Dan Wuan / Michigan Senate

Former NBA player and one of the “Fab Five” at the University of Michigan, Jalen Rose, told lawmakers at the state Capitol today parents need more school options for their kids.

Rose testified before a state panel in support of allowing more charter schools and schools of choice in Michigan.

He sponsored a charter academy that opened in his hometown of Detroit.

Rose says the school selects students based on a lottery, rather than test scores, so every kid would have a shot at getting in.

Part-time instructors at Eastern Michigan University are voting on whether to approve a tentative contract agreement between the union and the university. The agreement would raise the minimum salary and provide more job security and protections.

Zachary Jones is a lecturer in geography and geology at EMU. He says part-time instructors end up teaching at many different schools, and do not earn a decent living wage. Jones says this contract represents a change in attitude of how the university treats its part-time instructors, and he says it boils down to an issue of respect.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Broward County Public Schools selected Robert Runcie, not Bernard Taylor, as their next superintendent.

Parents and students in Detroit say problems with city buses and school bus passes are keeping some kids out of school.

The school district gives out free bus passes to many students. But some students say they never received application forms, and the schools don’t have enough passes.

District policy says all Detroit students can ride for free in September with last year’s bus passes. But many students lost those over the summer.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Attendance rates for Detroit Public Schools have jumped dramatically since last week – when only about two-thirds of kids expected for the first day of classes actually showed up.

Close to 56,000 students were in school on Monday. That’s about 12,000 more than the week before.

School district spokesman Steve Wasko says over the past week teams of attendance agents and volunteers have been going door-to-door to find out why students are missing. He says in many cases there’s some obstacle.

"Whether that’s a transportation concern, something we’re frankly finding more and more, and it’s an unfortunate thing, and in some cases parents saying I’m planning on sending my child to school but I have to be honest with you I can’t afford the school uniform, so we’re trying to make ends meet and grab a few dollars for that."

The school district needs to hit 75 percent of its enrollment target in order to avoid financial penalties from the state. Wasko says Monday’s attendance was a solid 85 percent.

user frank juarez / Flickr

According to Michigan State University researchers, many educators in the state are not using some of the most effective teaching methods  when working with the more than 15,000 Michigan students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Summer Ferreri, an MSU assistant professor of special education, and Sara Bolt, an MSU associate professor of school psychology conducted the study.

Using data from more than 200 school professionals, 34 parents of students with ASD, and classroom observations, the researchers found that more than 40 percent of the educators were not using techniques known as "Applied Behavior Analysis", and "Social Stories" (a method for teaching social skills to children with autism).

They also found it difficult to "access statewide data on students with ASD" and "concluded that better access is crucial to determine whether the services schools provide are actually helping students succeed."

From the MSU press release:

Suzanne Wilson, a University Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Teacher Education at MSU, said autism education is one of the most pressing issues facing educators today.

“While autism rates have rapidly increased, many new and experienced teachers have little to no experience working with children with autism,” Wilson said.  "Without the appropriate education, new teachers could, at worst, marginalize these students and, at best, be supportive but not effective.”

The researchers also found that 26% ASD students in Michigan "never or rarely had learning opportunities that reflected the general education curriculum."

And "one-third of the 194 Michigan teaching professionals responding said their students with ASD wouldn’t meet any grade-level achievement standards."

The findings of the research will be presented to the State Board of Education tomorrow (September 13). The study was conducted with funding from the Weiser family, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Skillman Foundation.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Bernard Taylor agreed to resign from Grand Rapids schools at the end of this school year. That agreement came after he was a finalist for other jobs beginning last spring. He didn’t get any of those jobs.

Now he’s looking to head Broward County Public Schools – the sixth biggest district in the U.S.

Taylor will attend a public forum in Broward County Tuesday evening. The school board is likely to make its choice Wednesday morning. He’s one of five finalists for the position.

Flickr/Jaymi Heimbuch

A job training center for people with disabilities starts its fall session on Monday. The Michigan Career and Technical Institute is in Plainwell, about 20 miles north of Kalamazoo.  It's the second largest program of its kind in the country.

