Education

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This week, What’s Working focuses on education by taking a look at one Michigan school that went from academic mediocrity to being a model for educational reforms in the state. North Godwin Elementary is located just south of Grand Rapids in a working class community with a high immigrant population. Many families in the area are refugees from countries such as Bosnia, Cuba, Vietnam, and Liberia. A high number of students spend a few years learning English as a second language. 

When Arelis Diaz arrived as a teacher at North Godwin Elementary in 1995, the students were struggling to reach proficiency in basic skills. She spent five years as a teacher, and then served as principal of the school from 2000 to 2005. In that time, North Godwin’s students began excelling on standardized tests, bringing student proficiency rates to upwards of 80 percent across all subjects. That academic success at North Godwin continues today. The school has been the recipient of praise and awards for its turnaround, including the “Dispelling the Myth” award in 2010, given by The Educational Trust. 

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The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit will perform a play this weekend to commemorate the anniversary of a student walkout at Detroit Public Schools.

starnewsonline.com

Norovirus is the buzz killer that can bring a cruise ship home.

And now, it looks like the little bug is postponing the fun at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, MI.

The university has postponed its graduation ceremony for one week while it tries to contain a norovirus outbreak. Instead of being held this Saturday, the commencement will be held Saturday, May 21.

The university says more than 170 students are reporting an illness.

University officials are working to contain the outbreak and are consulting with the Jackson County Health Department and the State Health Department.

From Spring Arbor University:

All non-academic related activities have been cancelled from Wednesday, May 11, through Sunday, May 15, 2011. These activities include alumni events, National Christian College Athletic Association baseball regional tournament, and other public-related events. The fitness room, pool and other facilities are closed to the public through Sunday, May 15.

“These decisions are preventative and consistent with the medical advice received. Of utmost concern for all of us is the safety and health of our campus community and the families and friends planning on participating in the various academic year-end activities. Spring Arbor University has a responsibility of doing what is in the best interest of our students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus,” says University President Charles Webb.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people become infected with the virus by:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus,
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth, and
  • Having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).

Food and drinks can easily become contaminated with norovirus because the virus is very small and because it takes a very small amount (fewer than 100 norovirus particles) to make a person sick. Although the virus cannot multiply outside a human body, billions of norovirus particles are shed by infected people. These shed particles can cause illness if they get into food or water.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

In the past two years, Detroit has closed 59 schools and cut 30 percent of the school system's workforce. But the district is still staring at a deficit of more than $300 million, and thousands of students continue to flee every year. In a story produced for NPR's All Things Considered, we take a closer look at a plan to help the troubled district out of its downward spiral.

Update 5:25 p.m.

The fire at the Paul Robeson Academy has caused extensive damage. Students from the school are being relocated and will resume classes Friday.

From the Detroit News:

District officials said 16 available classrooms at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School are being readied to accommodate 435 students from Paul Robeson Academy, heavily damaged by the blaze...DPS Emergency Manager Robert Bobb said district employees are locating books, desks and supplies to prepare the classrooms at Marshall — just a few blocks from Robeson — so Robeson's first- through eighth-grade students can resume their studies with minimal disruption. Teachers, support staff and all employees will be sent over to Marshall from Robeson to make the transition work, Bobb said.

8:31 a.m.

There’s a fire this morning at Paul Robeson Academy in Detroit. Some 660 students attend the K-8 school.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. It began around 4 a.m.  and firefighters are on the scene.

The Detroit Public Schools calls Robeson Academy one of its premier learning institutions. Students who enroll at Robeson must carry at least a 2.5 grade point average.

Here's some video from Fox News in Detroit:

Fire Rips through Robeson Academy on Detroit's West Side: MyFoxDETROIT.com

screen grab from HDNet clip

Detroit public schools face many challenges, and Dan Rather wants you to know how bad it is.

HDNet, a cable and satellite television channel aimed at "men's interests", will air "Dan Rather Reports: A National Disgrace" tonight at 8 p.m. (and again at 11 p.m.).

Here's a clip from the program:

HDNet says the program is "full of heartbreaking images: children sitting in class for days without a teacher; a principal addressing graduating seniors with stories of the violence they’ve seen; and abandoned schools left to rot in an increasingly empty city."

Dan Rather spoke with Paul W. Smith on WJR this morning. He told Smith that he hopes people learn that the nation's public education system needs to be changed:

"What I hope the takeaway will be is that we all, not just people in Detroit, we all should be ashamed of what's happening to our schools and we can change it. But we can't change it on the present course where all decisions are top down instead of being bottom up."

user ppdigital / morguefile

Michigan and other states may soon compete against one another to try to win a new round of grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

Congress allotted another $700 million to Race to the Top, the education reform program where states compete for federal grants.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A leader in Michigan’s higher education community says state universities may urge the governor to veto the state education budget bill.   He says it’s a question of ‘micromanaging’.    

