public schools

Education
3:47 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Study: Educators need more training to help students with autism

MSU researchers say Michigan educators could better serve students on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
user frank juarez Flickr

According to Michigan State University researchers, many educators in the state are not using some of the most effective teaching methods  when working with the more than 15,000 Michigan students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Summer Ferreri, an MSU assistant professor of special education, and Sara Bolt, an MSU associate professor of school psychology conducted the study.

Using data from more than 200 school professionals, 34 parents of students with ASD, and classroom observations, the researchers found that more than 40 percent of the educators were not using techniques known as "Applied Behavior Analysis", and "Social Stories" (a method for teaching social skills to children with autism).

They also found it difficult to "access statewide data on students with ASD" and "concluded that better access is crucial to determine whether the services schools provide are actually helping students succeed."

From the MSU press release:

Suzanne Wilson, a University Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Teacher Education at MSU, said autism education is one of the most pressing issues facing educators today.

“While autism rates have rapidly increased, many new and experienced teachers have little to no experience working with children with autism,” Wilson said.  "Without the appropriate education, new teachers could, at worst, marginalize these students and, at best, be supportive but not effective.”

The researchers also found that 26% ASD students in Michigan "never or rarely had learning opportunities that reflected the general education curriculum."

And "one-third of the 194 Michigan teaching professionals responding said their students with ASD wouldn’t meet any grade-level achievement standards."

The findings of the research will be presented to the State Board of Education tomorrow (September 13). The study was conducted with funding from the Weiser family, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Skillman Foundation.

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Education
3:41 pm
Thu September 8, 2011

Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Michigan, praises Detroit education efforts

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan testifying in Congress.
Ed Work Flickr

Update 3:14 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan say he "couldn’t be more hopeful" about the future of Detroit's public schools.

At today's town hall meeting at the Charles H. Wright Academy in Detroit, Duncan praised Governor Snyder and DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts for their commitment to education reform, and he urged everyone at the event to rally around those efforts:

"You have all the building blocks in place to do something remarkable here. Has Detroit struggled? Absolutely, no question about it. But my challenge, and the opportunity here is: Can Detroit become the fastest improving urban district in the country? And I see no reason why that can’t happen."

Duncan says he takes the work he does in Detroit "very, very seriously." He adds that if Detroit public schools haven’t improved by the time he leaves office, he’ll consider his tenure "a failure."

The Secretary also gave a shout out to the Kalamazoo Promise, the anonymously-funded program that pays for almost every Kalamazoo public school graduate to go to a state-supported college or university. Duncan said if Detroit could develop something similar it would be the "best economic development tool" for the city:

"If we could make that guarantee of not just a 2-year but a 4-year university education possible for every young man and woman who graduates from Detroit Public Schools, that would be absolutely amazing."

Governor Snyder, who was also at today's event, says the state needs to do a better job when it comes to educating Michigan’s children. "When we looked at the numbers we only have 17% of our kids college ready," says Snyder. He calls that percentage "absolutely unacceptable."

11:23 a.m.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is visiting Michigan today as part of his "Education and the Economy" bus tour of the Midwest.

This morning he made a stop in Detroit where he joined Governor Rick Snyder, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts to discuss the status of Detroit Public Schools.

The bus left Detroit and headed for Ann Arbor. Right now, he's participating in a panel discussion at the University of Michigan.  Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra is covering that and will have more for us later.

In Detroit this morning, Duncan told a crowd at the Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science that he takes the progress of Detroit Public Schools personally. Duncan called the district "ground zero" in education reform two years ago. From the Detroit Free Press:

He said that if DPS does not see significant improvements during his tenure in office, he will consider it a personal failure.

“I take the work here very, very personally,” Duncan said.

Since Duncan’s visit in 2009, the district has implemented a five-year academic plan and the graduation rate has grown to 62%, up by about 4%.

The Education Secretary's visit comes a day after the Detroit Public Schools had 55 percent of enrolled students show up for the first day of classes, as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported.