Up to 350 students live on campus while taking classes. The institute offers 14 training programs to people with various disabilities.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Detroit last week, he brought up the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program. He called it the “best economic development tool” for a city, and urged Detroit to develop something similar.

Flickr/Ohio University Libraries

Two Michigan universities have reported more students on campus as the new academic year gets under way.

Michigan State University said Friday that preliminary enrollment is about 47,800 students, up from 47,131 last year. The East Lansing school says they had a record 28,547 applications this year.

Meanwhile, Saginaw Valley State University in University Center has broken its enrollment record this year with 10,790 students. That's up from 10,656 during the last school year.

(Associated Press)    

It’s no secret that Detroit Public Schools have long been plagued by chronic attendance problems. Now, the district is turning to students themselves to figure out why. Students from a number of Detroit schools lined up at a forum Friday, to tell school officials why so many of their peers don’t come to class regularly.

Among the most common complaints: high teacher turnover, classrooms without proper supplies, a lack of parental involvement, and transportation issues.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

Michigan Republican legislators introduced legislation this week that they say will reform education in Michigan. The legislators call the seven bills they introduced the "Parent Empowerment Education Reform" package.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Eartha Jane Melzer of the Michigan Messenger summed up the effort this way: 

The seven bill package would remove limits on the number of charter and cyber schools, allow parents and teachers to force schools to convert into charters, and let districts hire teachers through private companies.

It also imposes new requirements on schools, specifying that students be allowed to simultaneously enroll in high school and college courses beginning in the 9th grade, that schools accept students from out of district, and that services be provided for homeschoolers and private school students.

In a statement on his website, State Senator Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township), and the chair of the Senate Education Committee said he and his colleagues are following through on Governor Snyder's request to "expand the schools of choice program, empower parents and ensure that every student has access to a quality education."

From Pavlov's statement:

"Every parent in the state wants the very best for their children," said Pavlov.  "Unfortunately, when it comes to educating our kids, adult issues too often get in the way.  The Parent Empowerment Education Reform package is about freeing parents to pursue the opportunities that work best for their children and giving schools the freedom they need to innovate and excel."

The Michigan Education Association published a statement calling the reforms an "attack on public education" and an attempt to privatize the system:

Many of the concepts introduced in these bills were first mentioned by Gov. Snyder in his education message this spring. But it's apparent that the attacks on public education continue. None of these bills are meant to improve education. This is more of the same push to destroy public education: schools run by private entities, back-door vouchers, policies based on rhetoric rather than research, and more state mandates -- despite the Republican cut of $1 billion from public schools earlier this year.

Ed Work / Flickr

Update 3:14 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan say he "couldn’t be more hopeful" about the future of Detroit's public schools.

At today's town hall meeting at the Charles H. Wright Academy in Detroit, Duncan praised Governor Snyder and DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts for their commitment to education reform, and he urged everyone at the event to rally around those efforts:

"You have all the building blocks in place to do something remarkable here. Has Detroit struggled? Absolutely, no question about it. But my challenge, and the opportunity here is: Can Detroit become the fastest improving urban district in the country? And I see no reason why that can’t happen."

Duncan says he takes the work he does in Detroit "very, very seriously." He adds that if Detroit public schools haven’t improved by the time he leaves office, he’ll consider his tenure "a failure."

The Secretary also gave a shout out to the Kalamazoo Promise, the anonymously-funded program that pays for almost every Kalamazoo public school graduate to go to a state-supported college or university. Duncan said if Detroit could develop something similar it would be the "best economic development tool" for the city:

"If we could make that guarantee of not just a 2-year but a 4-year university education possible for every young man and woman who graduates from Detroit Public Schools, that would be absolutely amazing."

Governor Snyder, who was also at today's event, says the state needs to do a better job when it comes to educating Michigan’s children. "When we looked at the numbers we only have 17% of our kids college ready," says Snyder. He calls that percentage "absolutely unacceptable."

11:23 a.m.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is visiting Michigan today as part of his "Education and the Economy" bus tour of the Midwest.

This morning he made a stop in Detroit where he joined Governor Rick Snyder, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts to discuss the status of Detroit Public Schools.

