Education

Education
6:32 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

DPS launches parent meetings about charter schools plan

Parents at Detroit's Priest Elementary School learn about the district's plan to close and charterize schools
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools held the first in a series of parent meetings about a radical plan to close some schools and turn others into charter schools.

Detroit schools’ Emergency Financial Manager, Robert Bobb, proposes closing six schools and making up to 45 others into charters.

18 of those schools will close this summer if no charter operator takes over. 27 others will have the opportunity to go charter, but would stay open as public schools if that doesn’t happen.

Bobb says that’s a better option than a state-mandated deficit-elimination plan, which would close 40 schools outright.

Most parents who attended the first meeting at Priest Elementary school in southwest Detroit expressed concern and even anger about Bobb’s plan. Many worry what it will mean for their neighborhood schools, student transportation, and special needs students.

Danielle Clark’s eleven-year-old daughter attends the Detroit Day School for the Deaf. Bobb’s plan calls for that school to close.

“This should not be an option, to close the only deaf school in Detroit. I drive 40 miles one way because this is my daughter’s culture and her environment and this is the place where she needs to be.”

District spokesman Steve Wasko says concerned parents will have a chance to make their case directly to Bobb in other meetings this month.

“We may learn something about a school…that it’s not a good candidate for closure or charter. In some cases we may learn that a school that we thought was a candidate for charter just simply has no interest from a charter. And if it’s on the list of 18, it would indeed close. If it’s on the larger list it would remain open.”

Bobb and the Detroit School Board will also hold two town meetings about the plan on April 12th and 13th.

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Education
6:42 am
Tue April 5, 2011

Meetings in Detroit to detail school closings

The first of several workshops to educate Detroit parents on the schools district’s future plans is scheduled for this afternoon, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Detroit Public Schools' Parents Speakers Bureau will hold the meetings starting Tuesday afternoon at Priest Elementary and Central High. Six other meetings are scheduled through April 14.

Thirty schools are slated to be closed this year and two more in 2012 as part of the district's plan to help eliminate a $327 million budget deficit.

District officials say they hope to turn over 18 of the buildings to charter operators as neighborhood schools. Schools not selected as charters will close. An additional 27 schools also have been identified as possible candidates for charters.

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Education
4:56 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Detroit could have trouble luring charter operators to take over troubled schools

Elizabeth Albert wikipedia commons

Detroit Public Schools is offering up dozens of its struggling schools to be turned into charters. And officials say they only want “superstar” operators with a proven track record of academic excellence.

But those operators might prove difficult to attract. The schools being offered up have the lowest student achievement, declining enrollment, or are located in areas that are not expected to be targeted for redevelopment.

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Education
3:55 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

2 ex-Eastern Michigan University students may have used stolen IDs to file fradulent tax returns

Federal authorities investigate security breach at EMU
John-Morgan creative commons

Eastern Michigan University officials say two of its former student employees may have filed fake tax returns using other students’ personal information.

The two students were already under investigation for allegedly stealing 58 student records.

Walter Kraft is VP of communications for EMU. He says now six more students have come forward to say their personal information was stolen:

"Apparently what happened in this case is that the student records were used for the purpose of filing fraudulent tax returns in order for someone to obtain a tax return to which they were not entitled."

Kraft says EMU police and federal authorities are investigating the two former student employees, whose identities have not been released.

He says EMU already does background checks on student employees, and is looking to see what other steps can be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

 Nearly 2,000 EMU students currently work for the university.

Education
2:32 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Top Ten 8th Grade MEAP Scores at Michigan's public schools

MEAP test scores for grades 3 through 8 were released today in Michigan
Kevin Wong Flickr

Math - 8th Grade - Top Ten Public Schools in Average MEAP Scores

  1. Ann Arbor Public Schools - Clague Middle School    - 855
  2. Troy School District - Boulan Park Middle School     - 853.4
  3. Birmingham City School District - Birmingham Covington School - 852.8
  4. Bloomfield Hills School District - Bloomfield Hills Middle School - 849.2
  5. Bloomfield Hills School District - East Hills Middle School - 847.4
  6. (TIE) Novi Community School District - Novi Middle School & Canton Charter Academy - Canton Charter Academy - 846.8
  7. Bloomfield Hills School District - West Hills Middle School - 846.4
  8. Ann Arbor Public Schools - Forsythe Middle School - 845.9
  9. Troy School District - Smith Middle School - 845.5
  10. Saginaw City School District - Saginaw Arts And Sciences Academy - 845.4

