Education

Detroit Public Schools officials are getting ready to submit their latest plan for shoveling the troubled district out from under a crippling deficit.

The plan could include a proposal to split the district in two. It’s an idea Michigan Radio first reported last April, and the concept is similar to the way General Motors restructured.

Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb says he’s reduced expenses by more than $500 million in the last several months, but there’s still a “legacy” deficit that tops $300 million:

"We’re whittling away at it, but we have to create a long-term plan so that we’re not in this situation 12 months from now or two years from now."

 DPS officials say another option is a New Orleans-style overhaul that would convert many schools to charters. A third option is to use the state’s tobacco settlement money to erase the district’s debt, or the state could opt for some combination of all the above options. Lawmakers rejected a proposal last month to use the state's tobacco settlement to pay off the district's debt.

Detroit Public Schools is recruiting businesses to adopt schools for academic and beautification projects. Angela Hoston heads the program:

"The goal is to have every school have a partner, and not just one partner but multiple partners. We want to raise the academic achievement levels of the bottom one-third of every classroom, and get them to the highest achievement level possible."

Hoston says each business can work with a principal to craft a unique program based on what the school needs and what the business can offer.

The initiative was announced at Gompers Elementary, where staff from the Doubletree Fort Shelby Hotel have built a garden and mentor students.

jimmiehomeschoolmom / flickr

An experimental school in Detroit is trying something new with its seventh and eighth graders.


Palmer Park Preparatory Academy is the first “teacher-led” school in Michigan. It’s instituted a program that puts students into customized reading and math classes based on their abilities instead of their grade level.


Ann Crowley is one of the school’s founders.


"We had to get the schedule set up so that the three teachers in those subject areas taught side-by-side at the same time, and also have a common planning period together," said Ann Crowley, one of the school's founders. She added:



"The logistics of it, with over 250 kids, was pretty intense."


Crowley says students are constantly monitored for improvement so they don’t get stuck in an instructional track for low-performing students.


An official with the school district says the program could be a model for other schools in Detroit.

Detroit Public Schools classrooms will be getting almost $50 million worth of technological upgrades through federal stimulus funds.

 

The district’s Emergency Financial Manager, Robert Bobb, calls the effort an “unprecedented” technological “infusion.”

 

Every Detroit middle and high school-student will get netbooks to use in the classroom.

 

District spokeswoman Kisha Verdusco says teachers will also get netbooks, and an array of other technologies to facilitate learning.

 

Kindergarteners on their first day of school.
Woodley Wonderworks / Creative Commons

This spring, parents across the state will enroll their kids in kindergarten. In the Montague Area Public School district, parents will be asked to list 5 colleges they’d like to see their 4-or-5-year-olds eventually attend.

 “Before their children walk through our doors for the first time, we want to plant that seed. We want to create an excitement with parents so that they are considering college from day one.”

Robert Bobb with a student
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb “has a busy few months” ahead.
 
Bobb’s contract with the schools expires in March. Governor-elect Rick Snyder has said he’ll extend it through June.
 
Bobb was dealt a defeat last month when a Wayne County Circuit Court Judge ruled Bobb overstepped his duties by implementing academic plans.
 

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Michigan has one of the worst success rates when it comes to turning around failing schools, according to a new report.

The study by the Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank, looked at the lowest-performing public schools in 10 states, including Michigan. The goal of the study was to see if a failing school could improve its test scores over a 5-year period.

Mike Petrilli is the think tank's executive vice president:

"What we see in the study is that Michigan, compared to other states, was reluctant to close low-performing schools, and didn’t have much success in improving these low-performing schools either."

Interior of EMU Science Complex
EMU

EMU calls it the largest single construction project in the history of the University.

Today the school put the interior of the Science Complex on display.

AnnArbor.com has put together a slide show of the complex.

The AP reports the $90 million Science Complex was paid for through the sale of bonds and through a 4% tuition increase that was approved in 2005.

The Mackinac Center’s for Public Policy’s Legal Foundation is filing a lawsuit against 10 Kent County school districts and their teachers’ union.

The suit is to be filed Wednesday on behalf of five taxpayers living near Grand Rapids. It claims the school districts are breaking state law by approving a contract that agrees not to privatize any services during the one-year agreement.

Patrick Wright directs the foundation. He says they want to make sure privatization remains a viable option for school districts across the state.

Michigan's deaf community to turning to Governor Jennifer Granholm in a last ditch effort to stop the sale of the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint.   Today in Lansing, the state senate corrected a problem in the bill authorizing the sale.  It's now up to the governor to decide if the sale will go through.The Associated Press reports:

The sale of the Flint site of the Michigan School for the Deaf is expected to move forward after a procedural vote of the state Senate. 

Senators gave the bill immediate effect Wednesday, meaning the legislation authorizing the property sale to a developer will be enrolled and forwarded to Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The Legislature had approved the bill earlier and the state also has approved a tax credit to aid the redevelopment. 

The developer expects to rebuild the school and keep it open. But the sale is opposed by some alumni of the school who say the sale process was not inclusive. They rallied to oppose the bill Wednesday outside the state Capitol.

Michigan lawmakers are wrapping up final votes before ending their 2009-10 legislative session.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan state senators will briefly gavel themselves back into session Wednesday morning, so they can fix some minor language problems in a few bills. 

But, they will likely hear from people opposed to one proposal to sell Michigan’s School for the Deaf. 

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Robert Bobb, the state appointed Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit Public Schools, will stay on the job through the end of the school year.  Bobb was appointed to the position by outgoing Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm.  Bobb's one-year contract ends in March.