Duncan said the success of the Detroit Public School system is tied to the overall success of the state. From MLive:

"Just as you can't have a great state without having a great city of Detroit, you cannot revitalize the city of Detroit without a great public education system. Those two things are inextricably linked."

Duncan praised the leadership of Governor Snyder, Detroit Mayor Bing, and DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts for their "alignment of courage" to turn the Detroit school system around.

After the panel discussion in Ann Arbor, Duncan is off to Indiana. Here's a Google Map of Duncan's bus tour:

View Larger Map

Education
4:39 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

All students in Flint and Detroit eligible for free breakfast and lunch

A new federal program being piloted this year provides free breakfasts and lunches to all students in poorer school districts.
USDA.gov

A new United States Department of Agriculture program will provide free lunches and breakfasts to all K-12 students in the Detroit Public School system and the Flint School District.

The free meal service, known as the "Community Eligibility Option," is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act singed into law by President Obama in December of 2010.

From the USDA:

[The] universal free meal service option...makes it easier for low-income children to receive meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The "Community Eligibility Option" will allow schools in high-poverty areas to eliminate the use of applications and provide free breakfast and lunch to all students.

In a statement, Mark Schrupp, DPS Chief Operating Officer, said the program is aimed at eliminating stigma:

"One of the primary goals of this program is to eliminate the stigma that students feel when they get a free lunch, as opposed to paying cash," said Schrupp. "Some students would skip important meals to avoid being identified as low-income. Now, all students will walk through a lunch line and not have to pay. Low-income students will not be easily identifiable and will be less likely to skip meals."

Blake Thorne reports in the Flint Journal that a district has to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the new "lunch for all" program:

The program evaluates the economic eligibility of an entire school or district, rather than individual students, and if 40 percent of the school or district’s students qualify for free lunches, all students get them...

Last year, 81 percent of Flint students qualified for free lunches, according to Michigan Department of Education data from last fall, the most recent figures available.

Education Department figures show about 41 percent of the state’s 1.57 million students qualify for the meals.

The program is in its pilot phase this year and only a limited number of states can participate.

Once a district signs on, they're required to participate in the program for 4 successive school years.

The Community Eligibility Option will be available to all states beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

In the Detroit News, Michael Van Beek of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, questioned whether the new program is a good use of taxpayer money:

"Under this program, it appears we would be subsidizing school lunches and meals to students who currently don't qualify under the federal program."

Van Beek said there are more creative solutions than giving away meals to everyone at a school where less than half of the students may qualify.

The news reports that "the federal government spent $338 million on free and reduced school meals" in the state in fiscal year 2010.

Education
4:31 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Highland Park schools closer to emergency manager

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The school system in Highland Park is getting closer to the possible appointment of an emergency manager because of its troubled finances.

Michigan schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan sent a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder this month saying "probable financial stress exists" in the Detroit-area school district. The letter says a recently revised state law requires that the governor appoint a review team to dig deeper into the district's finances.

The letter summarizing a preliminary financial review of the 1,300-student district was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The letter cites "unsatisfactory progress" in eliminating budget deficits and audit problems.

A message was left Tuesday seeking comment from School District of the City of Highland Park officials.

The district still could avoid the appointment of an emergency manager.

Education
3:16 pm
Fri August 26, 2011

State lists all public schools in Michigan from "Top to Bottom"

Teacher Assistant Preston Taylor assists student with class assignment at Kettering West Wing, Detroit Public Schools. Kettering West Wing ranked at the top of the "Top to Bottom" list.
MDE

Education officials from the state of Michigan released two lists on public schools today.

I posted earlier on Michigan's list of "Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools."

Here's a look at the state's "Top to Bottom Ranking" (follow the link to find the list, it's an excel spreadsheet).

The Top to Bottom ranking lists all public schools in Michigan that have more than 30 students who were "tested over the last two years in at least two state-tested content areas." (You can read more about how the schools were ranked here - warning - It's Power Point file.)

There are 3,010 schools listed.