Reading - 8th Grade – Top Ten Public Schools in Average MEAP Scores

  1. (TIE) Grand Rapids Public Schools - City Middle/High School & Birmingham City School District - Birmingham Covington School - 843.3
  2. Saginaw City School District - Saginaw Arts And Sciences Academy - 843.1
  3. Troy School District - Boulan Park Middle School - 842.9
  4. Rochester Community School District - Van Hoosen Middle School - 841.8
  5. Ann Arbor Public Schools - Clague Middle School - 840.9
  6. (TIE) Okemos Public Schools - Chippewa Middle School & Leland Public School District - Leland Public School - 840.8
  7. Birmingham City School District - Derby Middle School - 840.7
  8. Ann Arbor Public Schools - Ann Arbor Open At Mack School 840.3
  9. (TIE) Rochester Community School District - Hart Middle School & Woodland School - Woodland School - 839.9
  10. Forest Hills Public Schools - Eastern Middle School – 839

Science - 8th Grade – Top Ten Public Schools in Average MEAP Scores

  1. Martin Luther King, Jr. Education Center Academy - 882.6
  2. David Ellis Academy West - David Ellis Academy West - 864.5
  3. Woodland School - Woodland School - 848.8
  4. Troy School District - Boulan Park Middle School - 846.5
  5. Grand Rapids Public Schools - City Middle/High School - 843.1
  6. Superior Central Schools - Superior Central School - 842.5
  7. Ann Arbor Public Schools - Ann Arbor Open At Mack School - 840.6
  8. South Lyon Community Schools - Millennium Middle School - 839.5
  9. (TIE) Hudsonville Public School District - Baldwin Street Middle School & Birmingham City School District - Birmingham Covington School - 838.8
  10. Forest Hills Public Schools - Northern Hills Middle School - 838.7
Education
1:52 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Grand Rapids Superintendent highlights good test scores, warns of state-wide drop next year

GRPS Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor Jr. discusses MEAP scores during a press conference Thursday morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

In Grand Rapids, school administrators are marking the 6th straight year students have done better on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program. But Superintendent Bernard Taylor says that will probably not be the case next year.

“Many of the students who are proficient this year, will not be proficient next year.”

That’s because next year the state will raise the standard for what is considered a passing score on the test. State leaders say raising the scores will make sure students are prepared for college or job training after high school. Taylor is not against the change. But he says it will impact every district in Michigan, even those who haven’t really had problems meeting academic standards in the past.

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Education
1:37 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Governor Snyder denies making choice to replace Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager

Governor Rick Snyder, (R) Michigan
(courtesy of the Michigan governor's office)

Governor Snyder insists he has not chosen a replacement for Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb. Bobb’s contract to oversee Detroit’s troubled school district expires in June. A Detroit TV station reported Snyder had made his choice to replace Bobb. But the governor insists he has not. 

 "We’re still looking at candidates, both locally and nationally, and we’re going through that process.  My preference would be to find somebody from southeastern Michigan that has the right skill sets and such.”

The Detroit Public School District is hundreds of millions of dollars in the red and its latest MEAP test scores were mixed.

Education
12:29 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Statewide MEAP scores released today

Standardized test
Casey Serin Flickr

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) released the standardized test scores for schools across the state today. Students in grades 3 through 9 took the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test last fall.

Scores improved significantly in math, but remain flat in reading. The Detroit News highlighted the improvement in math scores:

Since 2005, scores have improved markedly in mathematics...In 2005, only 59.6 percent of seventh graders were proficient in math; that number has soared to 84.6 percent.

Improvement in reading scores, however, have remained flat. From the Detroit Free Press

Even though large numbers of students passed the exam, the percentage was down in 2010 from 2009 and showed little movement over the last six years. For example, the pass rate for third-graders dipped from 90% to 87%, while the pass rate for seventh-graders declined from 82% to 79%.

Some experts caution against making too much of the reading results. Elizabeth Birr Moje, with the University of Michigan's School of Education said, “schools are not necessarily neglecting literacy instruction. If anything, I see much greater attention than ever before.” Moje told the Free Press that the dip in this year's reading results could be 'anomalous.'

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Education
5:04 pm
Wed March 30, 2011

Explosive growth at community colleges likely to slow this fall

Many comunity colleges in Michigan saw a significant jump in student enrollment in the fall of 2009.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan community colleges have seen double-digit growth and record numbers of students in the last couple years. But many community colleges expect that trend to slow down, or even stop, this year.

