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Education

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A school that’s housed inside the Grand Rapids Public Museum is getting a $10 million boost.

The XQ Super School Project announced the national award today. The institute says it offered the money to get schools “to rethink and redesign the American high school.”

The money going to Grand Rapids Public Schools will help cover the costs of renovating the 80-year-old public museum building into a new high school.

The idea for today’s State of Opportunity story comes from you. After we ran a piece about how special ed placements vary from district to district, several of you got in touch and asked: How do schools pay for special ed?

I went to Elliott Elementary in Holt to get some answers.

United States Department of Education / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

What happens when you're the parent of a child with special needs, and your view of how you want your child to be educated clashes with the school district's?

School choice, metro Detroit’s new white flight

Sep 13, 2016
Photo courtesy of Chastity Pratt Dawsey / Bridge Magazine

When the high school in Eastpointe recently welcomed the football team from Lakeview High, it was a homecoming of sorts.

That’s because nearly 700 students from Eastpointe actually attend school in Lakeview, a public school district five miles away in St. Clair Shores. As it happens, many of the students who left Eastpointe for Lakeview are white.

A newspaper clipping of Detroit's busing era.
clipping courtesy of Ray Litt / via Detroit Free Press

The U.S. Department of Education says kids at schools with mostly black or Latino students don’t get as good of an education as kids at schools with mostly white students. Generally speaking, their teachers are not as experienced and their buildings are in worse shape.

You can see that in Detroit, Flint, and other Michigan cities.

There was a major Michigan court case that could have ended segregated schools and made it possible for children to have a good education no matter where they lived.

Here's how that court case might have made a difference today.

Wayne State Univiersity Law School in Detroit, Mich.
Google Maps street view

Two businessmen will donate $5 million each to Wayne State University's Law School.

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross will donate a sum of $10 million to honor the school's dean Jocelyn Benson, who is leaving at the end of the month.

Benson is leaving her post as dean to become the chief executive officer of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. (Read more about that here.)

Flickr user David Salafia/Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The state is advising schools to test their water for lead, even though it’s not required. Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality wants schools to take action, even if lead levels are below the federal standard.

The federal action limit for lead in water is 15 parts per billion. Governor Rick Snyder would like to see Michigan have an even stricter standard; 10 ppb.

Empty classroom.
Kevin Wong / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

This week, the Snyder administration’s School Reform Office suggested that it could eventually close schools where students have low rankings on state tests.

Schools that rank in the bottom 5% -- with some exceptions -- would be closed under this plan, which would shutter more than 100 schools from across the state.

In an opinion piece this week in the Lansing State Journal, John P. Smith III criticized the state’s plans.

Smith is a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University and he joined Stateside to talk about why he thinks the closing of the schools, and the methodology that led to that decision is flawed.

Most kids will head back to school this week ready to learn. But some will have to spend a good chunk of time re-learning things they forgot over the summer. The dreaded “summer slide” has been linked to persistent achievement gaps between kids from lower-income families and their better-off peers.

Courtesy of Olivia Johnson

College expenses are rising. There’s no doubt about that.

Trying to pay for tuition, books, a place to live and more can stretch a budget to its breaking point.

Olivia Johnson, a criminal justice student at Ferris State University, knows that struggle, and she’s seen it on campus.

That’s why she started the Student Emergency Food Pantry for Ferris students this year.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

After a summer of negotiating, Detroit teachers are preparing to vote on a new contract.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District — the new, restructured entity that replaces the debt-ridden Detroit Public Schools — and the Detroit Federation of Teachers announced a tentative agreement on Labor Day.

The agreement “provides members with some money in a number of ways,” DFT leaders said. “And for the first time in a decade, this agreement contains no concessions.”

Some highlights:

·        Pay increases for all teachers, based on seniority.

This morning I sent my daughter off to her first day of third grade.

She was excited to go. She was ready to see her friends, and genuinely loves school.

But I'm sure she'll be less than thrilled once her teacher starts assigning homework. Like many kids, I'm sure she'd be happy if homework was simply eliminated.

That will be a reality this school year for more than 500 kids at a Massachusetts elementary school.

Bryan McDonald / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan ranks third in the country for having the most school districts with chronic absence rates at or above 30%. 

Nationwide, chronic absenteeism is about 13%. In Michigan, it's 18%.

That's according to a report released today by Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education.

image of new and old DPS
Lauren Crawford / Michigan Radio

Today is the first day of school in Detroit.

Students in the city’s public school system will return to the same buildings and many of the same teachers. But there will be one big difference: These students are the first to attend school in the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

The old Detroit Public Schools now exists in name only.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The summer tourism season is winding down, but there is concern in the industry that it may not be as profitable as it could have been.

Deanna Richeson is the CEO of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association. She says Michigan’s summer tourism season was strong overall.

But she’s concerned that a growing number school districts are starting classes in August. 

