Education

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

At the beginning of the school year, Jennifer Guerra spent a lot of time at two different schools for her documentary, The Education Gap. One of the schools had plenty of resources, the other did not.

Jen went back to the school where poverty is a real struggle for nearly all of the students. There have been some changes since she last visited. For example, school officials now say its OK for us to identify the school on air (we refer to the school as School X in the documentary.) 

It's Myers Elementary in Taylor. But whether it's referred to as School X or Myers, the school is still caught in the nexus of having few tools to deal with some of society's most complicated problems. 

But there have been several smaller, more personal victories. The principal has convinced some kids that college is an option they can and should be serious about. And some of the kids hungry for more challenging academics have gotten more attention. 

Read and listen to what difference a year makes at State of Opportunity

 

Kalamazoo Public Schools

The Kalamazoo Promise, an anonymous benefactor, is providing four-year-scholarships to almost all of the students who graduate from Kalamazoo Public Schools.

One student from Kalamazoo Central High School, Jay Valikodath, said the Promise changed his and his classmates’ lives, because they'll be able to start their careers after college debt free.  

Bob Jorth, the director of the Kalamazoo Promise, says they have covered 43 state-supported community colleges and universities in Michigan. They are partnering with the Michigan Colleges Alliance, which will add 15 private colleges and universities in Michigan.

The Promise will cover tuition at colleges with the same average tuition rate as the University of Michigan’s College of Literature Arts and Sciences. Anything beyond that will be covered by the institution.

The promise has paid more than $54 million in tuition for 3,286 students, not including this current school year.

A total of 679 of those students earned associates, bachelors, or some form of post-secondary education degree. That’s a little more than 20% of those who have received grants.

“The biggest challenge is completion,” Jorth said. “The No. 1 factor in getting kids through college is making sure they are ready to start college.”

Jorth added that the main goal is to get as many students as possible pursue a post-secondary education.

*Listen to full interview above. 

-Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Kalamazoo Promise is expanding to include more than a dozen private colleges in Michigan.

The Promise provides scholarship money for Kalamazoo public school students to attend college. Until now, the Promise has made it possible for students to afford only public colleges and universities. 

But today, the Promise’s Janice Brown announced 15 schools, including Detroit Mercy, Hillsdale College, Hope College and Adrian College, will start matching Promise scholarships beginning in the fall of 2015.

Keith Elementary in Walled Lake, MI.
Keith Elementary / Twitter

Melody Arabo, a third-grade teacher at Keith Elementary School in Walled Lake, has been named Michigan Teacher of the Year.

“I think building those relationships is key. I think no matter what grade level you teach, no matter what area you teach in, making a connection with the kids and making them feel welcome at school – I think that's probably the most important thing,” Arabo said.

Arabo said she makes this work by showing an interest in their personal lives. “I can tell you what sports each kid is good at and what they love. I can tell you about their hobbies; they can actually tell you about mine,” Arabo said.

As Michigan’s teacher of the year, Arabo may attend the State Board of Education’s monthly meetings.

“I’m excited to see how that works and learn more about the political atmosphere around education,” she said. “And then be able to bring in the voices of teachers that I know, and the concerns that we have and the celebrations that we have so we can uplift the public education system.”

*Listen to full interview above. 

MichigansChildren / YouTube

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says the consequences of turning entire school districts over to for-profit charter school companies deserves more consideration from state lawmakers.

Flanagan told a state panel last week it’s not clear if the Muskegon Heights school district, or the for-profit charter company that ran it the last two years, will face any consequences for running up a deficit big enough to require an emergency loan worth $1.4 million and two cash advances to keep schools open through June. It’s unclear exactly what the deficit is for the 2013-2014 school year.

The Muskegon Heights school district is now looking for a new operator. That’s after the district and its emergency manager agreed to end its contract with Mosaica Education Inc. when the company couldn’t turn a profit.

“Now that (Mosaica) is leaving, they pretty much told us they’re not going to do (the district’s) deficit elimination plan. To follow up on that, we should wait for the new management company and deal with them,” Dan Hanrahan, Michigan Department of Education’s director of state aid and school finance, told the panel.

American Federation of Teachers Michigan

Teachers and staff at Detroit’s first unionized charter school have reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement.

Teachers at Detroit’s Cesar Chavez Academy formally joined the American Federation of Teachers in February 2013.

flickr/Schlüsselbein2007

Michigan is doing a better job calculating high school dropout and graduation rates. That’s according a new report from the state auditor general’s office.

An audit in 2006 showed the state was not providing reliable data on graduations and dropouts. It made a list of recommendations for how the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) could do better.

Now, the auditor general says the department has met all those recommendations.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

About 180 Marshall High School seniors will get their diplomas tomorrow.

Two dozen students from Albion will be among those in caps and gowns.

