Education

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A number of Michigan public school teachers are feeling pressured to cheat. A recent Detroit Free Press survey shows one-third of Michigan educators feel pressure to cheat on standardized tests and adjust students’ grades. The problem has surfaced in public schools across the country.

Emily Richmond is with the National Education Writers Association. She says measuring teacher performance and political pressures are the reason.

"Teachers are feeling a lot of pressure – I think a lot of them are feeling threatened and I think they feel their job security is on the line," she said.

About 3-hundred public schools in the country have recently faced suspicions, claims or cases of cheating to improve test scores.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

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The amount of money Michigan has to spend in its general fund for everything from prisons to health care dropped by nearly 25 percent over the past four fiscal years amid the recession and shrinking tax revenues. Yet the state's school aid fund remained relatively healthy, protected by earmarks for public schools.

State budget director John Nixon thinks those earmarks merit another look.

"It's not that I'm saying we need to cut the school aid fund ... (but) a lot of this stuff was put in place 15, 20 years ago when Michigan looked totally different," he said during a recent interview with The Associated Press. "We just need to strip things down and say, `This is the money we're bringing in, this is where it's going. Is it lining up appropriately?"'

Nearly three-quarters of the sales tax collected annually goes to the $13.3 billion school aid fund, as well as nearly a fourth of the income tax revenue, 42 percent of cigarette tax revenue and a third of the money raised by the use tax and the Michigan Business Tax. The school aid fund also receives all of the money raised through a statewide 6-mill education property tax, the real estate transfer tax, the state casino wagering tax and the net proceeds from lottery sales.

DETROIT (AP) - Wayne State University is cutting 200 jobs, including 80 that are currently filled due to a loss of $32 million in funding from the state.

The Detroit Free Press reports Friday that an email about the layoffs and cuts was sent Thursday to all university employees by school President Alan Gilmour.

Gilmour writes that the school has "notified most of the affected employees."

The Detroit university looked at each of its schools, colleges and divisions for cost savings and hiked tuition for undergraduate and graduate students to keep its budget balanced.

It says no additional job cuts are planned.

(courtesy of the Detroit Public School District)

Public school teachers in Detroit are getting a wage and benefit cut.  The state appointed emergency manager informed Detroit Public School unions this morning that he is imposing a 10 percent wage cut this year.   Emergency Manager Roy S. Roberts is also imposing an 80/20 split on health care benefits.    

The move is expected to save the district nearly 82 million dollars this year.  

Roberts issued a written statement explaining the need for imposing the concessions. 

State Budget Director John Nixon says Michigan State University and Wayne State University did not violate the state's tuition cap of 7 percent when setting fall tuition rates and they will receive their full state aid payments. Nixon still needs to make a decision on whether Northern Michigan University exceeded the cap. 

The University of Michigan will offer a year-long masters degree in entrepreneurship starting fall 2012. The joint program between the College of Engineering and Ross School of Business aims to combine the wealth of technological ideas with business expertise.

David Munson is the College of Engineering dean at the University of Michigan. He believes the partnership is the first of its kind.

"The uniqueness really stems from the quality on both sides and bringing that quality together to try to produce what we hope will be the best program of its kind in the country," Munson said.

Munson expects many engineering students to enroll in the entrepreneurship program after they graduate. Entrepreneurship will likely have a place in each department at the university in coming years.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

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Teachers in our country rarely get the respect they deserve -- a uniquely American pathology. But this year they’ve endured not just indifference, but disrespect – and from Congressmen, no less. Teachers are now blamed not just for falling test scores, but failing state budgets and rising healthcare costs.

There was once a politician who took a different view.

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson's Northwest Ordinance – what some scholars believe to be one of the three most important documents in the founding of America, along with the Constitution and Declaration of Independence – provided funding for public schools and universities. In it, he declared, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

user: NonOther / flickr.com

Many students attending summer school in Detroit will have the day off today.

From the Associated Press:

Detroit's school district says it's closing more than 70 schools in the afternoon that don't have air conditioning as a heat wave continues.

The Detroit Public Schools made the announcement Wednesday morning.

The district says power outages also forced the closure of three schools Wednesday. And heat and mechanical problems closed two others.

A DPS spokesmen said more than half of the school district's summer population of 38,000 will be affected. The district has also opened 13 cooling centers.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

In a move likely to shock many observers, Detroit Public Schools has named Doug Ross to head its charter school office.

Ross is the CEO of New Urban Learning, which manages what’s widely considered Detroit’s most-successful charter school system. He'll help Detroit Public Schools as it expands the number of charters it authorizes from nine to 14. He’ll also oversee the process for selecting operators to convert more of the district’s traditional schools in 2012.

Ross says it’s time for critics stuck in the charter-versus-traditional school debate to move past it:

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Many colleges and universities are still trying to develop their social media strategy. A study by Noel-Levitz Higher Education Consultants shows one in four potential students drops a school from their prospective list after a bad experience on the university’s website.

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The University of Michigan-Flint is one of many American campuses that has hired more lecturers than tenure track faculty in the past few years. According to AAUP research, nationally the number of non-tenure track faculty increased by more than 200 percent on college campuses while tenured faculty increased 30 percent and tenure track faculty increased 7 percent.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools has named 25 people to serve as board members for the district’s five new charter schools that will open this fall.