“When we have our school children returning to school prior to Labor Day that will cut into those revenues enjoyed by the tourism industry,” says Richeson.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It’s a big week for parents, kids and school administrators. If last year is any indicator, roughly 1.5 million Michigan kids are heading back to school.

Larry Johnson heads security at Grand Rapids Public Schools. This week, his message is simple.

“Pay attention to this yellow bus. It’s important. Our kids will be getting dropped off. They’re not paying attention. They’re excited to get to school,” Johnson said.

In Grand Rapids, people will see more police officers hanging out in school zones, making sure drivers are aware of reduced speed limits near schools.

Detroit teachers protesting downtown on May 2, 2016.
Sarah Jardine

Detroit public schoolteachers start the new school year working with an expired contract — and bargaining for a new one.

After this summer’s restructuring, the Detroit Public Schools no longer exists, for practical purposes. Now, former DPS teachers now work for a brand-new entity — the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

And they want a new contract. Their old one was “imposed” on them by former DPS emergency managers, in the union’s view.

Flickr user Frank Juarez/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

School starts next week. This year kids will be spending a few more days in the classroom.

Holland Public Schools Superintendent Brian Davis joined us today to talk about where on the calendar schools plan to squeeze in those extra days, and why more and more schools are asking the state for a waiver to start holding class before Labor Day. 

Flickr user USDAgov/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

There are frequent and spirited discussions about students who aren’t getting what they need to succeed in Michigan’s public schools.

Nanette Janecke of Western Michigan University is adding another group of students to that conversation: gifted students.

They’re students who could achieve a lot, but who – in most Michigan school districts – aren’t given many tools for success, Janecke said.

Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Some Macomb County school districts want to join the fight against state intervention in schools deemed to be “failing.”

Warren Consolidated Schools, Van Dyke Public Schools, Mount Clemens Community Schools, and Roseville Community Schools signaled their intention to join the East Detroit Public Schools’ lawsuit this week.

wikimedia user Fredler Brave / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Put that cell phone away. Not in your pocket, not in your purse, go park it in your locker and keep it out of the classroom.

That's the new rule for students returning to class at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek.

According to principal Jeff Bohl, it's all about helping kids get the most out of their time in class. 

As kids head back to school, it’s worth remembering that all kids have the right to a free education.

Drinking water fountain.
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

All 94 school buildings in the Detroit Public Schools Community District meet federal standards for lead in water, the city’s health department announced Monday.

It had spent months screening tap water at all the city’s schools for lead and copper, to make sure they met U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.

“And we’re now confident that children who are drinking water in DPSCD schools are drinking water that’s lead-safe,” says Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, the health department’s director.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools has made “enormous progress” on fixing crumbling school buildings, but there’s still more work to do.

More than 90% of the district’s 94 school buildings are now officially “up to code,” according to city and school district officials.

Detroit’s building department got involved in the situation early this year, after teacher protests that highlighted some decrepit building conditions, among other things, hit the news.

Detroit Federation of Teachers Executive Vice President Terrence Martin says they deserve credit for that.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

This summer, Detroit Public Schools ceased to exist except on paper.

But there is a new district that has the same schools, teachers and students as the “old” DPS. It’s formally known, at least for now, as the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Why did this happen? The short story is that the “old” DPS stood on the verge of bankruptcy throughout the last school year. To avoid that, the state — which has controlled Detroit schools for most of the past 17 years — executed a bankruptcy-style restructuring, minus the actual bankruptcy.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder is urging calm ahead of Michigan's release of the lowest-performing public schools, saying there is a "misperception" that schools will be closed.

He said Friday that Michigan is required to publish the bottom 5 percent list by next week, but he told The Associated Press it is wrong to assume listed schools will receive closure notices.

tables in a classroom
Frank Juarez / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state board of education wants more input on the fates of Michigan schools deemed “failing.”

That’s what some board members signaled in a statement released this week.

It called on the State School Reform/Redesign Office to work with the Michigan Department of Education “to provide assistance to local districts to succeed at turning around their own schools and to keep the public fully informed of decisions affecting their local schools.”

Anyone driving between Detroit and Grosse Pointe will be struck by the stark change that happens when you cross the border at Alter Road.

A report from a New Jersey non-profit group has declared that the economic divide between Detroit schools and Grosse Pointe schools is the worst in the nation. 

The report from the group EdBuild says nearly half the households in Detroit's school district live in poverty. In Grosse Pointe, that number is 6.5%. 

It also found that 82% of Detroit's public school students are African-American. In Grosse Pointe schools, it's 16%.

When you go to vote this fall, you'll have a chance to weigh in on education.

Amidst mounting calls for the state to do a better job educating its students, state Board of Education candidates are up for election, as well as trustees and governors of Michigan's major universities. 

Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry joined us today to talk about the myriad issues at stake in the upcoming education races. 

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