Education

Education
6:35 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

Benton Harbor teachers agree to lower wages in face of potential state takeover

Benton Harbors' school board voted to close a junior high school. 7th and 8th graders will head to Benton Harbor High School. Seawood said he's taken precautions to seperate the age groups within the school.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Teachers in Benton Harbor have agreed to an across-the-board cut of pay and benefits. Teachers ratified the contract with a vote of 85 yes and 65 no. Tuesday afternoon the school board voted 5 to 2 to approve a new contract that will reduce teachers’ pay by 10-percent beginning in February (the contract runs through August 2012). Teachers will pay 20-percent of their health care benefits.  In the past three weeks alone the school board has closed two schools and laid off 20 employees. They’ve also put buildings up for sale.

“That will help us with our cash flow and will allow us to continue our operation without a stoppage,” Superintendent Leonard Seawood said. “That’s a lot for this community to be proud of,” Seawood said, in terms of addressing the financial problems. Seawood has been with the district since August 2010. 

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Education
5:17 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

Governor Snyder signs law removing cap on Michigan charter schools

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a bill into law that gets rid of the cap on the number of university-sponsored charter schools in the state.

Snyder said he hopes allowing more charter schools to open their doors in Michigan will encourage all schools to improve their performance.

“One of the nice parts about charters is it really emphasizes innovation and entrepreneurial ideas about how to really advance education,” said Snyder. “It’s the system of school concept that you’re going to see more and more across all education – that it’s not just about a district, it’s about schools being successful.”

Critics of the measure say the law does not include enough assurances that charter schools meet high standards. And they say charter schools leave out special-needs students through selective enrollment and interviewing.

Governor Snyder said treatment of students with special needs is a concern.

 “I would like to say that there’s a better job in general that we can do with special-needs kids, and that’s something that a more comprehensive review would be appropriate – including the intermediate school districts, the whole process of how we do it today, and how we can work better together. Because it’s important, again, to have all our kids be as successful as possible,” Snyder said.

The law will allow an unlimited number of university-sponsored charter schools to operate in Michigan by 2015.

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Education
2:50 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

State begins review of Muskegon Heights schools' finances

Muskegon Heights High School
Muskegon Heights School Board

Tomorrow the state will begin a preliminary review of the Muskegon Heights School District’s finances. This is the first step in a process that would determine if the school district needs a state-appointed emergency manager.

Many school districts and municipalities make an effort to avoid state takeovers. But in Muskegon Heights, the school board is asking for one.

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Commentary
12:26 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

A new idea for schools, make them centers of the community

Toledo, Ohio is just across Michigan’s southern border, but as far as policy makers in our state are concerned, it might as well be another country. In fact, virtually nobody in Michigan pays much attention to anything going on in Toledo, which is unfortunate.

That’s because in many ways, Toledo, a city of about 300,000 people, is more like Michigan than like the rest of Ohio. It has a blue-collar economy that has long mirrored Detroit’s.The Motor City made cars;Toledo made Jeeps and auto parts.

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Education
11:45 am
Tue December 20, 2011

Flint school officials plead for public's help to prevent vandalism

Flint's Northwestern High School, like many schools in the district, has been hit by thieves looking for things to steal.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

People stealing metal, computers and other equipment have done more than a million dollars worth of damage to Flint school buildings in the past 18 months. 

Linda Thompson is the Flint Community Schools superintendent. She says the problem goes well beyond kids with spray paint.   

Thompson says in one case a school building was ransacked as part a sophisticated scheme.   

"These are not kids doing this," Thompson insists, "You can look at the fact that electricity was disconnected….we’re talking about people who are not amateurs about doing this either."  

Thompson is worried vandals might take advantage of the upcoming Christmas break to do more damage to Flint schools.    

She’s urging people to report any suspicious activity around Flint schools to the police.  

Thompson says Flint is not alone. Many urban school districts have seen a big increase in vandalism during the past few years. 