Last year, Albion school district officials decided to close their high school for budget reasons.

Most of the Albion students ended up at Marshall. There was concern the two student bodies would clash.

Dan Luciani is the  principal of Marshall High School. He credits the students with making the transition work.

“The resiliency of kids,” says Luciani. “They really outdid themselves in adapting to the situation.”

Marshall school leaders will hold a special orientation for incoming freshmen from both communities later this summer.

MichigansChildren / YouTube

Late last year, the state’s top education official had dire predictions for the finances of Michigan schools. He predicted the number of districts in deficit could reach 100 “before long.”

Now, state Superintendent Mike Flanagan says the situation is stabilizing, and he credits increased funding from the state.

“Debates aside about how much of an increase there is – there’s been improved funding the last couple years,” said Flanagan. “I think there could be more. But I think that’s helped.”

Flanagan gave his latest regular update to the state Legislature Thursday on school districts with budget deficits. He says the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) expects the number of deficit districts to have dropped from 52 to 45 over the course of this school year.

Flanagan says the state’s sluggish economy in recent years has made it difficult to help schools get their books in order.

“Now we’re coming out of it,” he said, “and we need to continue to invest in our kids. And I appreciate the start that this legislature and governor have made. I do think we can and will do more in the future.”

Flanagan is urging state lawmakers to create an “early warning system” for schools facing financial emergencies. Legislation in the state Senate would also make it easier for the state to assign an emergency manager if a district violates a deficit elimination plan.

Democrats say it’s not fair to say Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature have increased state education funding. Republicans include money that went into the teacher pension system.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint school district is sending out some 250 pink slips this week.

They're laying off non-classroom staff, from janitors to secretaries to school safety workers. 

 Administrators say they have no choice: they're coming up against a state deadline to eliminate the district's $10 million general fund deficit. 

Now the district will look to outsource those positions through a private company.

Karon Grubb is a secretary in the administration office.

Catherine Ferguson Academy

It's kind of heartbreaking. 

The Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit is closing at the end of this month, due to low enrollment and financial trouble.

That's the announcement from the Wayne RESA, the intermediate school district that held the school's charter, and the whole thing feels like deja vu.

A beloved school repeatedly finds itself on brink of closure    

The end of the school year is upon us. It puts high school administrators on high alert.

Sometimes they don't have to worry about much.

Even though their seniors try it, no, their high school won't be sold on Craigslist. Seniors at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor gave it a go. As did seniors at Freeland High School in Mid-Michigan.

This kind of prank is harmless and fun. Even the more mature members of the community can appreciate this type of prank – as this news segment shows:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Thousands of new Michigan college graduates entered the workforce in the past month.

Many can relate to the findings of a new poll on student loans.

A new poll by a credit counseling group shows people with student loans believe by a two to one margin that borrowing money to pay for college was a good investment. But most people in that same poll would not recommend taking out a student loan now.

Older people were more pessimistic than younger college grads.

Common Core: the future of testing for Michigan's school kids

May 29, 2014

As the school year comes to end, parents, teachers and even kids themselves are wondering what kind of testing they'll have to endure when they return in the fall. 

Michigan's adopted a set of standards called Common Core. With it, the state wants to give kids an applied knowledge kind of test called Smarter Balanced.

But not everyone's happy. State lawmakers are trying to stop the new test and trying to take the power to oversee school testing away from the Michigan Department of Education. Some of them want to bring back the MEAP. 

MDE

Detroit Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski (say "stroh-dow-ski") wants you to know that administrators get it: Nobody likes closing schools. 

"We look at a school as the anchor or the center of a  neighborhood. And for us to take it away could do some serious damage, and we don't want to do that," she says.

But they do have a $120 million deficit this year.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

If you've got a charter school management company and you'd like to run the chaotic, broke school district of Muskegon Heights, today is your last day to submit a bid.  

That's because the school system's emergency manager recently announced a mutual split with their previous contractor, a company called Mosaica Education.

Mosaica was losing money.

And it was getting a lot of flack for hiring teachers without proper certification (which earned the district state fines) and not delivering all the required special education services. 

Jennifer Guerra visits a Catholic High School using an apprenticeship model to give their students a competitive advantage.

UltraViolet

"University of Michigan has a rape problem. Find out more before you decide."

"Accepted to University of Michigan? You should know about its rape problem."

Those are the Facebook and mobile ads seen recently by some prospective Michigan students and their parents.

They ran during the critical weeks when students have their acceptance letters and are deciding where to enroll.

“This is information a lot of colleges have been trying to hide.”

Five thousand Lansing school students will be riding buses operated by a private company this fall.

The school board voted last night to privatize its bus system. Dean Transportation currently provides bus service to a consortium of Ingham County school districts.