Ola Elsaid will serve on the board of directors for the EMAN Hamilton Academy.

"I really feel like the children in Detroit deserve better. I believe this transitioning to charter schools will provide better education, better guidelines. They deserve as much as students everywhere else deserve, and I really hope we can make a difference to the schools in Detroit."

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Undergraduate students won’t be able to rely on pell grant money for summer study starting next school year.  The pell grant program provides students with funds that do not have to be repaid.  Linda Grimshaw is with Financial Aid at University of Michigan-Flint. She says in 2009-2010, students could receive this additional pell grant funding for spring and summer study if they were enrolled in school at least half time.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Superintendent resigned yesterday, but today he hinted that he may not want to leave.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor has been lobbying state lawmakers to pass teacher tenure reform. Yesterday, lawmakers did that. 

Taylor says the reform means everyone’s focus has to be on student achievement.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor is resigning. The school board accepted his resignation this afternoon by a unanimous vote.

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.

Taylors resignation is not effective until one year from now.

Taylor was not at the meeting. In a written statement, Taylor says he appreciated the time and 'careful deliberations' of the board of education.

Jack Amick / Flickr

Lansing teachers have approved a new one year contract that includes benefits cuts and layoffs.  Under the deal approved by Lansing teachers, the district will eliminate up to 95 positions.   The one year agreement also freezes wages, while increasing employee contributions to their health care plans.

The contract concessions are tied to the Lansing School District’s need to reduce a projected $18 million dollar budget gap.   The school board is expected to vote on the district’s budget for the next fiscal year this evening.

Patti Seidl is the president of the Lansing Schools Education Association.   She’s worried that the school district may seek additional wage and benefit concessions next year, when the new contract expires.   

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Education has released the results of the Michigan Merit Exam.

All Michigan high school juniors take the test in the spring to see how well-prepared they are for college. The MME tests students in reading, writing, math, science and social studies.

(courtesy of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin's Office)

An incoming University of Michigan student has taken her fight against being deported to Washington D.C.  Ola Kaso testified before a U.S. Senate committee in favor of the Dream Act.   The bill would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. to pursue their educations. 

Kaso says she has tried to take advantage of the education opportunity given to  her, an opportunity now threatened by deportation to Albania.

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Fourteen Michigan colleges and universities are getting ready for a fall campaign to encourage college students to stay in Michigan after graduation. This campaign, which includes private schools like Calvin College and Marygrove College, stems from research that showed students’ negative perceptions of Michigan. 

Bob Bartlett is President of the Michigan Colleges Foundation.  Bartlett says it will take some effort to change the perceptions of students.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state Senate may soon consider bills to make it easier to fire veteran teachers.   The state House has already passed the bills.  

Photo courtesy of Detroit Public Schools

Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts says he’s on a mission from the Governor to make the schools work. Roberts spoke at a public hearing Monday night to discuss next school year’s proposed district budget. Roberts spoke only briefly about his budget proposal. It calls for cutting more than 850 positions, and all wages by 10-percent. Roberts then listened silently to concerns from parents, teachers, and other school staff…some of whom took the opportunity to shout at him. Keith Johnson is President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Kids still enjoy the playground at Stocking Elementary School. The school in Grand Rapids was closed last year to save money. State Representative Roy Schmidt used the shuttered school as a backdrop while telling people Michigan’s fund for K-through-12 schools had a surplus this year.

“We had the money, it just got switched somewhere else.”

A new battle over education is shaping up in Lansing -- and this time, it’s not over funding. It has to do with whether community colleges should be able to offer four-year bachelor’s degrees.

Traditionally, this has never been the case. Community colleges, or as they used to be called, junior colleges, had two roles:

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Fifteen Flint Community Schools will offer free preventative dental services this July.  The services are a part of the Smiles Program, a mobile dental office that provides care to low income students. 

Bob Campbell is Community Manager at Flint Community Schools.

"These are all schools where we have summer programs. So these schools will be already active, and it’s also a good time for the organization because they service the entire state."

Flickr user bookgrl

Millions of kids eat free or reduced-price meals at their schools during the school year. But during the summer, those numbers drop dramatically. Last year Michigan schools served 144 million free meals. But during the summer the state only served 2.6 million meals.

flickr / iboy_daniel

Governor Rick Snyder outlined a plan to try to turn around the lowest performing schools in the state.

The Education Achievement System would start in the 2012-2013 school year with the lowest performing schools in the Detroit Public School System and would eventually spread out to underperforming schools across the state.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Tom Watkins, Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction about the potential pitfalls and benefits of the EAS plan. Watkins  is currently a business and educational consultant in the US and China.

You can hear the interview here:

Detroit Public Schools

Update 3:52 pm:

Roy Roberts' budget plan submitted to the state today calls for cutting wages by 10 percent. It would also trim expenses by $231 million, and reduce contracts by $48 million. As Roberts already announced, the proposal calls for floating $200 million in bonds to help erase the district's $327 million deficit.

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The emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools says he wants to work with the district’s unions.

A tenure reform plan in the state Senate has the stamp of approval from Michigan’s largest teachers’ union.

The Senate proposal is very different from a tenure reform plan approved by the state House earlier this month.

Doug Pratt is with the Michigan Education Association. He says the legislation would eliminate a state tenure commission, and instead assign arbitrators to school districts that want to dismiss tenured teachers.

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.

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