Education
11:40 am
Tue December 20, 2011

Adrian College gets $20 million gift of support

Herrick Tower, Adrian College, Adrian, Michigan.
wikimedia commons

ADRIAN, Mich. (AP) - Adrian College says it recently received a $20 million gift that's the largest in its history.

The private college about 60 miles southwest of Detroit said in a statement Monday that the bequest is from the estate of Willard M. Cornelius Sr., who served as a member of the school's board of trustees from 1931 to 1948.

According to the school, Cornelius was an early innovator in rustproofing for the automotive industry. The money will be used to help students with tuition as well as support renovation to the college's science and business buildings.

Adrian College President Jeffrey Docking says the "benefits of this tremendous gift are difficult to quantify."

Education
6:08 pm
Mon December 19, 2011

Education Achievement System looks to public

Leaders of a new statewide school district are looking for citizen input.

The Education Achievement System (EAS) is Governor’s Snyder’s plan to improve the state’s lowest-performing schools. The EAS held input sessions in Detroit and Kalamazoo Monday.

Plans for the EAS have been sketchy so far. It’s set to launch in 2012 with an unspecified number of Detroit Public Schools.

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Education
5:10 pm
Mon December 19, 2011

Cooley Law School to open immigrant rights clinic in Ann Arbor

user mconnors morgueFile

Low-income immigrants in the Washtenaw County area will soon be able to get free legal help from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Ann Arbor campus.

Jason Eyster, an associate professor at Cooley Law School, will run the new immigrant rights clinic. He says they’ll be able to take up to six immigration cases at a time, dealing with a variety of issues:

"In the immigration area: individuals are seeking asylum, seeking withholding of removal,  seeking cancelation of removal, or seeking clarity on what their rights may or may not be," said Eyster.

Eyster says they’ll also help immigrants with other issues, like "foreclosure, landlord-tenant, custody issues, and that sort of thing."

The clinic doesn't open until next month, but Eyster says they're already booked.

Education
8:43 am
Mon December 19, 2011

Group at work to create "evaluation tool" for Michigan teachers

user kconnors morgueFile

Discussions are underway to figure out how best to evaluate Michigan’s teachers.

Governor Snyder has tasked a group of five people to develop a so-called “teacher evaluation” tool as part of the state’s new teacher tenure law. The law contains a lot about teacher evaluation, but doesn’t detail what the evaluation would look like.

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Education
4:01 pm
Sun December 18, 2011

MSU study finds English language test is negatively affecting some Michigan school children

In 2011, nearly 70,000 Michigan school children who speak English as a second language had to take a special test of their English language skills. A new Michigan State University study says that test is causing unintended problems for those students.   

The English Language Proficiency Assessment is intended to identify which students may need help learning English as their second language.

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Education
12:44 pm
Fri December 16, 2011

9 states win "Race to the Top" grants, Michigan not among winners

user alkruse24 Flickr

Update 1:10 p.m.

The official announcement was made this morning. From a U.S. Department of Education press release:

Today, the White House announced that nine states—California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington—will receive grant awards from the $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge fund...

"In a matter of months, early education and child development experts throughout the country, together with state and local leaders, worked to build comprehensive plans for expanding access to high-quality early learning," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "All applicants showed tremendous dedication and drive to build stronger foundations and create greater opportunities for more children. Their work will help lead the way in ensuring excellent early learning and support for every child."

12:44 p.m.

From the AP:

The Associated Press has learned that nine states will share $500 million in grant money to improve their early childhood programs.

An administration official says the winners to be announced Friday at the White House are California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the winners had not been announced.

The competition is part of the Obama administration's cornerstone education initiative called "Race to the Top." It has states competing for federal education dollars in exchange for changes it favors. Last year, it handed out $4 billion in such grants focused on K-12 education.

The goal of the early learning competition was to get more children from birth to age 5 ready for kindergarten.

Education
2:25 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Reconfiguring Lansing schools

Lansing school children hurry to class
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Lansing public schools may soon undergo a big shake up.    

The plan on the table would affect most children in the school district.    