The bus left Detroit and headed for Ann Arbor. Right now, he's participating in a panel discussion at the University of Michigan.  Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra is covering that and will have more for us later.

In Detroit this morning, Duncan told a crowd at the Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science that he takes the progress of Detroit Public Schools personally. Duncan called the district "ground zero" in education reform two years ago. From the Detroit Free Press:

He said that if DPS does not see significant improvements during his tenure in office, he will consider it a personal failure.

“I take the work here very, very personally,” Duncan said.

Since Duncan’s visit in 2009, the district has implemented a five-year academic plan and the graduation rate has grown to 62%, up by about 4%.

The Education Secretary's visit comes a day after the Detroit Public Schools had 55 percent of enrolled students show up for the first day of classes, as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported.

Duncan said the success of the Detroit Public School system is tied to the overall success of the state. From MLive:

"Just as you can't have a great state without having a great city of Detroit, you cannot revitalize the city of Detroit without a great public education system. Those two things are inextricably linked."

Duncan praised the leadership of Governor Snyder, Detroit Mayor Bing, and DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts for their "alignment of courage" to turn the Detroit school system around.

After the panel discussion in Ann Arbor, Duncan is off to Indiana. Here's a Google Map of Duncan's bus tour:

View Larger Map

A state Senate panel began hearings yesterday on a package of sweeping education reforms. This is the second round of major changes proposed to Michigan’s education system this year.

The package of bills include measures that would allow more charter schools in the state, allow schools to hire teachers from private companies, and require districts to open empty seats in classrooms to students who live outside of the area.

Representatives from the education community say the proposals are controversial. Senate Education Committee Chairman Phil Pavlov says, he does not think so.

“I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘controversial,’ I mean we having a conversation about choice for parents and students in the state and that shouldn’t be controversial,” Pavlov says.

Pavlov also took the lead on the debate over teacher tenure reform earlier this year. Pavlov says Governor Snyder supports some of the reforms. Pavlov says he does not have a timeline to get this round of education reforms through the Legislature.

Representatives from the education community say they are concerned these proposals are based on politics and not research of successful education reforms.

Officials for the Detroit Public Schools say 43,660 students attended the first day of school Tuesday, out of 79,617 enrolled.

The district doesn’t expect that many kids to ever show up. They’ve set an attendance target of about 65,000 students for the school year.

It’s unclear how many students simply didn’t make it to school, and how many transferred to other districts.

A new United States Department of Agriculture program will provide free lunches and breakfasts to all K-12 students in the Detroit Public School system and the Flint School District.

The free meal service, known as the "Community Eligibility Option," is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act singed into law by President Obama in December of 2010.

From the USDA:

[The] universal free meal service option...makes it easier for low-income children to receive meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The "Community Eligibility Option" will allow schools in high-poverty areas to eliminate the use of applications and provide free breakfast and lunch to all students.

In a statement, Mark Schrupp, DPS Chief Operating Officer, said the program is aimed at eliminating stigma:

"One of the primary goals of this program is to eliminate the stigma that students feel when they get a free lunch, as opposed to paying cash," said Schrupp. "Some students would skip important meals to avoid being identified as low-income. Now, all students will walk through a lunch line and not have to pay. Low-income students will not be easily identifiable and will be less likely to skip meals."

Blake Thorne reports in the Flint Journal that a district has to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the new "lunch for all" program:

The program evaluates the economic eligibility of an entire school or district, rather than individual students, and if 40 percent of the school or district’s students qualify for free lunches, all students get them...

Last year, 81 percent of Flint students qualified for free lunches, according to Michigan Department of Education data from last fall, the most recent figures available.

Education Department figures show about 41 percent of the state’s 1.57 million students qualify for the meals.

The program is in its pilot phase this year and only a limited number of states can participate.

Once a district signs on, they're required to participate in the program for 4 successive school years.

The Community Eligibility Option will be available to all states beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

In the Detroit News, Michael Van Beek of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, questioned whether the new program is a good use of taxpayer money:

"Under this program, it appears we would be subsidizing school lunches and meals to students who currently don't qualify under the federal program."