Michael Boulus is the executive director of the President’s Council, a group that lobbies on behalf of Michigan’s public colleges and universities. 

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

As long as there have been schools, there have been school bullies.

But experts say today’s tormentors are more brutal and efficient than ever before.  And that’s left teachers and principals scrambling to figure out how to manage the problem.

In Detroit, training sessions for handling bullies start tomorrow. And the school district has also launched conflict resolution programs to help stop bullying behavior.

"They told me I seemed different"

The Dearborn Federation of Teachers will be the first teachers' union in the nation to take over health insurance plans from a school district.

The union will provide two plans, an HMO, and a PPO, to its members.  Both are Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan plans.

Chris Sipperley is president of the union. 

She says Dearborn Public Schools demanded that teachers go from paying $0 a month to insure their families, to $625.

That’s when the union decided it could do better.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed former GM Executive Roy Roberts to take over as the Detroit Public Schools’ Emergency Financial Manager.

Roberts has had a distinguished career in business and is considered a pioneer for African-Americans in the auto industry.

Snyder says he chose Roberts because he’s a “successful businessman and team builder.”

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools district is moving forward with its plan to turn dozens of its schools into charters. It’s part of current emergency manager Robert Bobb’s Renaissance 2012 plan. Just this week, 18 organizations put in bids to take over 50 DPS schools and convert them into charters.

At the top would be a charter leader who does everything from fundraising to student recruitment to academic planning. But a study out late last year by the Center on Reinventing Public Education shows charter leaders have a high turnover rate.

Poverty Reduction Initiative

1.4 million people live in poverty in Michigan, according to the federal government. But not many people realize what that number actually means. A group in Kalamazoo thinks one of the ways to address the issue of poverty is with a game.

 

The Detroit Public Schools is moving ahead with its controversial 2012 Renaissance Plan.

That’s Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb’s plan to turn up to 50 current schools into charters, rather than closing them down.

Bobb says 18 organizations have submitted bids to transform some district schools into charters.

Dani Davis

The “creative process” will take center stage at a conference this week at the University of Michigan.

Theresa Reid heads up ArtsEngine at the University of Michigan, and she believes “art making” should have a higher profile at research universities:

There is some good news for Michigan school administrators worrying about the outcomes of today’s  school millage votes. A new Michigan State University poll of nearly a thousand state residents finds  most want education protected from state budget cuts.   

The State of the State survey finds education is the highest priority among Michiganders. The poll found support for state education funding consistent across all demographic groups and political affiliations.

William Schmidt is a statistics and education professor at MSU. He says the poll shows the importance that people place on education. Though he admits people often vote their own economic interest when asked to decide on school millages. 

 “They seem…conceptually at least…to think education is important.   And should be front and center.  But then…very often they vote their economic concerns…which is they don’t want their taxes raised.”  

Education spending is expected to take a big hit as state lawmakers deal with Michigan’s massive budget deficit. They are talking about slashing per-pupil funding by $300 to more than $400.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Governor Rick Snyder heard from his critics as he delivered the University of Michigan’s commencement address today.  

A grey, overcast, chilly morning welcomed graduates and their families  to Michigan Stadium for the Spring commencement.  Later the sun came  out  and warmed the crowd, though Governor Rick Snyder probably still  felt a slight chill from part of the crowd. 

(official portrait)

Governor Rick Snyder may hear some jeers when he speaks at this week’s commencement ceremony at the University of Michigan.  Unions and other groups plan to rally outside Michigan Stadium during the governor’s speech.

  Rob Gillezeau is the president of the Graduate Employees Organization.  His group and others plan to voice their displeasure over cuts to education funding and the voiding of union contracts.  

screen grab from HDNet clip

Dan Rather will air a special two-hour program on the Detroit Public School system titled "A National Disgrace."

It will air on HDNet Tuesday, May 10 at 8:00 p.m. eastern as part of their "Dan Rather Reports" program, and will be re-broadcast at 11:00 p.m. on the same night.

This from HDNet's press release:

The special takes its title from a controversial comment by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and presents an unflinching look at corruption, mismanagement and failure. Tens of millions of dollars have been stolen from the district. And a school board bickers over trivialities, while their students score at the bottom on national tests.

Flickr

Yesterday, governor Rick Snyder presented his plan for education reform at an event in Detroit.

We asked Susan Demas, a political analyst for the Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, a former Republican state Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants to take a look at the political implications of that plan.