The Michigan Department of Education says "this list is being published to provide information to all schools and to provide 'light of day' reporting on the achievement, improvement, and achievement gaps of all schools in the state."

The rankings are based on graduation rates and the following three areas of student achievement:

  1. Achievement at the elementary, middle, and high school levels
  2. Improvement in achievement over time
  3. The largest achievement gap between two subgroups calculated based on the top scoring 30% of students versus the bottom scoring 30% of students

The school districts that had schools in the 99th percentile rank (highest) were:

  • Forest Hills Public Schools
  • Ann Arbor Public Schools
  • School District of the City of Birmingham
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Bloomfield Hills School District
  • Rochester Community School District
  • Berkley School District
  • Lake Orion Community Schools
  • Grand Blanc Community Schools
  • Novi Community School District
  • Saginaw City School District
  • Farmington Public School District
  • Spring Lake Public Schools
  • Hudsonville Public School District
  • Detroit City School District
  • Ottawa Area ISD
  • Grand Haven Area Public Schools
  • Troy School District
  • East Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Livonia Public Schools

And school districts that had schools ranked at the bottom (0 percentile rank) were:

  • Detroit City School District
  • Buena Vista School District
  • Benton Harbor Area Schools
  • Center for Literacy and Creativity
  • Willow Run Community Schools
  • Ecorse Public School District
  • Tuscola ISD
  • Monroe ISD
  • Flint City School District
  • Pontiac City School District
  • Lansing Public School District
  • River Rouge School District
  • Saginaw City School District
  • Southfield Public School District
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Education
11:06 am
Fri August 26, 2011

98 lowest achieving Michigan schools identified

Carstens Elementary-Middle School in Detroit is on Michigan's list of "Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools."
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Education has revealed its list of "Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools" (follow the link to see the list - it's an excel spreadsheet).

The annual listing is required by state law. The state started the PLA listing last year, when 92 schools were called out.

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Education
11:55 am
Mon August 15, 2011

More Michigan schools fail to meet federal education goals

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

The number of schools in Michigan meeting federal "Adequate Yearly Progress" goals dropped off in the last academic year.

Adequate Yearly Progress goals are part of the No Child Left Behind law.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett has more:

Fewer schools in Michigan met federal benchmarks for students’ academic progress this year, and state officials blame the slide on higher standards required by the federal government.

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Commentary
7:30 am
Fri July 22, 2011

Giving teachers the respect they deserve

Commentator John U. Bacon say teachers deserve more respect.
Kevin Wong Flickr

Teachers in our country rarely get the respect they deserve -- a uniquely American pathology. But this year they’ve endured not just indifference, but disrespect – and from Congressmen, no less. Teachers are now blamed not just for falling test scores, but failing state budgets and rising healthcare costs.

There was once a politician who took a different view.

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson's Northwest Ordinance – what some scholars believe to be one of the three most important documents in the founding of America, along with the Constitution and Declaration of Independence – provided funding for public schools and universities. In it, he declared, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

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Education
10:21 am
Wed July 20, 2011

Heat wave causes school closures in Detroit

user: NonOther flickr.com

Many students attending summer school in Detroit will have the day off today.

From the Associated Press:

Detroit's school district says it's closing more than 70 schools in the afternoon that don't have air conditioning as a heat wave continues.

The Detroit Public Schools made the announcement Wednesday morning.

The district says power outages also forced the closure of three schools Wednesday. And heat and mechanical problems closed two others.

A DPS spokesmen said more than half of the school district's summer population of 38,000 will be affected. The district has also opened 13 cooling centers.

Politics
5:10 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Snyder signs tenure changes into law

Changes to teacher tenure rules in Michigan are coming after Governor Snyder signs a new bill.
user frank juarez Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that will make it easier for school districts to fire teachers in classrooms where students are struggling. It also eliminates discipline and layoff rules as a subject of collective bargaining with teachers unions. 

The governor says seniority is an outdated system for deciding which teachers are laid off first, and where they should work.

