Education

The Michigan House could vote this week to expand the Education Achievement Authority, or EAA.

The EAA was created by Gov. Rick Snyder as a separate school district for the lowest-performing 5% of schools in Michigan. The idea was that under the oversight of a state appointed emergency manager, those schools could be transformed into higher performing, stable schools. Supporters of the EAA say the district is showing student improvement. Critics of the district say the EAA is failing students and schools.

Democratic Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton is the sponsor of House Bill 5268. She spoke with All Things Considered host Jennifer White.

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How far should a school go to accommodate its transgender students? What federal or state laws and ordinances might impact policies for transgender students?

School districts around the nation are wrestling with these questions, even as parents and civil rights groups mount court challenges against districts whose policies are not supportive of transgender student rights.

The ACLU of Michigan's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Project is now crafting a comprehensive model policy for transgender students – a policy that could be adopted by local school districts. Jay Kaplan is a staff attorney who is part of this effort, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Saginaw School District Board of Education approved a deficit elimination plan Monday afternoon.

The plan trims nearly $5 million from the district’s budget by closing three schools, laying off dozens of district employees, and other spending cuts. The district has a $6 million deficit.

Carlton Jenkins is Saginaw schools superintendent. He says it’s important for the district to have a “sustainable” plan to move forward – one "people can rally around that can rebuild Saginaw Public Schools.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Saginaw School Board is going down to the wire in considering a deficit elimination plan for the district.   The board must approve a plan today or risk losing state funding.

The Saginaw school board has been meeting since noon on a plan to close and consolidate schools, lay off teachers and support staff and cut union wages. Administrators say the plan could save about $4.9 million.

The district has a $6.1 million deficit.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Saginaw school board members will vote tomorrow afternoon on a deficit elimination plan.

The plan calls for closing two elementary schools, turning the city's two high schools into seventh through twelfth grade schools and laying off dozens of employees.

The board has been struggling for the past two weeks to come up with a plan to eliminate the district’s $6.1 million deficit. State Education officials are threatening to withhold the district’s March state aid payment unless the district delivers a workable plan by Tuesday.    

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Despite a renewed push, expansion of a state turnaround entity for failing public schools beyond Detroit remains in trouble in the Legislature.

Some majority Republicans say it's too early to know whether the 15-school Education Achievement Authority is working.

Others contend a version of legislation floated this week doesn't guarantee a role for local intermediate school districts to run the worst schools instead. Critics also say there's no promise schools can return to their home districts once being improved.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan-Flint is responding to a growth in its engineering program by investing in high-tech equipment for the students.

The Flint Journal reports that engineering enrollment has doubled since 2008 and now stands at 320 students. To meet the demand, the school has acquired a $75,000 microscope that magnifies objects 60,000 times and expects to get a $100,000 three-dimensional printer. The department also is hiring two new professors.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Saginaw school officials are spending today crunching the district’s budget numbers.

They have two days to come up with a deficit elimination plan that will do away with the district’s $6.1 million deficit over the next two years.

“We’re going to work furiously to make sure we’re going to put forward the best plan that can not only sustain Saginaw public schools but also help us rebuild in a way that would be very vibrant,” Saginaw School Superintendent Carlton Jenkins said after last night’s school board meeting.

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

How do you best measure the progress of students in Michigan's classrooms and, by extension, the effectiveness of their teachers?

It's one of the thorniest challenges being debated in Michigan education.

For years, the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) and the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) have been the assessment tools. Now, with the move to the Common Core Standards, it's out with the MEAP and MME and in with the what?

Districts around Michigan are gearing up for an online adaptive assessment test in the spring of 2015.

The Michigan Department of Education says the state has only one option for testing students on the Common Core State Standards for the next three years.

And that option is the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the SBA.

But state lawmakers haven't made that official.

We wondered how districts  are preparing for the SBA or whatever test they're told to administer next year.

William Heath is superintendent of the Morrice Area Schools and the principal at Morrice Junior and Senior High School located in Shiawassee County. He joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

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The College of Education at Eastern Michigan University is laying off the majority of its full-time lecturers because of falling enrollment. 