According to a spokesman for Governor-elect Rick Snyder, a deal has been worked out to keep Bobb on the job through June.

The Associated Press reports:

Detroit Public Schools spokesman Steve Wasko says the extra 120 days gives Bobb more time to work out a "fully smooth transition" to the next emergency manager or a new superintendent.

Tom Watkins of Northville Michigan has been given the Upton Sinclair Award for education from EducationNews.org.

Watkins is the CEO of TDW and Associates, an educational consulting firm, and a former Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Michigan from 2001 to 2005.

In their release, EducationNews.org writes

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There appears to be rising opposition to the planned sale of the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint.     Meanwhile, a legislative mistake threatens to delay the sale.    


A private developer wants to buy the 85 acre campus for one point three million dollars.    He’ll then build a new school and lease it back to the state for two million dollars a year.  

Robert Bobb
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Update: 5:13 pm:

Emergency financial manager Robert Bobb and his team have already put in place several classroom reforms. Some of the reforms include two hours of math and reading instruction every day for elementary students, requiring all 7th graders to take pre-Algebra, and conducting "quarterly assessments" of students' skills.

Robert Bobb with a student
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Update: 5:15 pm:

Anthony Adams, president of the Detroit Board of Education, spoke with Michigan Radio about Judge Baxter's ruling. Adams says the ruling "isn't a victory per se":

"The only victory that we’ll have in the city of Detroit is when every child can read, can write, can learn to the best of their abilities, and we as adults have to sit at the table and make sure that we work together in a cooperative fashion."

Students at computers
User: Extra Ketchup / creative commons

Michigan State University students received more than 700 complaints of illegal downloading since September. That’s up from the nearly 200 complaints MSU received this time last year.

Here's how it works:

If a group like the recording industry or a movie studio thinks someone is downloading files illegally, they contact the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and issue what’s called a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint.

The Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint may soon be sold.

In the wee hours of Friday morning, as the legislature prepared to adjourn its 2010 session, state lawmakers approved the sale of the 153 year old school to a private developer for $1.3 million.

The developer plans to renovate some buildings on the 85 acre site and build a new $15 million complex for the school for the deaf.  The state will pay $2 million a year to lease the site.  

Ridgway White is the developer.  He says the current facility needs to be replaced. 

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Want to open up a charter school? A new report says Michigan has one of the nation’s friendliest laws when it comes to allowing charter schools to open.

The Center for Education Reform, a charter advocacy group in Washington, DC, says Michigan has the 5th best charter school law in the country.

Time is running out for state lawmakers in Lansing.     The current legislative session is scheduled to end today. They are hoping to pass a change that will effect Michigan's teachers.  


MPRN's Rick Pluta filed this report on what's happening now at the state capitol:

The Detroit Public Schools system has filed an unfair labor practice against the district's teachers' union over a substitute teacher dispute.

The president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers issued a letter to some substitutes last month telling them to stop drafting lesson plans, grading students, and holding parent-teacher conferences.

(Left to right) Godfrey Lee Superintendent David Britten, GVSU President Tom Haa
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Valley State University signed an agreement Monday that will help put more science and math teachers in high-risk classrooms.

The agreement is part of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship Program. Six universities in Michigan are participating in the program.

It offers 40 recent grads $30,000 to get their teaching degrees and spend 3 years in high need, urban middle and high school classrooms.

Ashley Steele and her son Richard Peake
Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

By Kate Davidson of Changing Gears

Five years ago this month, a group of anonymous donors made a radical promise to Kalamazoo, Michigan. They would pay for almost every public school graduate to go to a state-supported college or university. Our Changing Gears project has been profiling towns across the region as they try to reinvent themselves for the new economy. Here, they take a closer look at the "Kalamazoo Promise."

CMU students protesting the appearance of the Westboro Baptist Church members
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church spoke to journalism students at Central Michigan University Monday. The church is known for protesting at the funerals of U.S. soldiers. The group was invited to speak to journalism law students about how far free speech is protected by the first amendment.

grpublicschools.org / Grand Rapids Public Schools

Michigan's third largest K through 12 school district is in the early stages of forming a new 5 year plan. It'll cover everything from instruction to safety to athletics.

Grand Rapids Public Schools put together its first 5 year vision in February of 2009. Most of the goals set then have already been met or are being implemented. So they're looking to the community to help figure out how to keep the momentum going.

(courtesy of Westboro Baptist Church)

Members of a controversial church group that protests outside soldiers' funerals will speak at Central Michigan University next week.

Journalism professor Tim Boudreau says he invited Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church to talk to his students.

Members of the Kansas church believe U.S. soldiers' deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.

Boudreau says he caught his students by surprise when he told them who was coming.

Robert Bobb helps student with homework
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Free Press reports that after Robert Bobb's clashes with the Detroit school board, things at least looked a little better at last night's school board meeting:

The Detroit school board and its state-appointed emergency financial manager appeared to mend fences Thursday night, agreeing to work to position the school board to regain budgetary authority.

Wendell Anthony is the pastor of Fellowship Chapel and leads NAACP in Detroit
detroitnaacp.org

Republican Rick Snyder and democrat Virg Bernero agreed to just one debate. It took place last Sunday.

School student in Japan reading a book outside
Mehan / Creative Commons

Governor Grahom recently aired the idea of an extended school year for Michigan students. She says U.S. students are at a disadvantage globally. So how often are kids in other countries in school?

There’s a lot of change happening in Detroit. And city leaders face a lot of challenges – like what to do with vacant land and dilapidated building and a lack of basic amenities in many parts of the city. School leaders have their own challenges.

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