Education

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

​Michigan’s top education official says he might stop 11 charter school authorizers from opening new schools. 

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says they would be able to continue to operate the charters they already oversee. It’s a reaction to a recent Detroit Free Press series that suggested conflicts of interest, a lack of transparency, and mixed academic results in Michigan charters.

Gary Naeyaert directs the Great Lakes Education Project – a lobbying group which advocates for charter schools. He says Flanagan did not evaluate the authorizers fairly before putting them on the list.

“To take all of the students of an authorizer’s portfolio and lump them all together and treat them as if they’re one big school building, that’s just not the way that it is out there,” Naeyaert said.

Some charter school critics say Superintendent Flanagan’s warning does not go far enough. They say bad charter schools and their authorizers should be shut down right away.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The state Board of Education will urge the state Legislature to revisit Michigan’s charter school law. It’s a reaction to a recent Detroit Free Press series that suggested conflicts of interest, a lack of transparency, and mixed academic results in Michigan charters.

John Austin is the president of the state Board of Education.

“We need clarity on who’s policing the system and when they pull the trigger and who’s responsible for shutting down schools or preventing authorizers from authorizing new schools.”

State Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan says he’s already considering using his authority to stop some institutions from authorizing charters. Charter school supporters say Michigan already has some of the toughest regulations on charters in the country.

User: 21innovate / Flickr

​LANSING – Several Michigan schools are expected to get money to help transition from the traditional school calendar to a year-round calendar as part of a pilot program.

MLive.com reports the State Board of Education is set to approve grant requests for four schools at next week's meeting and two additional schools received money through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to help offset their costs.

The Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System is set to get $750,000; charter school GEE Edmonson Academy in Detroit will get $395,000; and Ypsilanti Community Schools will get $146,000.

Baldwin Community Schools and Madison District Public Schools each received $750,000 through the MEDC.

Wayne State University

Wayne State University is hoping new tuition incentives will push more students to graduate in four years.

Starting next year, Wayne State will offer some full-time students a 30% tuition discount during the spring and summer semesters.

The idea is to encourage students who may need a more staggered courseload during the regular school year to keep taking classes all year.

User: Enokson / flick

The school boards in Ann Arbor and nearby Whitmore Lake have voted to pursue Ann Arbor Public Schools' annexation of the much smaller school district to the north of the city.

Over the past few years, Whitmore Lake Public Schools has suffered steep enrollment drops as the community's population declined – and the district is moving grades out of its middle school building this fall to balance its budget.

Voters will decide the question in November. A "yes" vote in both communities would result in annexation next July.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school board last night approved a plan to eliminate its $20.4 million deficit.  

But the plan relies on the district being able to do something it has struggled to do:  retain students.

The Flint school district delivers its revised deficit elimination plan to the state Department of Education tomorrow.  The plan calls for zeroing out a $20.4 million deficit by the end of 2021.    

Jake Neher / MPRN

Michigan education officials are in the process of finding a new standardized test … again.

More than a hundred people were in Lansing Wednesday to tell the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) what they want out of a new assessment.

MDE had already chosen the Smarter Balanced assessment three years ago. But many lawmakers were not happy with that test because it’s aligned with the controversial Common Core school standards.

MichigansChildren / YouTube

There was a lengthy meeting today between the Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction and some of the state’s largest charter school authorizers. Its purpose was to review the rules to ensure the independent academies are performing as promised.

The meeting went on for about three hours. It was closed to the public, and there were few details made public. Some of the state’s largest charter authorizers, including representatives of universities and community colleges, were invited.

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

Scores from this year’s standardized test at one southwest Michigan elementary school will count after all. The state is reversing its decision to throw out the test scores after the district appealed.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

Two years ago, Muskegon Heights made history by becoming the first school district in Michigan to convert entirely to a charter district, and turn the operation of its schools over to a for-profit company. 

This week, Michigan Radio's Dustin Dwyer and Lindsey Smith take an in depth look at the changes in the Muskegon Heights School district and what that could that mean for other troubled districts in the state in a new State of Opportunity documentary called Tiger Pride.

