9:16 am
Wed April 16, 2014

New State of Opportunity series featuring "One Person Who Cared"

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"Beating the odds doesn't just happen." In the two years since Dustin Dwyer's been reporting for the State of Opportunity project, he's finding breaking the cycle of poverty involves more than luck. We're starting a series on people who've broken the cycle and the person who helped them get ahead. Today, Dustin speaks with Jamie Alexander, a social worker who credits her grandparents with letting her know that "not going to school was not an option."
7 million: the number of grandparents whose grandchildren younger than 18 were living with them in 2010.Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 American Community Survey
8:49 am
Wed April 9, 2014

What is "inclusive education" and who benefits from it?

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We've been calling this story, State of Opportunity meets StoryCorps. Get ready to be moved. Meet Bentley. He's a rambunctious five-year-old at the James and Grace Lee Boggs School. Zak Rosen and filmmaker Andrea Claire Maio continue our series on the school and its students. In part five of the series, hear how everyone benefits from inclusive education.
“The kids are learning that you take care of one another and they’re learning how to do that in a respectful way. And that’s a powerful thing." - Julia Putnam, Principal of the James and Grace Lee Boggs School
3:03 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Is three company when it comes to co-parenting?

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According to NPR's Gabrielle Emanuel, it's possible for a child to have more than two legal parents in about 10 states. Michigan isn't one of them. State of Opportunity takes a look at what it means legally for more than one adult--straight or same-sex--to parent a child in our state.
Listen to the original story for a nationwide take on the number of legal parents a child is allowed. http://goo.gl/jnWQ2F
10:12 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Early childhood home visiting programs and precarious funding options

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New parents are seeing the benefits of having social workers and health care professionals come to their homes to offer hands-on lessons in early childhood development. But what happens when funding for these programs dries up? This week, on State of Opportunity, Dustin Dwyer takes a closer look at infant and early childhood home visiting programs in Michigan.
"It’s been a real learning curve for us to be able to really figure it out and understand and to be very strategic about maximizing what we can accomplish with the funding.” Nancy Peeler, Child Health Care Unit, Michigan Department of Community Health
9:15 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Spies, chemical weapons, and zombies in West Michigan?

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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.
"It is really trying to create as much as we can the experience – a learning experience – but also the experience of interacting with a client and building a project and what a real-life experience would be like for the young people in the class to work in this field." Samuel Bowles, VP, Mutually Human
9:52 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Is social mobility a thing of the past?

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One of State of Opportunity's most popular posts is "Five facts about achieving the American Dream" (http://goo.gl/1BAxma). Dustin Dwyer looks at inequality and why it's difficult for children to escape the cycle of poverty. We're revisiting this post with another look at what the research says about whether the American dream can be revived. Spoiler alert: It's going to to take a lot more than individual will.
A growing body of research, published just in the past two years, shows remarkably little change in opportunity across countries and across time.
9:17 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Warm up with Issues & Ale tonight!

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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.
Do all kids have the access to classroom technologies that they need to be digitally literate and tech-ready?
1:22 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

What's your "return on engagement?"

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On the State of Opportunity blog, we're gearing up for Michigan Radio's Spring Challenge by featuring our most popular posts. We think of this as showing our supporters a "return on engagement." Here's how we're using your contributions to tell the stories of Michigan's most vulnerable population: children living in poverty.
We’re going to revisit some of our most popular posts during the Spring Challenge. You’re invited to listen again with "Outtakes," "Think Again" by reviewing a collection of posts on a popular theme, check out the Whiteboard for provocative discussion questions, and revisit "Ideas & Stuff" – the research that informs our stories and documentaries.
10:35 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Proposed law seeks better training and effective evaluations for Michigan teachers

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What's the point of evaluating teachers and then not providing constructive feedback for improvements? That's the challenge legislators are tackling with changes to Michigan's teacher evaluation law. State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer sat in on a teacher development session in Grand Rapids to find out which new techniques are being used to coach educators more effectively.
What's the point of evaluating teachers and then not providing constructive feedback for improvements?
2:22 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Movie review: foster care depicted on film in Short Term 12

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The culture and ideas that surround issues of kids and well-being are just as important to the public discussion as the daily realities. Head over to State of Opportunity for a review of Short Term 12, a feature film about at-risk kids in a care home and the adults that try to teach them how to cope. It's just out on DVD, at your public library, Netflix, etc.
Destin Daniel Cretton's film Short Term 12 (2013) does a great job of delving into the issues of trust, confidentiality, and uncertainty children face when removed from parental care and entrusted to other adults.
9:47 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Relatives trying to cope with the child welfare system lack representation