The Lansing public school district has about half the student population it once had. The district is looking at ways to trim its budget in the short term and stabilize its future finances.   

A special task force has been meeting since this summer to come up with ways to address the district’s problems.   

The plan the board of education will see tonight proposes closing a high school and reconfiguring the district’s elementary and middle schools. 

The plan also addresses ways to improve academic performance among Lansing public school students.   The plan calls for offering preschool and developmental kindergarten to 3 and 4 year olds.

Education
3:23 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

Bill to allow more charter schools in Michigan stalls in Republican-led House

user jdurham morgueFile

Michigan’s Republican-led Senate has passed a measure that removes the 150-school cap on university-sponsored charters. The bill is now stalled in the House.

The way the current cap works: If a charter is considered "high performing," it is re-labeled a School of Excellence, and removed from the cap, which leaves a vacancy for a new university-sponsored charter school to fill.

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Education
11:37 am
Mon December 12, 2011

Schools can get $500 "bus grants" for arts and culture field trips

The MCACA is now offering Arts & Culture Trek grants to schools.
Photo by coopah morgueFile

Teachers across the state can now apply for grants to help cover transportation costs for field trips.

The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs is providing schools with Arts & Culture Trek grants worth $500 to help cover transportation costs.

Stacey Lind is with the Michigan Youth Arts, the group that’ll be distributing the grants. She said there's an approved list of all organizations on their website, which includes "museums, orchestras, performing arts centers, dance organizations, [and] the Detroit Zoo."

Lind said extracurricular activities like field trips are often the first things to go when a school is trying to cut costs:

"Some students never go to the symphony; some students never get to see a live dance performance," said Lind. "These transportation grants provide an opportunity for those students to actually be able to see and experience things  they might never be exposed to in school."

About 100 grants are available, though Lind says more could be on the way.  Each school can qualify for one$500 grant.

Applications are available now through January 16 for field trips between March and May of 2012.

Education
1:01 am
Mon December 12, 2011

Flint school board sending deficit elimination plan to state today

The Flint School District will deliver its deficit elimination plan to the state today. But a long-time critic doubts the district’s administration will be able to make the plan work.     

State law requires local units of government that finish their fiscal year with a deficit to send a ‘deficit elimination plan’ to the Treasury Department. 

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Education
1:16 am
Sat December 10, 2011

Flint school board approves deficit elimination plan

An overflow crowd attended last night's Flint school board meeting on the district's $3.7 million deficit elimination plan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A divided Flint School Board narrowly approved a state mandated deficit elimination plan last night.   

The board first deadlocked whether to approve the $3.7 million deficit elimination plan. After being told the district would potentially lose some pending state funding, the board revoted on the plan and passed it.  

Linda Thompson is Flint’s school superintendent. She said the plan should help the district avoid falling under the oversight of a state appointed emergency manager. Maybe.   

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Commentary
11:56 am
Fri December 9, 2011

The Education Disconnect

Michigan Radio has been sponsoring a set of public forums designed to bring experts on various issues together with the public in an informal, non-threatening way, a series called “Issues and Ale.“ I moderated one earlier this week that focused on education, held at the Wolverine Brewing Company in Ann Arbor. I was doubtful how many people would actually show up. This was on Tuesday night in what is really early winter, with the holidays approaching. To my surprise, however, before the evening was over it was standing room only, with people packing the hall.

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Education
11:36 am
Fri December 9, 2011

Muskegon Heights school board asks for an emergency manager

Muskegon Heights High School. The Muskegon Heights school board is asking for an emergency manager appointment.
Muskegon Heights School Board

Update 11:36 a.m. The Muskegon Heights School Board plans to take the unusual step of asking for a state takeover. And they say they want Marios Demetriou, a Deputy Superintendent at the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, to be the person who servers as their emergency manager. 

The school district has a deficit of around $9 million, and it’s growing. The board blames rising expenses, funding reductions, declining enrollment, and soaring health care costs as reasons for its problems. The Muskegon Heights Superintendent, Dana Bryant, has decided to "give up his job" to "help with financial relief efforts." He'll retire at the end of the year.