Muskegon Community College’s Dean of Enrollment Services George Maniatessays the school has nearly 20% more students now than it did in 2006.

 “The easy money for retraining, the No worker Left Behind Programs, those are all now gone. So people are pretty much on their own."

Maniates says his school is already seeing a significant decrease in the number of “adult learners” over 23 years old enrolling for summer and fall classes. He says that’s mainly because there’s less money for job retraining programs.

“We’re also seeing a lot of families who are torn between ‘well can I find a summer job – or do I go to school?”

Mike Hansen is president of Michigan’s Association of Community Colleges. He expects most community colleges will see flat or slower enrollment growth this fall.

“Now you have to remember too these are increases from historic highs. In other words if you walked onto these campuses you’d say ‘wow there’s tons of people here. There’s no spots left in the parking lot.”

He expects colleges in more rural areas will be harder hit.

Education
4:17 pm
Wed March 30, 2011

DPS reorganization calls for closures, conversions to charter

DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb
Sarah Hulett Michigan RAdio

Thousands of kids in the Detroit Public Schools system could see their school close or become a charter school next fall.

Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb laid out his reorganization plan today. It calls for closing seven schools this summer and one next summer. Another 18 schools will close by the fall unless a charter school operator can be identified to run them. And 27 more schools will be offered for conversion to charter schools, but will remain open otherwise.

Bobb says national experts and the community will carefully vet the applications to find “superstar” charter operators:

"It doesn’t do us any good to have anyone come in and receive a charter if in fact they do not have a proven track record of student achievement."

Detroit Board of Education President Anthony Adams says the troubled school district can either continue to close schools, or rethink its approach completely:

"If it is our responsibility to provide the highest level of education for students within our community, then we have to embrace a different service model of what we do."

The list of 32 schools is fewer than half the troubled school district will have to close or convert to charters to erase a $327 million dollar deficit. Bobb says it will be his successor’s job to finish the job. His contract expires at the end of June.

Education
6:33 pm
Sun March 27, 2011

Teacher wants young people, especially boys, to read

"Knuckleheads" by Jeff Kass

Young people are not reading like they used to, at least that’s what one teacher has recently observed. Jeff Kass teaches creative writing at Pioneer High School and Eastern Michigan University. He also runs the Neutral Zone’s literary arts program in Ann Arbor.

Kass says about half of the kids in his classes are not reading in their free time and he adds it’s noticeably worse with boys. That bothers Kass, who says it’s vital that young people read.

“Reading is incredibly important in terms of developing empathy between people and understanding other cultures and other people’s insights. I mean people have to read. Boys have got to read and we cannot give up on them! I think we have to go after boys where they live, and find out what are their fears, insecurities, hopes, dreams? We’ve got to write the literature that speaks to them and gets to the heart of what’s really on their minds.”

He’s so jazzed up on this notion that he wrote a book of short stories called “Knuckleheads.” The stories take a look at what it means to be a guy growing up in America. Kass had a specific young person in mind while writing the book.

“I hope that kid in the back of my classroom who just wants to put his head down on the desk, who hides in his hooded sweatshirt is going to pick this book up and recognize something about himself in there and maybe that will allow him to reach out to some other stories and think about literature as a place to go to learn and grow. I mean, I just want my boys to be better. I want them to be happier, I want them to understand themselves and forgive themselves for some of the idiotic things we do as boys growing up.”

But Kass says these stories are for everyone. He wants girls and women to read the book, too. In fact he’d love to see this book go to high schools and colleges everywhere, and inspire conversations and of course, more reading. “Knuckleheads” by Jeff Kass will be released Thursday, March 31, 7 p.m. at The Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor.

Education
4:44 pm
Sun March 27, 2011

Wayne State hopes 'Detroit Fellows' program will help revitalize the city

Wayne State's Detroit Fellows program is based on a similar New Orleans program
Bernt Rostad creative commons

Wayne State University hopes its new Detroit Revitalization Fellows Program will help give an economic boost the city of Detroit.

The program is modeled after a similar program in New Orleans, which recruited folks from across the country to help rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina.

Ahmad Ezzeddini from Wayne State University will run the new Detroit fellows program:

"If we look at the New Orleans model: Out of the cohort of 25, 22 of those folks are still in New Orleans, and 18 of them are with the same employer. And that’s four years after the program ran. We hope to duplicate the same thing here."