Van Beek said there are more creative solutions than giving away meals to everyone at a school where less than half of the students may qualify.

The news reports that "the federal government spent $338 million on free and reduced school meals" in the state in fiscal year 2010.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Today’s the first day of school for most children in Michigan.   In Lansing, this is also the beginning of the final year on the job for the district’s  school superintendent.  

As the public address system blared instructions for which classroom or auditorium they should go to, hundreds of students found their way around Lansing’s STEM Academy this morning.  District Superintendent T.C. Wallace was there to help them find their way.  

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will make an appearance in Detroit this week, just days after a visit from President Obama. It's part of a three-day “Education and the Economy” tour Secretary Duncan is taking through the Midwest.

Detroit Public Schools, the city of Detroit, and several public safety agencies are launching what they call an “unprecedented, multi-agency” school safety initiative. The initiative includes updated monitoring equipment; designated safe routes and patrols around three schools deemed “hot spots”; and monitoring social media sites for potential problems.

The Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan

A coalition of Michigan’s public university officials says college is still affordable, despite tuition hikes.

A report from the Presidents Council says need-based financial aid is on the rise, and universities are covering more student costs.         

Michael Boulous is executive director of the Presidents Council.

"The bottom line is aid is available if you have need. College still is affordable, and we don’t want that to be a discouraging piece in attending any post-secondary institution."

Boulous says a college education is more important than ever for workers in Michigan.

"The number of jobs for workers with high school diplomas is shrinking rapidly," says Boulous. "In many cases, entire industries that employed these workers are vanishing. Unemployment for people who have gone to college is half the rate it is for those who have only a high school diploma."

        The report says merit-based scholarships have decreased slightly over the past few years. But the report says need-based financial aid has nearly doubled in that time.

The Presidents Council says the average student pays about $4,800 in tuition at a public university. Housing and books can add about $9,000 to that price tag.

School officials say about two-thirds of students qualify for financial aid.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The school system in Highland Park is getting closer to the possible appointment of an emergency manager because of its troubled finances.

Michigan schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan sent a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder this month saying "probable financial stress exists" in the Detroit-area school district. The letter says a recently revised state law requires that the governor appoint a review team to dig deeper into the district's finances.

The letter summarizing a preliminary financial review of the 1,300-student district was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The letter cites "unsatisfactory progress" in eliminating budget deficits and audit problems.

A message was left Tuesday seeking comment from School District of the City of Highland Park officials.

The district still could avoid the appointment of an emergency manager.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new program launching this fall in Grand Rapids will try to help high school dropouts earn both their high school diplomas and some college credit.  The program is a joint effort of Grand Rapids Public Schools and Grand Rapids Community College. 

College president Steven Ender says they’re reaching out to 16 to 19 year olds who otherwise would have a hard time finding a future in Michigan’s economy.  

Woodley Wonder Works / Flickr

 A new report, released by the Citizen's Research Council, says declining enrollment is one reason many Michigan public schools are facing financial struggles. From the Associated Press:

About 61 percent of Michigan's 551 traditional public school districts faced some degree of declining enrollment between the state's 1995 and 2009 fiscal years...

It's an important factor because much of the state aid that goes to school districts is granted on a per-student basis. The report says about half of Michigan's school districts saw a decline in their total state aid foundation revenue between the 1995 and 2009 fiscal years once it's adjusted for inflation.

The report says the per-student gap between the state's highest and lowest funded districts has shrunk but still exists.

The 87 page report, titled Distribution of State Aid to Michigan Schools, can be found here.

DPS emergency financial manager Roy Roberts says without Proposal S, the district would be severely crippled.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The board that will oversee Michigan’s lowest-performing schools has chosen John Covington as its chancellor.

Covington plans to leave his post as superintendent of the Kansas City school system to take the job. He’s overseen efforts to close schools and balance the budget in that job, which he’s held for the past two years.

Covington says he’s the job offers a unique chance for innovation in education:


Education officials from the state of Michigan released two lists on public schools today.

I posted earlier on Michigan's list of "Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools."