Why focus on Muskegon Heights? How does it impact other struggling school districts in Michigan?

Dwyer and Smith joined us today to give us a preview of the documentary. 

Tune in tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm to hear Tiger Pride

Biologycorner / Creative Commons

Michigan students have been taking the same standardized test for decades. It’s known as the MEAP.

But this year the MEAP test will be completely re-done and students will take it in the spring instead of the fall. After next year, it’s not clear what test students will take.

The state was all set to switch over from the MEAP to a test called “Smarter Balanced.” But state lawmakers balked at the idea, because the test aligned to the controversial common core standards.

Lawmakers wanted the state to stick with the MEAP.

Lawmakers ordered the Michigan Department of Education to stop preparing for the Smarter Balanced Assessment and return to a revamped MEAP test.

How is this playing out for the teachers and administrators who have to teach and give this overhauled MEAP test?

William Heath is the Superintendent of the Morrice Area Schools and the Principal at Morrice Junior and Senior High School in Shiawassee County.  He said the changes have been very difficult.

“We need some consistency. We need a target to shoot at. We don’t need the target to keep moving around,” he said.

Heath said they are judged by the growth from the previous year and when the assessment changes, they don’t know how they can measure that growth.

“If we are taking different tests, it’s a weird science experiment that there is too many variables in there. It’s going to make it that much harder to realize what exactly our students know and don’t know,” Heath said.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Wikimedia Commons

More and more students in Michigan are taking five or more years to finish college and get their degrees. Ron French from Bridge Magazine has been researching this for his new article, and he talked about the trend today on Stateside. French said nationally, 31% of students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. In Michigan, 12 of the 15 public universities are below that average.

Staying in school longer is more expensive, as extra semesters add cost. French said the fifth and sixth years are usually the most expensive, because financial aid dries up after eight semesters.

“Student debt nationally is over $1 trillion now,” said French.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan is complicated.

That much is already clear to Mark Schlissel, who wraps up his first week as president of the university this week. 

It has certainly been a busy one.

gvsu.edu/techshowcase / gvsu.edu/techshowcase

How can cutting-edge new technologies be used in the classroom?

Sure, devices like Google Glass or a 3-D printer are cool.

But how can they be used to teach and to learn?

Eric Kunnen is the emerging technologies coordinator at Grand Valley State University.

"Trying to find that sweet spot there between teaching learning and technology is where we are focused and having access to the technology is one piece," Kunnen said.

Kunnen said that Google Glass could be useful in the classroom by providing hands free operations.

“Think in terms of a visual demonstration maybe in a science classroom, where you need both hands as the instructor,” Kunnen said. “Also the ability in wearing the glasses and having information on top of what you are seeing has a lot of potential as well.”

But where is the boundary in using technology for a good purpose, versus using it because it’s cool?

Kunnen said when figuring out when to use the technology, they start with trying to solve an instructional problem.

“How do we address a difficult concept that is very challenging to explain perhaps, or very difficult to visualize, and how do we apply technology to that as a solution?” Kunnen said.

An example he gave was difficulty in visualizing 3D protein molecules, but a 3D projection image could help solve that problem.

New technology are on display in Grand Valley’s Technology showcase, located in the Mary Idema Pew Library on campus.

“The concept really is to interact, learn, discover, and share how technology can transform teaching and learning at the university,’ Kunnen said.

*Listen to full interview above. 

Instead of using "right" and "wrong" to describe Standard American English versus African-American English, Craig’s model uses "formal" and "informal" designations, so there’s no judgment attached to either language.

Benton Harbor High School
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A state review team is hosting a public meeting today in Benton Harbor. The six-member team is trying to determine if Benton Harbor Area Schools is in financial stress.

The Benton Harbor school district has been running a deficit since 2006. It's cut costs, but at the same time, it also has low-performing schools that need to improve test scores to meet state and federal standards. Plus, it’s lost students every year.