The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District Superintendent, Dave Sipka, will act as interim Superintendent for Muskegon Heights in the meantime. If one is appointed, an emergency manager could change or end union contracts to reduce the district’s deficit.

Doug Pratt, with the Michigan Education Association, said employees in Muskegon Heights have made sacrifices, and more concessions are not the answer. “The issue really is the fundamental lack of adequate funding from Lansing, especially when you look at the most recent cut of a billion dollars from public education that the legislature enacted earlier this year,” said Pratt.

Even though they’re asking for one, an emergency appointment wouldn’t come right away. A financial review would have to be performed before an EM is appointed. The Michigan Department of Education says they have not received the official request from the Muskegon Heights School Board yet, but they’ve been notified the request is coming. Michigan Department of Education spokeswoman Jan Ellis said the state has had “great concern over the financial stability of Muskegon Heights for quite some time.” She said the Muskegon Heights deficit has grown from $800,000 to around $9 million in the last 5 years. “Their ability to repay that debt or balance their budget becomes harder and harder, just like it would with everyone’s personal budget, if they got further and further in debt,” said Ellis.

The Muskegon Heights School Board has asked for an emergency manager to run the school district.

Thursday, December 8, 11:36 p.m.

In a statement, Muskegon School Board President Avery Burrel said,

"This is the first step in a long process of rebuilding our district's operational future. With the loss of Dr. Bryant's leadership, and the load of debt we are under, my fellow board members and I felt we must set aside our personal pride and ask the State and MAISD for help. Our children are counting on us to do so, and the future of our district depends on our actions today."

9:49 a.m.

Most school districts or cities work to avoid an emergency manager appointment, but the Muskegon Heights school board is practically begging for an emergency manager.

The Muskegon Chronicle reports the school board owes more than $900,000 to the state retirement system.

From the Muskegon Chronicle:

The school board in a surprising move Wednesday voted to ask that Marios Demetriou, the deputy superintendent for the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, be appointed the district's emergency financial manager.

It also eliminated the superintendent's position, accepting the Dec. 31 retirement of Superintendent Dana Bryant, who in a statement said that considering all the other job losses in the district “I need to be man enough to give up my own job to help with the financial reform efforts.”

There are five emergency mangers operating in the state today.

With other school districts and cities in financial distress, more are likely to be appointed.

Education
11:16 am
Thu December 8, 2011

U-M to Make Gender Neutral Housing More Accessible

The University of Michigan student assembly wants to make it easier for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual students to live together. It’s part of a movement called gender neutral housing.

The student organization wants to see a gender neutral housing option on next year’s on-campus housing application. It would allow students to be contacted by the LGBT student resource center, and partnered with a roommate they feel comfortable with.

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Education
2:56 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Detroit students show small gains on national standardized test

Detroit students scored better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Students in Detroit Public Schools showed slight improvements in the latest round of a benchmark standardized test.

But Detroit students still posted the worst scores of any district in the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test.

The NAEP exam tests fourth and eighth-graders in reading and math. When Detroit students took the test for the first time in 2009, they produced the worst scores in the test’s history.

In 2011:

·        Math, 4th grade: proficiency up from 31% to 34%

·        Math, 8th grade: proficiency up from 22% to 29%

·        Reading, 4th grade: proficiency up from 27% to 31%

·        Reading, 8th grade: proficiency up from 41% to 43%

Some experts question whether the posted gains are even statistically significant. But Detroit schools’ emergency manager Roy Roberts says the important thing is a positive trend.

“Detroit had the highest gains of any city in any subject in mathematics,” Roberts says. “Detroit also exceeded the state in gains in reading.”

“Like the budget deficit, it will not be eliminated overnight. But we have demonstrated real progress.”

Roberts says the biggest thing hindering Detroit students’ academic performance has been “instability” in the district.

He says the district will announce in January how many more schools to close, charter, or move to the Education Achievement System, a new statewide district for the lowest-performing schools.

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