"We need a performance-based system that recognizes the very best that teachers can deliver and gives them good recognition and reward for those opportunities and that's what this is all about," said Snyder. "It's about moving forward and stop looking at a broken world of the past."

School employee unions say the new law will remove critical job protections and lead to districts getting rid of veteran teachers for financial rather than academic reasons.

Louise Somalski, with the American Federation of Teachers, says the new law takes away teachers’ rights to bargain for job protections as school districts face growing financial pressures.

"I’m afraid that when it comes right down to it, there so tight on money at the local school district level because funding has been cut, that the most-experienced teachers are going to be let go – and we want the most-experienced teachers with the kids and it's going to hurt the students in the long run."

A commission will make specific recommendations to the Legislature next year on how to measure teacher performance.

The new rules will take effect at the beginning of the school year that begins in the fall of 2012.

Education
2:53 pm
Sun June 26, 2011

Summer food program gets new website

Free meals are available this summer for kids 18 & younger
Flickr user bookgrl

Millions of kids eat free or reduced-price meals at their schools during the school year. But during the summer, those numbers drop dramatically. Last year Michigan schools served 144 million free meals. But during the summer the state only served 2.6 million meals.

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Education
4:01 pm
Mon June 20, 2011

Michigan takes drastic approach to fix failing schools

Governor Snyder wants to reform Michigan public schools, starting in Detroit.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Michigan will try a drastic new approach to fix its failing public schools.

The state will put what it designates as “persistently low-performing schools” in a special, statewide school district.

The effort will start in Detroit. The city’s public school system has gained national notoriety for its rock-bottom test scores, and is already run by a state-appointed emergency manager.

That manager will jumpstart the effort to put some Detroit schools in what the state is calling an “Educational Achievement System” starting in the fall of 2012.

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Education
4:07 pm
Wed June 15, 2011

Tuition price tag causes controversy for Gov. Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder

How much does it cost to educate a child in Michigan?

The answer to that question is causing controversy for Gov. Rick Snyder.

Greenhills School -- where Gov. Snyder's daughter attends -- in Ann Arbor released a video asking for donations. In the video, officials from Greenhills claim that $20,000 per year per student isn't enough to keep the school running.

Michigan public schools receive an average of $6,846 per year per student, and that number has dropped since Gov. Snyder took office.

From the Michigan Messenger:

As the debate over deep cuts to the state’s per pupil allowance in education funding continues, Greenhills School in Ann Arbor has released a fundraising video in which school officials say the $20,000 per year tuition per student is not enough to keep the school running.

The video features students and faculty from the school, where Gov. Rick Snyder sends his daughter, reading from a script and saying that money raised from an annual auction was necessary to keep the school going. One student, who is not identified, says, “Tuition alone does not cover the costs of a Greenhills education.”

The video asks viewers to consider a donation of “$10,000, $500 or $50″ to help the school defray the school’s operational costs.

At the same time that the school to which Snyder sends his own child can’t make ends meet with funding of $20,000 per pupil, the governor recently pushed through and signed legislation that cuts per pupil public school funding by $370 per student, bringing state funding to $6,846 per student. Some schools could qualify for an additional $100 per student if they adopt what Snyder and GOP lawmakers call “best practices.” Those practices include reducing employee costs by forcing an increase in insurance cost sharing and privatizing or consolidating some services.

According to an opinion piece from the Battle Creek Examiner, academic and athletic facilities at Greenhills include Smartboard technology in all classrooms, a state-of-the-art theater, an indoor batting cage, a climbing wall, and a weather station. The average class size is 15 students and the school scores 100 percent college entrance rate for graduates.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Education
3:38 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

U of M to study effectiveness of Michigan's charter schools

U of M's two-year study will look at charters schools across the state.
user: jdurham morguefile

Professors at the University of Michigan plan to launch a statewide study of Michigan’s charter schools.

One criticism of past charter studies is that the data is skewed because they compare apples to oranges; since charter school participation is voluntary, some worry the kids who sign up for charter schools have different characteristics than those who attend traditional schools.