It’s already closed buildings, privatized support services and gotten concessions in wages and benefits from teachers.

MichigansChildren / YouTube

Michigan’s schools superintendent wants to meet with charter school authorizers and advocacy groups this month as he figures out a way to hold them more accountable.

The vast majority of Michigan’s charter schools are set up by Central Michigan University, Grand Valley State University and Bay Mills Community College.

Earlier this month State Superintendent Mike Flanagan warned these and other entities, known as charter school authorizers, that he was not going to allow them to open new schools if their existing schools “do not measure up.”

Flanagan is concerned some charter authorizers aren’t being held accountable for the schools they run, academically or financially.

A state Department of Education spokesman said charter authorizers and other interested parties were invited to meet privately with Flanagan later this month to discuss his concerns.

Authorizers have come under scrutiny in the wake of a big investigative report the Detroit Free Press published earlier this month.

The report found some charter schools run by for-profit management companies aren’t transparent about how they spend taxpayer money.

Flanagan said the report and a meeting he had with charter advocates earlier this year have prompted him to make charter authorizers more accountable for the schools they set up.

University of Michigan

A group of doctors and researchers is getting in on the Ann Arbor Art Fair fun this week. 

The program is called Bioartography. Faculty and staff across the university submit images of cells and tissue from their research labs.

The images are photoshopped to add bright colors and patterns. The winning prints are then sold. All proceeds go to help graduate students and post-docs travel to medical conferences.

Dr. Deborah Gumucio helped develop the fundraiser in 2005. She said roughly $40,000 to $50,000 has been collected over the past nine years. That's been enough to give more than 80 students $500 travel awards.  

"It’s really important to get out to the public to tell them about what we do," said Gumucio. "How our work with the fruit fly and work with yeast, for example, can make huge differences in human health."

The prints are a representation of the intersection between art and science. 

They will be sold at the Ann Arbor Art Fair this week. They're also for sale online. 

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Community Schools says it's got a $20 million deficit ($10 million of which was only recently discovered, according to the district.)

But if you ask Lisa Hagel, Flint Community Schools owes another $8.6 million on top of that.

Hagel is the superintendent of the Genesee Intermediate School District, which is now suing Flint schools over allegedly misspending $8.6 million of countywide tax money.  

The money was supposed to go to the Genesee Area Skill Center for vocational training. Instead, it was blended into the general fund of the Flint Community Schools.

A classroom.
user LizMarie_AK / Wikimedia Commons

The statement comes a day after state Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan said he’s ready to use his authority to revoke that ability from charter school authorizers. That’s if they fail to meet new standards for transparency set by state education officials.

Flanagan says he met with authorizers in February about issues involving charters. He says he’s not convinced all of them will be able to meet the new, tougher standards.

“If I had to guess, just because of the candor at the February meeting, there’s probably some that we won’t extend their ability,” Flanagan said Tuesday. “But I don’t want to pre-judge that too much. That’s only hearing the anecdotal stuff.”

Wikimedia Commons

Everyone who writes a tuition payment check has one question: Is tuition going up?

Jake Neher, Lansing reporter for Michigan Public Radio Network said that tuition is going up all over the state.

There is a limit to the increase at 3.2%, otherwise institutions will lose state aid.

“Most major universities, other than U of M and MSU, are going right up to that cap in this year’s tuition increases,” Neher said.

Neher said budget leaders and the Legislature may not be too happy about the increase, given that the governor just signed the largest increase in state aid for higher education in years.

The new budget increases higher education spending by about 5.9%.

Neher added that Michigan State University is using a two-tier tuition increase. Tuition for juniors and seniors will go up more than freshmen and sophomores. Neher said that MSU did this because it costs more money to educate seniors.

Funding for the Michigan Tuition Grant Program will also increase 5.9%. This affects students who are in financial need who want to go to private colleges. 

*Listen to full interview above. 

user: Jimmie / Flickr

Democrats are accusing Governor Snyder of gutting public education, but Governor Snyder says that’s not so. This year’s education budget is a billion dollars more that it was in 2010, the year before he took office.

