Education

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new report finds Michigan’s poorest children have failed to make up any ground in their reading skills in the past decade.

According to the latest Kids Count report, 81% of low-income 4th-graders in Michigan are not reading proficiently. Michigan is among six states that have seen no improvement in that rate since 2003.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell is the project director for Kids Count Michigan. She says fourth grade is a pivotal age, since that’s where children stop learning to read and start reading to learn.

user: Liza Lagman Sperl

The DTE Energy Foundation plans to donate $1 million to the Michigan Science Center in Detroit.

According to their press release, the donation will span a period of five years, specifically funding the science center's STEM educational program (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Today in Tech & Opportunity, State of Opportunity asks educators and parents: what is your school doing to encourage students from all backgrounds to pursue educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math?

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This morning, Dr. Mark Schlissel was named the 14th president of the University of Michigan. Dr. Schlissel most recently served as provost of Brown University.

The university Board of Regents appointed Schlissel unanimously.

According to the university’s press release, Schlissel will succeed Mary Sue Coleman on July 1, 2014.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This morning, Dr. Mark Schlissel was named the 14th president of the University of Michigan. Dr. Schlissel most recently served as provost of Brown University.

Schlissel graduated from Princeton University in 1979. He later received his MD and PhD from Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. 

The next president of the University of Michigan may be announced later this morning. The Board of Regents has scheduled a special meeting at 10 a. m. to vote on the U of M's next president.

Current U of M President Mary Sue Coleman announced last year her plans to retire in July.

Coleman has led the university for 12 years.

The next president will be the 14th president at the University of Michigan.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing school district will continue to operate its own buses next year.

The school board decided Thursday not to go with a private bus company.

Supporters say privatizing the bus service would save the Lansing school district $5 million over the next five years, primarily because the district would not have to replace much of its aging bus fleet.

But school board president Peter Spadafore says now is not the time to privatize the bus service serving thousands of capital city school children.

Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

A program in Detroit is pairing digital media artists with classroom teachers in a handful of city schools.  It’s called Detroit Future Schools. This year they’re teaming up with The James and Grace Lee Boggs School...a K-4 charter on the city’s east side. Reporter Zak Rosen is spending the entire year at the school. He brings us this report on how the program uses media, technology and art to help students understand and shape their worlds.

Mercedes Meija / Michigan Radio

In his recent State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder called for a pilot program for year-round schooling. Since that speech, education advocates and teachers’ unions have been weighing in on the question.

Schools that move to a year-round schedule would still have the same number of vacation days as traditionally structured schools, but those days would be dispersed over the course of the year rather than having a long summer break.

Joining us now is the director of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, Dan Quinn. He is also a teacher of economics at Grosse Pointe North High School.  

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

Two in every three Michigan public school districts contract out at least one major service, like custodial, transportation or food service. That’s according to a yearly survey of districts.

The Midland-based research institute Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which supports privatizing services, has published the survey every year since 2003. Here’s a summary of the center’s survey:

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

It's been a year and a half since state education leaders called for reforms to Michigan's "zero tolerance" discipline policies. Critics say too many students are still being booted out of school because of zero-tolerance measures and the result is the kids who are getting in trouble and being expelled are the ones who most need help. And they point to the statistics: A disproportionate number of the students who are punished are minorities.

Bridge Magazine contributing writer Ted Roelofs wrote a piece in a recent issue titled "Zero tolerance school reforms hit resistance in Michigan.” He joined us today along with Annie Salsich, director of the Center on Youth Justice at the Vera Institute, to explore zero-tolerance policies and what can be done to promote a safe and productive school environment.

Listen to the full interview above.

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

Lawmakers in Lansing have begun holding hearings on which standardized tests Michigan students will take next spring.

The state has already decided to replace the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests and educational officials have endorsed the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

In the coming months, you’ll likely be hearing a lot about the politics of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Some lawmakers say the test takes away control from local curriculum because it’s being developed by a national consortium.

Public Sector Consultant’s Michelle Richard joined us today to discuss the new test.

Listen to the full interview above.

MESA/Trotter / University of Michigan

Administrators at the University of Michigan are “doubling down” on efforts to improve race relations at the university’s Ann Arbor campus.

Minority enrollment is down at the university: In 2008, black students made up about 6.8% of the university’s freshman class. In 2012, that number dropped to 4.6%.

A recent Twitter campaign caught the attention of administrators, as students took to the Web to express their frustrations with race relations on campus. The #BBUM campaign – Being Black at Michigan – went viral, with more than 10,000 tweets using the hashtag in November.

As MLive’s Kellie Woodhouse reported, the university is now launching a campus-wide effort to increase enrollment of underrepresented students and improve the campus climate.

One plan in the works is to renovate the Trotter Multicultural Center, a hub dedicated to providing a safe working environment for students on campus.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State University soon will pay out the bulk of $7 million in negotiated health care reimbursements to thousands of union workers.

School spokesman Jason Cody says the payments of more than $1,000 each will show up Friday in paychecks for employees paid every other week, and Jan. 31 for those paid monthly.

The Lansing State Journal reports the employees include roughly 5,800 mid-level managers, police officers, cafeteria workers and others represented by eight unions.

School student in Japan reading a book outside
Mehan / Creative Commons

Lawmakers are working out the details of a proposal that would flunk Michigan students who can’t read at “proficient” levels by the end of the third grade.

Many in the education community are opposed to the legislation, including The Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers.

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies supports it.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - Graduate students at the University of Michigan are turning the city of Jackson into a classroom.