You can listen to my interview with them here:

Noah Smith / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder was in Detroit today to outline his expansive education reform plans. The governor says Michigan does not have to spend more money to improve the performance of a failing education system.

The governor say it’s largely a matter of reallocating resources to reward success and to craft a system that reflects Michigan’s new economic realities.

Governor Snyder says his education plan would refocus schools on student advancement and performance, empower teachers and hold them responsible, and offer parents more options when schools are failing.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state House Education committee has approved a bill that would decertify a teachers’ union if the teachers vote to go on strike.  Individual teachers could also be fined or fired under the legislation.  It’s illegal for teachers to strike in Michigan. 

Doug Pratt is with the Michigan Education Association.    He says state lawmakers want to silence teachers.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools praised Governor Snyder’s education agenda.

Robert Bobb says his call to have every child proficient in reading by the end of third grade is important. And Bobb says he likes Snyder’s ideas for allowing more charter schools.

"I just think that he has put a very bold plan in front of every educational institution in Michigan. And it’s now up to all of the professionals in education to stand behind him and to move as aggressively as possible."

scui3asteveo / flickr

Today, Governor Rick Snyder laid out his plan for education reform in Michigan. All Things Considered Host, Jenn White, sat down with Tom Watkins to discuss the details in Snyder's plan. Watkins is a Former State Superintendent who is currently a business and educational consultant in the United States and China. 

michigan/gov

In a speech at the United Way for Southeastern Michigan's office in Detroit this morning, Governor Snyder laid out his plans for reforming Michigan's education system.

It's a system that Snyder said needs to be transformed from one "still rooted in the days of a mostly farm-based society to one that prepares students for the technological age of today and jobs of tomorrow."

Snyder says the need for reform is clear. In a message to the state legislature that outlined his broad plans, he noted the following statistics:

  • A total of 238 Michigan high schools have zero college-ready students based on the spring 2010 ACT test
  • Only 16% of all students statewide are college-ready based on the ACT taken in spring 2010 as a part of the MME
  • Fewer than 50% of students are proficient in writing based on fall 2010 MEAP data in grades 4 and 7 and spring 2010 Michigan Merit Examination (MME) data for grade 11
  • Michigan ranks 21st in the country in total current expenditures per-pupil, yet it ranks 39th in the nation when it comes to fourth grade math proficiency and 34th in reading proficiency

Here's a summary of Snyder's education plan:

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

More than 100 students are expected to attend a youth forum in Detroit on Apr. 26 to share their ideas for what makes a good school. The forum is  put on by the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit and starts at 5:30 p.m.

Rick Sperling is the group’s founder. He says lawmakers, school board members, and teachers have all voiced their opinions about school reform, but he says student voices have been missing from the conversation:

Governor Rick Snyder offered some hints as to what his soon-to-be unveiled education reform plan will look like.

The governor addressed an education conference in East Lansing today.

Governor Snyder says student test scores are both “startling and scary,” and that Michigan is falling behind the country and the world in preparing young people for life after school:

“We need to do better and that’s something we need to focus on and we will,” said Snyder.

The governor says he wants to relax school regulations s to give teachers and principals more freedom and responsibility over educational decisions. And then he says the state will measure what happens:

“We need to put much more focus on proficiency, on growth, on measurements and results than we have had in the past," he said. "It’s about really delivering results for these kids. The whole system has to be geared to say, 'how do we make sure each and every child in our system gets a good year’s education each and every year?' Think about all the great talent, all the great resources that we have in our system, yet we’re not achieving the results that we have to achieve."

The governor also says he wants to do more to keep gifted teachers in classrooms instead of promoting them into administrative positions.

The governor says he envisions an education system that starts with pre-school and continues past college.

The governor will roll out his education reform agenda on Wednesday in Detroit.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

It appears Michigan may be in for a revenue windfall of about $500 million dollars more than  it was expected to take  in this year.

The state Senate Democratic leader says Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature should use that money to avert cuts to schools.

The state Senate Democratic leader is calling for protections in the Michigan Constitution against using the School Aid Fund for any purpose other than K-through-12 education.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says she’s looking for any way she can to avert school aid cuts as high as $470 per student.

A new poll finds parents want more physical education in school.  The U of M C-S Mott Children’s Hospital National poll asked parents of 6 to 11 year olds about their children’s access to gym classes and recess.

  A third of parents say their children get too little physical education.  

Sarah Clark is the associate director of the poll. 

04deveni / flickr

Ann Arbor public schools may stop all busing to and from its high schools next year to save money.

The proposal to the Ann Arbor School board also includes bigger class sizes and cutting staff. Ann Arbor Public Schools is facing a $15 million budget deficit for next year.

Liz Margolis is a spokesperson for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

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