There is nearly $14 billion in the education budget.

“It’s really a fight over how we want to spend this large sum of money that we are setting aside for schools every year,” said Brian Smith, MLive education reporter.

In the budget, each school district will get a minimum of $50 additional dollars per pupil, while those who have lower funding may receive an extra $175 equity payment.

Critics say this method disproportionately distributes more money to charter and cyber schools.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State officials say high school juniors improved in all subject areas on the Michigan Merit Exam this year, while the average ACT college-entrance exam score rose slightly.

Even so, the percentage of Michigan juniors considered ready for college declined after rising in the previous four years. Officials said that was because of a slight drop in the percentage of students meeting proficiency levels in the math section of the ACT.

Results released Monday show the biggest improvements on the merit exam were in social studies, where the average score rose from 38.6 to 43.9, and in reading, with a jump from 53.5 to 58.7.

Cooley Law School

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School is battling low student enrollment with faculty and staff cuts.

The Michigan-based law school said it needs to reduce expenses. That means it will also not enroll incoming first-semester students at its Ann Arbor campus this fall.

It hasn't yet determined just how many people it will let go.

That decision will come after the school does a systemwide review of all programs and facilities throughout its five campuses. Low enrollment, according to the university, is to blame. 

Thetoad / Flickr

As Michigan schools begin their new budget year this week, some local superintendents are urging lawmakers to return from their summer break to boost education funding.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a new education budget last week that boosts funding for all public schools by at least $50 per student. But Forest Hills Schools Superintendent Dan Behm says districts face new costs that wipe out that minimum increase.

Wikimedia Commons

When Gov. Rick Snyder signed Michigan's school aid budget last week, that act officially threw a big curve ball to teachers.

The budget included a provision ordering the Michigan Department of Education to produce and administer a MEAP test in the next school year, not the Smarter Balanced Assessment test they'd been planning to use –the test based on the Common Core standards that the state has been using.

If this all sounds confusing, try being a teacher in Michigan.

MLive’s Brian Smith has been talking with teachers about how they feel about the MEAP being back on.

“A lot of these teachers that I talked to are really just frustrated by the fact that now they just have a couple of months to prepare for a test they still haven’t seen,” Smith says.

He says the problem is that the MEAP hasn’t really been under active development, making sure the test is aligned with the state's content standards and the Common Core. So the test will have to be restructured.

Smith says in his report that all of the back-and-forth on the state's assessment test has left teachers feeling disrespected.

“They feel like their voices are not being heard in this conversation,” Smith says. “They’re not being included in the talk about how we are testing our kids and when we are testing our kids, and what that test is going to look like.”

*Listen to the full story above. 

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman wraps up her 12-year tenure on July 13, 2014.

She spoke on Stateside with Cynthia Canty today. Listen to our interview with her here:

Coleman oversaw a time of growth at the university – spearheading a capital campaign that resulted in the most money ever raised by a public university.

U of M also saw a building boom on Coleman's watch.

But there was another kind of boom during Coleman's tenure. Undergraduate tuition went up more than 75%.

Coleman says the university has worked hard to keep tuition affordable in spite of spiraling tuition rates.

"And what we've done here at the University of Michigan is to work extremely hard to raise money for financial aid and to make it available."

*Correction: A previous version of this story said that today was Coleman's last day as president. Her final day is July 13. We regret the error.

Off the Record

One of Michigan’s top charter school advocates is blasting the Detroit Free Press’ recent investigation into charters.

Reporter Jennifer Dixon and others uncovered incidents suggesting conflicts of interest, a lack of transparency, and mixed academic results in charters.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This week, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative is looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy.

Mayor Mike Duggan says his top priority is reversing the city’s long population decline.

But there are a couple key quality of life issues Duggan has no control over. One of them is the city’s schools.

Here’s the story of one Detroit family’s effort to find good schools.

Meet the Hills

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