That's according to the Ann Arbor News:

The school has issued layoff notices to 10 of its 11 full-time lecturers, effective in August, according to members of lecturers union. (EMU officials say they issued notices to eight lecturers.) Lecturers, many of whom have held their jobs for several years, are upset by the changes and say the layoffs are unnecessary.

Jann Joseph, EMU's dean of education, says the opposite is true.

"We looked at the data. We looked at the enrollment patterns, and we were not convinced that we would have enough teaching loads and classes for all the people who were currently lecturers," she said. "We are just managing at a time of decline."

The MEAP is out, but which standardized test will Michigan's students be taking next year? It's out of the control of educators and students and in the hands of the Michigan Department of Education. At stake? Million-dollar contracts to nonprofits developing and administering the test. State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer has a closer look.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

The Michigan State Board of Education hopes public school funding will be a top priority for voters when they head to the polls in November.

The board on Tuesday kicked off a series of discussions meant to publicly critique the way the state pays for public education. The talks will continue at its monthly meetings until November.

A set of bipartisan bills moving through the state legislature would reshape Michigan’s teacher evaluation system.

Democratic Rep. Adam Zemke from Ann Arbor sponsored Bill 5224. He spoke with All Things Considered host Jennifer White. 

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

Getting college students out of their classrooms, out of the "academic bubble" and into communities, giving eager students an opportunity to take what they're learning and put it into practice, and, at the same time, hopefully help their communities certainly seem like a win-win for all sides.

And that's why students from Wayne State University and the University of Michigan are permeating the city of Detroit in many ways, through many programs.

We wanted to see what's been learned by all sides in these partnerships.

Jerry Herron, founding dean of the Honors College at Wayne State and UM professor Larry Gant joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Adam Glanzman

University of Michigan students are holding an all-night event later this month to discuss race on campus.

The event, billed as a "Speak Out," is being organized by the United Coalition for Racial Justice, a student organization consisting of students and faculty members.

The event will build on momentum gained by the university's Black Student Union to make the campus more inclusive and diverse.

Annie Green Springs / Flickr

It's called "Mission A2" – short for Michigan Itinerant Shelter System Interdependent  Out of Necessity. This Ann Arbor-based nonprofit is dedicated to building links between homeless and what it calls "homeful" Washtenaw County residents. One of its key activities has been running a series of rotating tent cities for the homeless.

But now, Mission A2 is taking things to a new level. They're partnering to buy land and build a permanent settlement called Homeward Bound, a place for Ann Arbor's homeless to begin the process of rebuilding confidence and their lives.

User: Old Shoe Woman / Flickr

There is a two-bill package making its way through the state Legislature that could impact students in every third-grade classroom in Michigan.

It would hold back third-graders who have poor reading skills. If a child fails a third-grade reading exam, he or she does not move along to fourth grade.

Backers say it can help get a struggling student back on track. Critics say flunking that struggling student is a punishment. State Superintendent Mike Flanagan panned the legislation, saying it should be up to local schools and parents.

Amber Arellano is the executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Saginaw school board members will meet again Tuesday to discuss how to deal with the district’s multi-million dollar deficit.

Saginaw school board members have met three times in the past week to hash out a deficit elimination plan.

The most recent proposal called for laying off employees and closing three schools, including Saginaw High School.

Parents and students have attacked the plan and the board for considering it.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The rising cost of college textbooks is leading more students to opt out of purchasing them altogether.

A new report suggests many students are missing out on some educational opportunities by not buying textbooks.

Ethan Senack is a higher education associate with the Public Interest Research Group, which wrote the report.

He says the good news is that students are ready for alternatives to the traditional textbook model.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week, Governor Rick Snyder made good on his promise to boost preschool spending.

Today he got a chance to talk to some parents, teachers and school administrators in Grand Rapids about the proposal.

About a dozen four-year-olds sat in a circle around Gov. Snyder. He read them "Snowmen at Work," a children’s tale about what snowmen do for a living.