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Education
8:33 pm
Tue May 17, 2011

Cut to schools could be lower than school officials first feared

State lawmakers are still expected to cut the funding they provide K-12 public schools. But that cut could be lower than initially expected because the State of Michigan is projected to collect $429 million more in tax revenue than first expected.

Administrators at Grand Rapids Public Schools are pushing lawmakers to restore so-called categorical cuts before anything else. These are separate funds for schools to better handle specific issues– like declining enrollment, and bilingual and special education.

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Environment
10:53 am
Thu May 12, 2011

A majority of Michigan's schools are in areas with high air pollution levels

A new University of Michigan study in the journal Health Affairs finds 62% of public schools in the state are located in places with high levels of air pollution from industries.

Paul Mohai is one of the study’s authors.

“Often schools are located in more polluted parts of their respective school districts.”

He says schools need a lot of land... and land is expensive but money is tight.

“There’s probably quite an economic pressure to put schools where land values are low, and those may be near highways or industrial facilities or that otherwise are polluted.”

Mohai says Michigan has no formal policy that requires school boards to consider the environmental quality of an area for a new school.

William Mayes is the executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators. He says school boards do consider pollution when they’re finding new sites for schools.

“You know, intelligent people are thinking about this. The bottom line is you look at where your community is expanding, where your community is growing, and you seek the most economical and safe property you can to build a school.”

Mayes says people are drawn to where the jobs are, and that’s often near industries, and industries pollute.

Education
9:41 pm
Tue February 8, 2011

It’s ‘count day’ for public school districts across the state

Tulane Public Relations Creative Commons

In Michigan there are two count days each year; one in September and one in February. Count days are important to every school district’s bottom line because the total number of students on those two days helps determine how much state money the district gets year-round.

The count day in September carries more weight in determining funding than today does. September's count day makes up 75% of a district's total enrollment and the count day in February 25%. But school leaders are still notifying parents of the extra importance today holds.

John Helmholdt is with Grand Rapids Public Schools.

“Parents need to do everything they can to ensure children are in school every day, it just so happens that there’s two days a year where our state funding is based on the total count of students on that day.”

Helmholdt notes students with an excused or unexcused absence can still be counted.

Helmholdt says the district treats count day sort of like a campaign; blanketing the community with fliers and making robo-calls beforehand and hosting fun events in school today.

Education
2:32 pm
Fri December 17, 2010

Study: Michigan among the worst at improving, closing failing schools

New study says Michigan has one of the worst turnaround success rates for failing schools
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Michigan has one of the worst success rates when it comes to turning around failing schools, according to a new report.

The study by the Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank, looked at the lowest-performing public schools in 10 states, including Michigan. The goal of the study was to see if a failing school could improve its test scores over a 5-year period.

Mike Petrilli is the think tank's executive vice president:

"What we see in the study is that Michigan, compared to other states, was reluctant to close low-performing schools, and didn’t have much success in improving these low-performing schools either."

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Education
3:34 pm
Wed December 15, 2010

Mackinac Center's Legal Foundation taking 10 Kent County school districts to court

The Mackinac Center’s for Public Policy’s Legal Foundation is filing a lawsuit against 10 Kent County school districts and their teachers’ union.

The suit is to be filed Wednesday on behalf of five taxpayers living near Grand Rapids. It claims the school districts are breaking state law by approving a contract that agrees not to privatize any services during the one-year agreement.

Patrick Wright directs the foundation. He says they want to make sure privatization remains a viable option for school districts across the state.

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Education
5:15 pm
Mon December 6, 2010

Detroit Board of Education wins lawsuit against Robert Bobb

State-appointed emergency financial manager Robert Bobb with a student.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Update: 5:15 pm:

Anthony Adams, president of the Detroit Board of Education, spoke with Michigan Radio about Judge Baxter's ruling. Adams says the ruling "isn't a victory per se":

"The only victory that we’ll have in the city of Detroit is when every child can read, can write, can learn to the best of their abilities, and we as adults have to sit at the table and make sure that we work together in a cooperative fashion."

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