Education Policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

They explored how education funding can be improved in the state; and the potential impacts of Governor Rick Snyder's reforms on school districts, teachers and students in the state.

You can watch the discussion below.

Education Panel: Cutting the Costs of Educating Kids

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Hundreds of people banned from the University of Michigan campus may soon be able to walk again freely on the Ann Arbor campus.  More than 2 thousand people landed on U of M’s lifetime campus ban list during the past decade for a variety of offenses.  

In the past, if you landed on the list, you had little chance of ever getting permission to walk again on the Ann Arbor campus. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools is facing a $22 million dollar budget deficit for next school year. That’s the largest shortfall Michigan’s third biggest school district has faced.

The plan to close the gap includes eliminating close to 140 positions and use $5 million in savings. Despite that, no one showed up to speak at a public hearing on the school budget Thursday night.

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A Michigan school superintendent’s open letter to lawmakers makes a startling request and it’s getting national attention.

Nathan Bootz runs Ithaca Public Schools,  a district with about 1,300 students.

Bootz wrote a letter to the Gratiot County Herald newspaper and suggested that the state turn his school district into a prison.

He says the state spends a lot more money on inmates than students.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Republican-led Michigan Senate has approved a bill that would cut funding for the state's public schools.

The measure approved 21-16 mostly along party lines Wednesday would cut per student funding by an additional $300 per pupil in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. A portion of those cuts would be offset by money to help schools pay employee retirement system costs. Some districts also could get about $100 per student if they meet certain so-called "best financial practices."

The cuts will come on top of a $170 per student cut that's already in place and would be carried over into next fiscal year.

The bill will be sent to the House, where it will be folded into a larger budget bill and likely approved this month.

Jacob Tanner, 13, from Saline, Michigan will go to Washington D.C. to participate in the 23rd annual National Geographic Bee. He’s a student at Saline Middle School. He recently spoke with Michigan Radio’s Jenn White. Here’s the interview.

This week, 54 of the nation’s brightest young people will compete for a top prize of a $25,000 in college scholarship money and a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

The finalists are all winners of their state-level geographic bees. Tanner says winning the competition would be the biggest accomplish of his life so far.

Tanner prepares for the GeoBee with his teachers and parents and says making up rhymes helps him retain information.

"A couple days ago I was studying the geography of Germany, so I just made all the cities that I needed to remember into a rhyme."

In addition to knowing the names of cities and countries, Tanner says he also has to know a lot about science and economics.

In his free time, Tanner says he likes to "read books, play video games, go on the internet, those kinds of things." And when he grows up, Jacob says he wants to be a professor.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

About 500 people in West Michigan spent a couple hours Friday night in Grand Rapids, talking with their state representatives about how to fund public education. 

The forum was rescheduled from last week after a fire marshal shut it down in Lowell (20 miles west of Grand Rapids) because so many people showed up it broke the fire code of the building.

Last night the crowd was  passionate, at times interrupting and booing Republican lawmakers.

State lawmakers are still expected to cut the funding they provide K-12 public schools. But that cut could be lower than initially expected because the State of Michigan is projected to collect $429 million more in tax revenue than first expected.

Administrators at Grand Rapids Public Schools are pushing lawmakers to restore so-called categorical cuts before anything else. These are separate funds for schools to better handle specific issues– like declining enrollment, and bilingual and special education.

User P.E.C. / Flickr

The American Federation of Teachers says its Michigan “Lobby Day” will “educate” legislators about the effect of state education cuts.

Teachers and school employees from all over the state descended on Lansing Tuesday for the Lobby Day, including a group from Detroit.

Ivy Bailey is with the Detroit Federation of Teachers’ Peer Assistance and Review Program. She was on board a bus headed to Lansing from Detroit.

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