Ezzeddini says they plan to hire 25-30 people who have "three to five years’ experience, preferably [with] a graduate degree in urban planning, business, law." He says the fellows will be paid to work in Detroit for two years, and the jobs will focus on neighborhood and economic development. They will also get leadership training from Wayne State.

Applications are due April 15.

The program is funded with support from the Kresge Foundation and the Hudson-Webber Foundation.

Education
1:49 pm
Sat March 26, 2011

State of Grand Rapids Schools strong, but facing challenges

GRPS Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor Jr. apeaks to about 100 people during his 4th annual "State of Our schools" address.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan’s third largest school district estimates it would face a $25 million deficit if lawmakers pass Governor Rick Snyder’s budget. In an annual address to the community Saturday, Superintendent Bernard Taylor outlined how that could impact next school year

Financial challenges

The district has trimmed around to $70 million from its budget in the last decade. Taylor says to cut $25 million in one year would be difficult.

“But we can’t be afraid. We can’t show any trepidation about what our situation is because in the end, whether we have a billion dollars or we have one dollar children have to be educated.”

He proposed a pay freeze for all administrative staff, and that they pay 20% of their health care premiums. But even with those and a number of other cuts, Taylor warned the district still may have to lay off more than 180 employees.

Academic challenges

Next year, the state will raise cut off scores for what’s considered "proficient" on the standardized MEAP test. Taylor says that will have a negative impact their academic achievement. But he stressed raising standards for a high school diploma isn’t a bad thing.

“It is not a precursor of anything if you are not college ready or workforce ready, meaning you have to have pronounced academics skills in the areas of literacy, mathematics, problem solving and being able to work cooperatively with others.”

Taylor wants to do a better job determining if students are really prepared to study beyond high school.

He’s asking the state allow the district to keep those students who aren’t ready in high school longer. Taylor wants to do that in cooperation with Grand Rapids Community College.

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Budget protests
2:47 pm
Thu March 24, 2011

College students rally against proposed higher ed budget cuts

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
thetoad flickr

A few hundred college students representing all of Michigan’s public colleges and universities rallied at the state Capitol today. They are protesting Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts for higher education. Many students held signs with angry and sometimes profane messages aimed at Governor Snyder.

Cardi DeMonaco is president of the Student Association of Michigan. He says he hopes lawmakers pay attention to the concerns of students. 

"Yeah, I think they need to have just talk about this, not just cut and cut and cut, and then they’re going to have issues just keeping up the value of their education. He needs to talk to them and do things with the money they got and not cut it, and work together, and make education better, not just cut and expect them to become better by cutting.”

Snyder has proposed a 15% minimum cut for public colleges and universities. University presidents have said cuts that deep would mean tuition hikes. 

DeMonaco thinks the student voices will be heard, and lawmakers will find other areas in the budget to save, rather than through cuts to colleges and universities.

K-12 schools budget
10:41 am
Thu March 24, 2011

Republican led state Senate introduces first draft of K-12 schools budget

A crowd gathers in a Grand Rapids neighborhood to protest Governor Snyder's budget plan earlier this month.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Republican lawmakers in Lansing are taking feedback on their first draft of the budget for K through 12 public schools. The plan cuts less per student than Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget.

Senator Howard Walker chairs the appropriations subcommittee on K-12, School Aid and Education. He says instead, the Senate version gets rid of line items funds in the budget that cover specific things like school bus inspections, adult education, and money for districts with two consecutive years of declining student enrollment.

 “We’re not making broad-based cuts to programs, that we’re not increasing class sizes too broadly so that the delivery of good educational opportunities is not affected.”

School districts get a certain amount of money from the state for each student. Currently, $7,316 is the minimum per pupil allowance a district gets. Governor Snyder is proposing to cut that amount by $470 (including making permanent a $170 cut made last year) for all school districts. The plan before the Senate would cut that per pupil allowance by $290.

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Education
9:15 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

Alumni: Don't write Cass Tech obituary just yet

Demolition has begun on the 1970s addition on the west side of Cass Tech.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Demolition on Detroit’s historic Cass Technical High School has begun. But a dedicated group of alumni and supporters still hope they can pull off an eleventh-hour effort to save it.

Cass Tech was and is one of Detroit’s most prestigious high schools. Alumni include Diana Ross, Lily Tomlin, and Jack White of the White Stripes.

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Education
4:34 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

College students to protest higher ed cuts at state capitol

The bell tower on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Many college students are expected to gather at the state Capitol tomorrow to protest Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal for deep budget cuts to public universities and colleges. The protesting students may have the support of their university presidents.  

Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon says she hopes lawmakers listen to the concerns of students who show up to protest at the Capitol. She says student voices still matter, even if the movement does not sway lawmakers in the Republican-led Legislature.  

“What happens today, what happens in whether or not all these changes actually balance a budget and move to prosperity will affect their lives forever."

Simon says this is a great time for students to be a part of the democratic process, and learn as much from real life experience as they could in the classroom. She told lawmakers that most students surveyed at MSU say they want to live in Michigan after they graduate. But, she says, fewer than half think they will be able to stay and find jobs in the state.

Education
7:07 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Detroit schools still face huge deficit after two-years of emergency management

Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, has until June to come up with a plan to wipe out a projected $327 million deficit
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Even though the district has had a state-appointed emergency financial manager for two years, Detroit Public Schools still face a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Robert Bobb, the DPS emergency financial manager, was appointed by Jennifer Granholm in March of 2009.

From the Associated Press:

Robert Bobb has spent the past two years closing dozens of schools and firing principals in an effort to fix the failing Detroit Public Schools. Yet, he still hasn't solved the problem for which he was hired — erasing a legacy budget deficit that now stands at $327 million.

Now, in his final months as the state-appointed emergency financial manager, Bobb is proposing several headline-grabbing ideas — including a radical plan to shut down so many buildings that some high schools could see more than 60 students per class — in an attempt to wipe out the red ink.

The AP reports that it's unclear how Bobb might use new powers granted to emergency financial managers under a new law signed by Governor Rick Snyder last week. They say he "continues to push the charter school plan which is the one receiving the most support in the city at the moment — even from the school board."

Education
9:08 am
Thu March 17, 2011

Layoff notices go out in the Flint School District

Flint schools are gearing up for cuts. (The International Academy in Flint)
Sarah Razak Flickr

The Flint school board sent lay-off notices to almost all of their superintendents, principals, and other administrators, according to the Flint Journal. Linda Thompson, the paper said, was the only administrator who did not receive a notice.

From the Flint Journal:

The move comes as the district wrestles with projected revenues of $20 million to $25 million less than projected expenditures for the 2011-12 school year.

The measure is something of a technicality, a precaution that allows the district flexibility when the time comes to decide how many administrators will stay on board, said Thompson.

Thompson said its hard to predict when the district will know precisely what it's revenues for next year will be and how many  administrators will be called back.

"When are they going to settle what's happening at the state level?" she asked.

School districts across the state are anxiously awaiting state budget decisions in Lansing.

In the past few years, the districts have had to make fiscal decisions with no firm guidance from legislators in Lansing while they haggled over the state's budget well past fiscal planning deadlines.

Governor Rick Snyder hopes to change that. He's set a deadline of May 31st for legislators to settle on the budget.

The Flint Journal reports on cuts expected, "Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed budget includes a $300 per-pupil cut to school aid that comes on top of an already-planned $170 cut. Factoring in an expected rise in rates schools pay to a state retirement pool and districts across Michigan are expecting $700 less per student next year."

Education
8:12 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Enthusiasm and questions about Detroit charter schools proposal

Robert Bobb, Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit Public Schools

The man in charge of the Detroit Public Schools’ finances has put forth a plan that would turn some of the district’s worst schools into charter schools.

Robert Bobb presented his “Renaissance Plan 2012” to the Detroit Board of Education over the weekend.

The plan calls for turning 41 of the district’s remaining 142 schools over to charter operators. District spokesman Steve Wasko says it would allow the district to move at least $75 million in expenses off its books.

“This is an alternative that would allow the Detroit Public Schools to shed all of the operating costs of the identified schools, to be borne by an outside management company or charter operator.”

Wasko says Bobb will identify those schools and open up the application process later this week.

Skeptics question whether the amount of money the plan saves would make up what the district would lose in state per-pupil funding. David Arsen, Professor of Educational Policy at Michigan State University, says it’s not quite clear how the plan would save so much money.

“If the 41 schools are converted to charters, DPS would avoid its current operations expenditures on those buildings. On the other hand, the district would also lose nearly all of the state funding it currently receives for educating the students in those schools.”

The State Department of Education would have to sign off too, because the proposal would change the deficit elimination plan the state ordered Bobb to implement.

Bobb says his proposal would still advance the deficit elimination plan, while avoiding what he calls “draconian” measures, such as shutting down half the district’s remaining schools.

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