Here's a look at the state's "Top to Bottom Ranking" (follow the link to find the list, it's an excel spreadsheet).

The Top to Bottom ranking lists all public schools in Michigan that have more than 30 students who were "tested over the last two years in at least two state-tested content areas." (You can read more about how the schools were ranked here - warning - It's Power Point file.)

There are 3,010 schools listed.

The Michigan Department of Education says "this list is being published to provide information to all schools and to provide 'light of day' reporting on the achievement, improvement, and achievement gaps of all schools in the state."

The rankings are based on graduation rates and the following three areas of student achievement:

  1. Achievement at the elementary, middle, and high school levels
  2. Improvement in achievement over time
  3. The largest achievement gap between two subgroups calculated based on the top scoring 30% of students versus the bottom scoring 30% of students

The school districts that had schools in the 99th percentile rank (highest) were:

  • Forest Hills Public Schools
  • Ann Arbor Public Schools
  • School District of the City of Birmingham
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Bloomfield Hills School District
  • Rochester Community School District
  • Berkley School District
  • Lake Orion Community Schools
  • Grand Blanc Community Schools
  • Novi Community School District
  • Saginaw City School District
  • Farmington Public School District
  • Spring Lake Public Schools
  • Hudsonville Public School District
  • Detroit City School District
  • Ottawa Area ISD
  • Grand Haven Area Public Schools
  • Troy School District
  • East Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Livonia Public Schools

And school districts that had schools ranked at the bottom (0 percentile rank) were:

  • Detroit City School District
  • Buena Vista School District
  • Benton Harbor Area Schools
  • Center for Literacy and Creativity
  • Willow Run Community Schools
  • Ecorse Public School District
  • Tuscola ISD
  • Monroe ISD
  • Flint City School District
  • Pontiac City School District
  • Lansing Public School District
  • River Rouge School District
  • Saginaw City School District
  • Southfield Public School District

Both sides in the Central Michigan University fracas seem to like the court order issued today.

Judge Paul Chamberlain said members of the CMU Faculty Association must continue to work, but they are allowed to picket.

From the Saginaw News:

An Isabella County judge extended a court injunction that prevents Central Michigan University faculty from holding a strike or work stoppage.

The court order, signed by Circuit Judge Paul H. Chamberlain just before noon on Friday, states faculty are restrained from holding a work stoppage but are allowed to picket.

Laura Frey, Faculty Association president, said the court hearing was a "win" for the faculty.

"Our First Amendment rights have been restored," she said.

In a statement, CMU Provost and Executive Vice President E. Gary Shapiro said "we are extremely pleased with today’s court action, which places the priority on student learning and academic achievement. We now look forward to reaching an agreement through fact finding."

The University is seeking to cut faculty pay and benefits in response to state budget cuts. Members of the CMU Faculty Association, the union representing faculty, have said University officials are not bargaining in good faith with them.

A fact-finding process set up to resolve the dispute will begin on September 7.

In the Saginaw News article, Laura Frey "said the faculty intends on exercising their First Amendment rights when asked if they would picket."

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Education has revealed its list of "Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools" (follow the link to see the list - it's an excel spreadsheet).

The annual listing is required by state law. The state started the PLA listing last year, when 92 schools were called out.

Mercedes Mejia

Since taking office Governor Snyder has proposed many new education reform proposals, including mandatory Schools of Choice, which would allow students throughout the state to attend schools outside of their district.

In this weeks political roundup we take a look at Schools of Choice with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Opposition is mounting to a proposed requirement that all school districts in Michigan accept students from outside their borders. It’s part of Governor Snyder’s education reform plan. Legislation could be introduced as early as today.

Lynn Jacobs co-founded the group Michigan Communities for Local Control to fight the proposal:

Andrew Kuhn / Central Michigan Life

The administration and faculty of Central Michigan University have been unable to negotiate a contract. Tenure and tenure track faculty called for a stoppage and didn’t attend the first day of classes. But then a judge yesterday ordered tenured and tenure track faculty back to the classroom after ruling their strike illegal.

In today's Newsmaker interview we talk with Laura Frey, Faculty Association President.