“Are they in school just like you?” Snyder asked the group. 

"Yeah!” they replied in unison.

“You have fun at school?"

"Yeah!”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Saginaw school board has put off a decision on the district’s financial future.   

A few hundred people attended a meeting last night on a controversial plan that includes closing one of the district’s high schools.

“My pressure’s going up just by the thought of Saginaw High closing,” said Saginaw city councilman Norman Braddock, which drew cheers from the audience.

Speaker after speaker berated school district officials for considering a plan that would merge two high schools, close two other schools and lay off many teachers and other school employees.  

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Update: The office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued the following statement to Michigan Radio," After a thorough review of Mr. Sanchez-Ronquillo's case. The agency has granted a one-year Stay of Removal." We are updating our earlier story now. 

Charlie is seven years old, a second-grader at an Ann Arbor elementary school. Over the last week, his picture has been all over facebook. It's also on flyers and email as his church and parents at his school try to organize around his family.

Read the updated story at State of Opportunity.

 

Read or listen to the entire story at State of Opportunity.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Saginaw school board is expected to vote tonight on a deficit elimination plan.

The plan calls for major changes to the district, which is facing a multimillion dollar deficit.

The state education department is threatening to withhold the district’s February state aid payment unless a new deficit elimination plan is submitted by Monday.

Flint Community Schools

There is no doubt that teachers in the Flint Community Schools will be paid through the end of the school year.

That's according to Interim Superintendent Larry Watkins.

Watkins said the state approved the Flint school district's deficit elimination plan today.

The district will get a $2.3 million advance on its state aid payments, and Watkins said the state authorized the district to borrow $3.6 million.

The long road ahead for Detroit education reform

Feb 3, 2014
Brian Widdis

Benchmark: Schools

Ana Rosa Cabrera joined several moms in a classroom at Bennett Elementary for a Zumba session one morning earlier this month. The moms stretched and danced as their instructor, a Spanish-speaking ball of energy dressed in fluorescent greens, directed them in merengue-like maneuvers from a DVD playing on a TV screen.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Open enrollment events are scheduled this week at nine Education Achievement Authority schools in Detroit.

Enrollment is going on for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade with welcome programs set to begin at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Phoenix, Burns and Nolan schools.

Parents can tour the school buildings and classrooms, and meet staff.

Events at the district's six high schools will begin at noon on Thursday.

Michigan’s top education official is panning legislation that would automatically hold back third graders who fail a state reading test.

“You don’t automatically retain kids. That’s just insane,” said state Superintendent Mike Flanagan. “This is up to teachers and parents together.”

Flanagan was speaking on the Michigan Public Television program “Off the Record.”

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

The MEAP test has been used to evaluate kids and schools in Michigan for over four and a half decades.

The test is meant to make sure public schools are teaching kids the basics. But MEAP scores affect where parents decide to send their kids, neighborhood housing prices, city tax revenue, and city services.

Basically, the economics of a city rests on how well 8 and 9-year-olds perform on this single test.

State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer spent six weeks inside Congress Elementary in Grand Rapids, a school with consistently low MEAP scores. Dwyer followed a third-grade class as they prepared to take the test. He interviewed students, teachers, and parents, trying to figure out how much these numbers matter. What he found was, the test scores do not even begin to tell the story.

To hear the documentary now and learn more, visit the State of Opportunity website. 

Melissa / anotherlunch.com

For a new State of Opportunity documentary, Dustin Dwyer spent six weeks at Congress Elementary School in the East Hills neighborhood of Grand Rapids. Does that conjure images of a fully grown man crammed into a very tiny desk, watching the traffic to the pencil sharpener?

Dustin Dwyer and Kimberly Springer from our State of Opportunity team share "five teasers" about the upcoming documentary on high-stakes testing. The documentary will air (and be online) this Thursday.

Here's one thing that Dwyer will explore in the documentary: How the "bad" label can harm a school in an otherwise wealthy district.

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