About three dozen students in the School of Information are tackling 10 projects in Jackson, including ways to promote vaccinations and digitize cemetery records. They'll help the police department adopt an anonymous text message tip system.

User Motown31 / Creative Commons

Michigan school groups are weighing Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to help reduce the number of students who regularly miss school. In his State of the State speech Thursday night, the governor called for a state-wide definition of truancy.

He says it’s hard to address the problem when each school district has different standards for what that means.

Officials with the state’s largest teacher’s union, the Michigan Education Association (MEA), say a state-wide standard for truancy would be useful.

jdurham / mourgeFile

  Teachers unions say they liked at least one thing Governor Rick Snyder said during his State of the State address Thursday night. The governor called for state incentives to encourage school districts to go year-round.

Under the plan, schools that volunteer would still have the same number of vacation days. They would just be spread out more throughout the year.

“Let’s try it!” said American Federation of Teachers of Michigan President David Hecker.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing school board has put off a decision on whether to privatize the district’s bus service.

School officials say the proposal would save the district five million dollars over the next five years, primarily by not having to pay to replace dozens of aging school buses.

But the district’s unionized bus drivers raised questions about the plan.

Peter Spadafore is the school board president. He says giving the union one week to spell out its concerns is a good idea.

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

Update: If you missed the program, you can catch the audio on this post.

Do at-risk kids have more on the line when it comes to testing? Are low expectations playing a part in poor test performance? How does the Smarter Balance test compare to the MEAP?

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

Debate is underway in Lansing over which standardized test will replace the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP). State lawmakers held their first hearing on the subject Wednesday afternoon.

At the meeting, state education officials defended their decision to endorse a computer-based test known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment. They took exception to lawmakers who questioned whether the test was chosen carefully and objectively.

Morguefile

Many of Michigan's public schools were closed for three days during the Polar Vortex last week.

This brings them close to the state's annual limit of five or six calamity days.

The number of days varies among school districts depending on the length of their school days and of their school year.

Michigan requires schools to offer 170 days of instruction and 1,098 hours of classes.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The head of Michigan’s fifth-largest school district is launching a “listening tour” this week.

Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal says the Grand Rapids school district needs to succeed in order for the city to succeed, and because that impacts the entire region, she wants to hear from everybody.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint school officials have until Wednesday to deliver a new deficit elimination plan to the Michigan Department of Education.

Flint School Board members tonight will review an agreement calling for a 19% compensation cut to school district employees. Specific wage and benefit cuts will be worked out during the next several months.

The wage and benefit concession was announced last week. The cuts would begin in July and last until 2018, when Flint School District officials project the district will have eliminated its multi-million dollar deficit.

Argonne National Laboratory / Flickr

A young woman entered college, full of the dreams she’d been holding tight since early grade school: dreams of being a doctor. She entered college in pre-med as a biology major. The biology part of pre-med went just great. But the chemistry was tough, and, in the middle of her sophomore year, when she saw she’d gotten a “D” in organic chem lab, that was that. She dropped out of all her science classes, switched over to History and tried to forget that she’d ever wanted to be a surgeon.

Today she’s glad to be hosting Stateside here on Michigan Radio!

But even after 34 years in radio and TV, Cynthia Canty still finds herself wondering what if she had not let that one “D” chase her out of her science major? And why did no one try to encourage her to keep plugging away?

So when the New York Times Sunday Magazine recently ran a long piece by writer Eileen Pollack titled “Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?” it struck a very personal chord.

As Eileen finds, women are still underrepresented in the STEM classes and careers that are so crucial to our country’s future prosperity.

But the University of Michigan is working hard to find ways to nurture and support women students and faculty in the sciences.

We were joined today by the author of that New York Times piece. She is one of the first two women to earn a bachelor of science degree in physics from Yale. Today she teaches creative writing at the University of Michigan.

Tim McKay is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Michigan, and he directs the undergrad honors program.

Abby Stewart is a professor of psychology and women’s studies at Michigan. She directs the university’s advance program.

The three of them joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint school district employees are facing a deep cut in pay and benefits.

Interim school superintendent Larry Watkins announced today that the district and its unions have reached a deal that calls for a 19% cut in compensation.

Specific details about cuts to wages and benefits are still being negotiated between the district and its unions. The cuts will take effect in July. 

Watkins says the cuts are a key component of the district’s deficit reduction plan that’s being submitted to the state next week.

State of Opportunity reporter Sarah Alvarez returned to Stockbridge, Mich., several months after completing a series on how the schools there are excelling in providing quality education for its students. Despite success at the pre-K, elementary, and high school levels, the middle school struggled with poor student performance. Now the decision's been made to close the middle school altogether. Sarah takes us back to Stockbridge to see what factors go into deciding to close a school. As it turns out, there's more than money involved, but that's a huge part of the problem to be solved.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Parents want to know how safe their child's school is. How many incidents of bullying have happened, for example? How many kids caught with drugs or alcohol?

Well, it's been more than a decade since the state of Michigan required the reporting of school safety information, but it appears that requirement is failing.

Bridge Magazine writer Ron French recently dug into the extent of the problem.

*Listen to the audio above.

Every week on the State of Opportunity blog we have a feature called, "Ideas & Stuff." It's meant to give you some background into the research that informs our stories about helping Michigan kids get ahead. Today, Dustin Dwyer give us a peek into the studies he's been reading in preparation for a new documentary on high-stakes testing. The studies question whether there's a class bias in which kids are tracked into gifted and talented programs. Are children living in poverty recognized as gifted and put into the appropriate programs? Swing by our blog and see what the research says.

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