Education

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.

The Michigan Union on the University of Michigan's main campus in Ann Arbor.
Andrew Horne / Wikimedia Commons

When University boards meet to vote on certain issues, the vote almost always goes through smoothly with little discussion and even littler debate.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The state legislature is considering bills that would expand a state-led effort to turn around Michigan’s lowest performing schools.

Right now, the Education Achievement Authority is in charge of 15 schools, all of them in Detroit.

In this second half of a two-part series, we’ll hear from some people who’ve been inside the current EAA—and paint a less-than-rosy picture.

“Disrupting” traditional education?

Governor Snyder has long urged state lawmakers to create more policy options for turning around historically low-performing schools.

Jake Neher / MPRN

The state Legislature could soon give Gov. Snyder something he’s wanted for a long time: a bill that would clear the way for the controversial Education Achievement Authority to expand.

The Senate is now considering a bill passed by the House that would, among other things, allow the EAA to expand beyond Detroit. The state-run district for the lowest-performing schools is the governor’s signature education initiative.

kconnors / morguefile

  A vote is expected on a final version of a bill that would expand the Education Achievement Authority into a statewide district. 

The EAA was created by the Snyder administration to initially oversee the lowest performing schools in the Detroit Public School system where it currently oversees 15 schools. Supporters say the EAA will give troubled schools the opportunity to turn things around, but critics say the EAA hasn’t proved that its model for education is a successful one. 

Brian Smith, the statewide education reporter for MLIVE.com joined us today. 

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

You don't have to hunt too far to find critics of our schools, of the way our children are learning, what they're learning and the achievement gap within our classrooms.

There are countless ways, countless statistics that try to measure the problems. Here's just one, centered on the achievement gap. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, on 2007 standardized math exams, white fourth-graders performed better than black fourth-graders in all 46 states where results are available.

And we hear a steady drumbeat of criticism that students here in the U.S. are lagging behind their peers in other countries. When you look at standardized tests, American students rank 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math, which puts them behind students in Poland and Slovenia.

How much pressure should we put on individual teachers to fix these problems?

Natalie Davis, Alistair Bomphray, and Martha Curren-Preis are teachers who are all earning their Ph.D.s in education at the University of Michigan. They joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

user: arvindgrover / Flickr

When you think of inequality in higher education, things like tuition, price of textbooks and food probably come up.

But what about inequality when it comes to the party scene in college?

A new five-year study found that if a young woman chooses the so-called "party path" rather than rigorous studying, and if she's from a working class or low-income family, the party path might not lead to a great college experience, or a promising career. 

The research was done by sociologists Elizabeth Armstrong of the University of Michigan and Laura Hamilton of the University of California.

They've turned this research into a book, Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality

Thetoad / Flickr

The state House has approved a measure to expand the controversial Education Achievement Authority. The EAA is the agency that is supposed to turn around some of the state’s most struggling school districts.

A final version of the bill could be voted on as early as this week by the state Senate and sent to Gov. Snyder for his signature.

The legislation passed the House last week by just one more vote than was needed.

Critics of the EAA, mostly Democrats, say student test results don’t support putting more schools into the authority.

Supporters, mainly Republican, say the legislation allows for more tools to be used to turn around failing schools.

Kathy Gray has been covering the EAA for the Detroit Free Press, and she joined us today.

Listen to the interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Some at-risk schools in Michigan could soon get more state funding if they agree to go year-round.

In his budget address in February, Gov. Snyder called for a state pilot program to encourage year-round schooling. School districts could get money to add air conditioning and other upgrades to old buildings so they could operate during the summer.

Supporters of the measure say students lose a lot of what they learn during the school year after long summer breaks.

State Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, is sponsoring year-round education legislation. He says teachers have to reeducate students in September and October.

“You could have 30 and even up to 60 of the 180 days of kids relearning what they should already know,” said Schor.

But do these measures actually work?

Harris Cooper is professor and the chair of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. He joined us today to share his thoughts.

Listen to the interview above.

ANN ARBOR – The man credited with saving more than 1,200 people during the Rwandan genocide will speak this week at the University of Michigan as part of a 20th anniversary commemoration of the slaughter.

Paul Rusesabagina's talk is scheduled for Thursday afternoon at the Rackham Graduate School.

Rusesabagina gave refuge to Tutsis and moderate Hutus at the hotel he managed during the 100-day massacre that killed more than 500,000 in 1994. Those sheltered by Rusesabagina – a Hutu – included his Tutsi wife and children.

Jeff Wilcox / Flickr

A pair of bills in the Michigan House and Senate are setting their sights on getting rid of tuition bills.  

Rather than paying off installments on a loan package, the proposed legislation would allow students to pay off school with a fixed percent of their future incomes — as long as their income is above the federal poverty line.

A $2 million pilot program would be established to fund 200 students at community colleges and public four-year universities.

From David Jesse of the Detroit Free Press:

So a student who went to the University of Michigan and graduated in four years would have to pay 4 percent of his or her income back every year for 20 years.

The so-called “pay-it-forward” bills have gained some legislative popularity after Oregon launched a study last July to examine the feasibility of such a proposal.

Michigan joins Oregon, Florida, Washington, and some 20 other states considering the "go now, pay later" plan.

From the mouths of babes – or more like from the imagination of kids dreaming up the next big software application: Dustin Dwyer and State of Opportunity spent the afternoon listening to teens from the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology's after-school program. They presented their ideas to software industry and community professionals in Grand Rapids.

HOWELL – High school officials in Howell say they've reprimanded students involved in posting racist messages on Twitter after the school's nearly all-white basketball team defeated a team with black and white players.

The Flint Journal reports messages were posted after Howell beat Grand Blanc on Thursday 54-49 in a Class A regional final at Linden High School. The messages made reference to Howell's team being white and included a Ku Klux Klan reference.

user John Phelan / wikimedia commons

The money comes from the Department's School Improvement Grants program. 

Ten states received grants, and Michigan was second to Texas in the amount given. Texas will get $46.7 million through the SIG program.

More from the Department of Education's press release:

Ok, first, the stats. 

The bad news: the problem is rampant

For every 10,000 women on a college campus, as many as 350 could experience attempted to completed rape every school year. 

Those numbers come from the U.S. Department of Justice, in a 2005 report on what schools are doing about sexual assault on campus. 

If those stats bear out, then at a school the size of the University of Michigan, as many as 490 women will experience attempted or completed rape every school year.

Our wintery weather continues, but that shouldn't stop you from coming out to our Issues & Ale event in Grand Rapids this evening. We'll be asking you and our panelists, "What can we do to close the digital divide in education?" State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer will moderate this conversation with educational technologists Kim Dabbs of the West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology, Hilary Goldmann of the International Society for Technology in Education, and Anne Thorp of the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District. This event kicks off the Michigan Association of Computers in Learning conference, so there will be plenty of knowledgeable and concerned educators in the audience. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. at Founders Brewery in the Centennial Room (2nd floor). Come warm up with challenging conversation about creating equitable access to the tools our kids need to succeed in the 21st century.

user frank juarez / Flickr

Proposed changes to special education rules in Michigan are causing alarm and concern for some parents.

You can read about the proposed changes here.

Marcie Lipsitt is the founder of the Michigan Alliance for Special Education, a grassroots organization that advocates for special education students. 

The proposed rule revisions would be "catastrophic," according to Lipsitt.

*You can listen to her thoughts above.

Wikipedia

More Michigan kids are making college dreams come true while still in high school. That's according to a new report that finds the number of low-income Michigan pupils taking Advanced Placement coursework has increased eight-fold over the past ten years.

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