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There's one attorney for every 21,000 low-income Michigan citizens. That's according to the Michigan Bar Association. And that lack of representation hits hard for relatives of children in the foster care system. State of Opportunity's Sarah Alvarez has been following the case of Vanessa Moss, a grandmother struggling financially to take care of four children. Faced with their removal from her home, where do people without resources turn for legal representation?
For every one of the 13,000 kids, there is a specific story behind what landed them in foster care in the first place or how their life will unfold afterward. The same can be said of their parents or the adults who stand in for parents. Many of these adults can feel just as trapped in the system as the children.
11:13 am
Wed February 12, 2014

One unsurprising thing about student testing in Michigan: It's political

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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.
One testing option was created with the help of a $176 million federal grant. Another option, created by a nonprofit company with more than $300 million in revenue reported in 2011 has a contract to administer its college readiness test to Michigan 11th graders. That contract has an estimated value of nearly $70 million.
10:27 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Michigan Senate fighting parole option for "juvenile lifers"

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State of Opportunity looks at why the State of Michigan is trying to find its way around a Supreme Court ruling declaring mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles unconstitutional.
The Michigan Senate will vote on Senate Bill 319 any day now.
12:39 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

How kids self-select out of technical careers

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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?
Two related blog posts on technology and opportunity worth highlighting this week, Tess Rinearson's "On Technical Entitlement" and Philip Guo's "On Technical Privilege."
3:03 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

State of Opportunity invites you to Think Again

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Think Again is the name of a new feature on our State of Opportunity blog. Maybe there are stories you missed that we think deserve your attention. Or perhaps there are new developments on issues impacting Michigan's kids. Click over to State of Opportunity and see what we're highlighting for your reconsideration. Today's topic: the discipline gap in school suspensions gets federal attention.
The U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice have issued guidelines for educators, administrators, and lawmakers meant to improve the climate in schools by not singling out students---consciously or not---by race. Listen to what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has to say on what's driving this initiative.
8:56 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Stockbridge is closing its middle school. Could this happen to your school?

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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.
"This is a sleeper community. Nobody's coming to Stockbridge. So, you have to have people that are committed to putting their kids first. I see a lot of that go on." - Chris Young, Stockbridge community member
2:38 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Is there more than one way for a child to be "gifted"?

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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.
"Students from poverty have many gifts and talents that rarely manifest themselves in recognizable and traditionally valued behaviors…Conversely, middle-class students who know the names of all the space shuttles and every dinosaur, and can effectively articulate their ideas, are generally viewed as being very bright-and gifted." - National Association for Gifted Children
12:04 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Part of the Fifth Third Ballpark north of Grand Rapids is on fire

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The ball park is in Comstock Park, Michigan. This from MLive.
PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, MI -- Dispatchers are requesting a full fire response to Fifth Third Ballpark on a report of a fire inside one of the guest suites inside the stadium area. Arriving firefighters found "a heavy column of smoke" and flames showing from the outside of the suite just after 11 a.m.
10:56 am
Sat December 28, 2013

Catch up on State of Opportunity documentaries this weekend

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How are you preparing for the new year? Cleaning the house from top to bottom? Clearing out paper and files? Changing smoke alarm batteries (yes, you really should do that)? Whether you're working, relaxing, or pondering what 2014 holds, click through to State of Opportunity and catch up on our thought-provoking documentaries. 2013 saw us cover what race means to kids today, the gap in educational achievement in two local school districts, and how we as a society are defining manhood. Listen on the State of Opportunity website. Or download the podcasts from iTunes and listen while you take down those outdoor holidays lights. Listening to stimulating radio guarantees you'll wrap the lights carefully this year.
1:09 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

One listener explains the social contract of helping one another

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None of the people State of Opportunity talked to about their good deeds want the focus to be on them. Instead, to a one, they just hope to inspire others, who are moved by stories they hear on the radio, to take action. Michael Mulvihill of Seattle is one of those people. He heard Dustin Dwyer's three-part series on gun violence in Muskegon on his local public radio station. Click through to the State of Opportunity website to find out what Mulvihill did when heard about Carmesha Rogers and her efforts to save three children from gun fire in her neighborhood.
Carmesha Rogers' selflessness in hustling three Muskegon children out of the range of gun fire was a story that Seattle Attorney Michael Mulvihill thought