Education

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan is warning Michigan lawmakers against trying to take a step back on school testing.

An amendment to next year’s school aid budget would require schools to give the MEAP exam next year. Some lawmakers are upset the state has contracted with a new company using a test tied to Common Core standards.

Flanagan says the MEAP test is not an option at this point. He says changing now would cost the state.

David Schott / Flickr

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he hopes there will be a final vote this week on a bill to expand the state’s controversial Education Achievement Authority.

That’s the state-run authority meant to turn around some of Michigan’s lowest-performing schools. Right now, the EAA runs 15 schools in Detroit. The bill would pave the way for it to expand up to 50 schools statewide.

Michigan Public Radio Network’s Lansing reporter Jake Neher joined us to talk about the EAA.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Area Schools has been running a deficit since 2007. A review in 2011 found financial stress, but the district was in the middle of making changes to save money. No emergency manager was appointed under a previous version of the law.

But State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says BHAS isn’t making enough progress on the deficit.

The deficit is $14.7 million. For perspective, its revenues this year were $31.8 million.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Dozens of high school students have completed a trek from Detroit to Lansing to highlight their concern about ‘zero tolerance’ policies in Michigan schools.

The students say violating even minor ‘zero tolerance’ policies may land them on suspension.

gracey/morguefile.com

Hundreds of girls from across Michigan will have the chance to try out some hot technology this week in the hopes they see a fit for themselves in a high-tech career. Eastern Michigan University will host the fourth annual "Digital Divas" conference on Friday.

EMU Program Manager Bia Hamed says the free one-day event for middle and high school girls aims to help close the gender gap when it comes to careers in science, math, engineering and technology-related fields, often referred to as "STEM."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights' charter school board acknowledged at a meeting Monday night it doesn’t know how it’ll fund operations for the rest of this school year. But it is reassuring the community it’ll figure something out by next week at the latest.

“As soon as we have something I will share it with you. That’s a promise,” Muskegon Heights Academy’s school board president Arthur Scott said.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Three-quarters of Michigan voters support a state school budget proposal that increases per-pupil funding and gives local schools more control over how they spend the money.

That's according to a recent poll commissioned by the group that came up with the proposal.

The Classroom & Kids Coalition is made up of educators, administrators, and local school boards.

Its proposal would increase the per-pupil grant by $250-$291 by cutting $186 million from other parts of the School Aid Fund. (Gov. Snyder's proposal would increase the per-pupil grant by $167.)

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Buena Vista township has a debt to pay.

Though the Saginaw County community closed its school district last July, the non-existent district still owes more than $6 million to the state.

The district owes more than $2 million on a bond that voters approved in 2005 and more than $4 million on its general operating budget.

How exactly the $4 million from the general budget will be repaid is a question to be decided by voters next year.

Have you forgotten about the snow already?
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan is giving school districts more flexibility in making up for snow days this academic year.

Districts that had scheduled more than the required 174 days of school can now hold just that number if they still meet the required 1,098 hours per school year. Schools that exceeded the six canceled days allowed under state law may not need makeup days.

Schools that need to add more days to the end of the school year can receive state funding as long as they have 60% of students in attendance on those days. That's down from the regular 75% attendance requirement.

Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed legislation allowing for the changes after record snowfall and harsh temperatures this past winter.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Muskegon Heights charter school district owes the company that’s operating its schools a little more than $2 million. That’s according to Mosaica Education’s CEO. 

The new charter district was created in Muskegon Heights when severe cash problems prompted a state takeover of the traditional school district by an emergency manager in 2012. Now the charter district is having cash flow problems of its own.

user Cbl62 / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Michigan is using what it calls its own interpretations of privacy laws to keep student investigators and media from understanding why it took four years to expel Brendan Gibbons for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy. 

The university, however, has not disclosed what those interpretations are, or if they are a written internal policy.

Sarah M. Stewart / Creative Commons

Online learning. Make no mistake about it: It is here and it is growing.

The number of students taking online courses has grown 52% in the past three years. In the 2012-2013 school year, some 55,000 students in Michigan took a virtual course.

A new report from the Michigan Virtual University looks at virtual learning for K-12 students –who’s taking online classes, what kinds of classes and how effective the classes are.

The results are mixed.

Jamey Fitzpatrick is president and CEO of Michigan Virtual University, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

There could be movement soon on bipartisan legislation that would revamp teacher evaluations in Michigan. A number of groups that did not previously support the bills now say they’re on board.

Education advocates, bill sponsors, and lobbyists have been meeting this week to hammer out changes to the legislation.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System is asking the state to front $191,000 to cover paychecks that are set to go out this Tuesday.

It’s the second time this month the district has asked for an advance.

The advance would come out of the district’s state aid payment April 20. Earlier this month the state advanced $231,000.

State treasury officials say the district typically gets roughly $455,000 a month after debt obligations.

School board officials have previously declined requests for comment from Michigan Radio. Reports out today say board members also declined to comment to reporters at the special board meeting today, which lasted approximately five minutes.

Charter company Mosaica Education is running the district. The company’s CEO has not returned repeated requests for comment this week.

Mosaica’s Regional VP of Operations Alena Zachery-Ross says advancements for struggling school districts aren’t completely uncommon. She says the district is working on a plan to meet payroll for the rest of the year but couldn’t comment on the details of those negotiations.

Tulane Public Relations / Creative Commons

More parents and grandparents are setting up savings accounts to cover college expenses for the next generation, according to a national report released today.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

State officials and the Muskegon Heights School Board are trying to figure out how they’ll be able to pay staff for the rest of this school year, although the district’s emergency manager is “confident” they’ll work something out.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

Michigan's economy may be pulling itself up and out of the Great Recession.

But our schools are still mired in an "education recession" and all of our children are paying the price.

That's the finding of the newest state of Michigan education report from The Education Trust-Midwest.

It's an eye-opening exercise to see how our state's schools and student performance compare to two states that are powering ahead in the national assessment: Massachusetts and Tennessee.

What lessons can Michigan learn from those two states?

The co-author of the new education report, Amber Arellano of The Education Trust-Midwest, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report gives Michigan failing grades for student academic progress.

During the last decade, Michigan’s fourth-graders lost ground in math and reading, according to a new report out today from Education Trust-Midwest.

Amber Arellano is with the trust. She says Michigan now ranks among the bottom five states in student academic progress.

She says the state must raise the bar for students and teachers.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Updated 4/2/14:

An attorney for the MHPSA board says all employees have been paid as of today. He said there was a "glitch" in payroll but declined further comment on this story at this time.

Original post 4/1/14:

The state is fronting $231,000 to the charter school district in Muskegon Heights so it can pay its employees. Teachers and staff didn’t get paid like they were supposed to on Monday.

The new Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System was set up in June 2012 when the old school district there went broke.

Marshall High School
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There are 545 local school districts in Michigan and 56 Intermediate School Districts, or ISDs.

Around 50 of those districts were in the red at the end of the last school year.

And that leads to talk of consolidations, of mergers; streamlining, becoming more efficient and joining forces.

But as policymakers, educators and parents debate the merits of consolidation, what about those who will feel what that is like, day in and day out – the students and their teachers?

That’s the question Bridge Magazine writer Ron French explores in his series of reports for Bridge called 13 Miles to Marshall.

When struggling Albion High School closed at the end of the last school year, it meant more than 150 Albion high schoolers had to be bused to nearby Marshall High School. It made sense in business terms for both districts. But what kinds of challenges did this consolidation present? And were those challenges met and overcome?

Ron French joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

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