When the Lansing School Board tabled a proposal to privatize its bus service in January, the issue seemed to be put on the back burner until next year.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Despite a previous state takeover, a slew of surprise costs and a dramatic drop in student enrollment have led to a new budget deficit for the public school district in Highland Park.

A multi-million dollar deficit prompted a state takeover of Highland Park Public Schools in 2012. The state appointed emergency manager restructured the district’s deficit into long-term debt with over $7 million in emergency loans from the state.

The manager created a new charter school district to educate students. In 2012  The Leona Group LLC., a charter company,was hired to run the entire district for an annual fee of $780,000.

But now the district is running a deficit again.

There's a state law that gives a special board up to $50 million that can be loaned to struggling school districts.

The long-term, low-interest loans are supposed to help these districts restructure and pay down their debt.

But this emergency loan board has already given out $48 million. That’s 97% of the money that was supposed to last until 2018.

How did this happen? And is there a way for struggling school districts to get back on their feet without needing an emergency manager or having to ask for another loan?

Jeff Guilfoyle with Public Sector Consultants joined us today to talk about this problem.

*Listen to the interview below.

Brian D. Hawkins / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids police used to use a state law outlawing panhandling to arrest hundreds of people over the years. But a federal judge struck down that law as too broad, saying it impinged on free speech rights.

So now the city is trying to narrow when, where, and how people can ask for money.

Panhandling from drivers on the side of the road, for example, would be illegal.

Grand Rapids’ attorney Catherine Mish says it can cause accidents and be dangerous for the person asking for money. Mish says a person panhandling was hit by a car just this week.

A state wide teacher evaluation system is finally seeing some movement in the legislature. The plan would rate teachers and administrators based on student growth on standardized tests and in-class observations. If teachers and administrators are found to be ineffective for three year in a row, they would be fired.

Representative Lisa Posthumus Lyons is the Chair of the House Education Committee. She joined us today.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A University of Michigan student is suing the school over a sexual assault case, but this time, the student says the school took its investigation too far.

Drew Sterrett was a rising sophomore the summer of 2012, when he was accused of sexual assault.

He says the school suspended him until 2016, at least, without ever giving him a fair shot at defending himself.

There's no indication that there was ever a criminal complaint or investigation.

flickr/Schlüsselbein2007

As many as 200 kids per year from the west side of Grand Rapids will get a chance at a free college education, thanks to a new scholarship program announced today. 

The scholarships come out of a program that started a few years ago at Harrison Park Elementary in Grand Rapids. The Challenge Scholars program, a project of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, started with a single class of fourth-grade students, with the goal of doing whatever it would take to prepare those kids for college. 

"From about 2008 to 2011, we just did a deep dive into 'what are we going to do?'" says Diana Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. "We started with the fourth grade, but really what we're trying to do is influence that whole school."

So the school got what Sieger calls a "college pathways coordinator," a person who basically prepares kids and their families for what it will take to be ready for college. The school also got added support in math and literacy. 

But 97 percent of kids at Harrison Park Elementary are eligible for free or reduced lunch, which means many of them are living in poverty. Just getting them prepared for college wasn't going to be enough. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Mary Sue Coleman has spoken to graduates for the last time as president at the University of Michigan.

Coleman got a standing ovation from graduates Saturday at Michigan Stadium. She says they're off to pursue their first job or an advanced degree while she is ending 45 years in higher education.

Coleman leaves the Ann Arbor campus this summer after 12 years. She mentioned students who have inspired her, including football player Denard Robinson and Chris Armstrong, an openly gay student government president.

Editors of the New Republic saw this tweet from NYU professor and Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer:

In the classroom.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The way Michigan schools are funded is complex and emotionally charged.

Proposal A was passed in 1994. It was a new system for funding schools. It stopped the use of local property taxes as a source of school funding. Instead, it created a new state education tax, and it boosted the state sales tax from four to six cents on the dollar. The extra two cents goes to the school aid fund.

Twenty years after the changes, one thing many Michiganders agree on is that it's time to overhaul Proposal A, but there are many views on how to do that.

This week, Bridge Magazine is featuring a series of reports by Chastity Pratt Dawsey looking at how we fund schools in Michigan.

Dawsey joined us today.

*Listen to our conversation with her above.

The Detroit Public Schools is hiring new teachers for the upcoming school year.

The district is hosting a teacher recruitment fair Wednesday at Renaissance High School.

The district is looking to fill 300 to 400 positions, says DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski.

In its ongoing effort to cut costs, the district is offering more generous buyouts to some of its more highly-paid teachers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A White House task force will release recommendations today for dealing with sexual assaults on college campuses. It’s an issue that has attracted a lot of attention at some Michigan colleges.

President Obama formed the ‘White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault’ back in January and gave the panel 90 days to return a list of recommendations for dealing with the problem.

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