school

courtesy Melissa and Jeffrey Rice

Today, the State of Opportunity team turned their microphone over to 9-year-old Leah Rice.

She reflects on her family, highlights of her summer and her thoughts on going back to school.

(She was placed in an advanced class, to which she says "uh, Boo-yah!".)

You can hear Leah's story here.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Voters across Michigan go to the polls on Tuesday.

More than 200 communities are holding elections.   

Most of the questions involve school bond issues.

Bloomfield Hills schools are asking voters to approve a $58 million bond issue to pay for renovations to a high school. This proposal is a scaled back version of similar proposals that have failed in the past. 

Some school districts are asking voters to approve bonds to pay for technology upgrades.  For example the Allegan public school district is asking voters to approve an 18 million dollar bond issue.   Part of that would be spent on computers.

Not everything on the ballots involves schools.

The issue in Delhi Township, near Lansing, is sludge.    Or more accurately,  what to do with it.

The township is asking voters to approve a surcharge on their water bills to pay for a sludge dryer.   Supporters say the dryer would turn human waste into bio-fuel. Opponents say it’s just a waste of money.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Bloomfield Hills school bond issue had failed twice before. The current proposal, however, is not that same as previous bond issues. The copy has been corrected above.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder has signed legislation he says will let financially-strapped school districts guarantee their bond payments—using state school aid funds.

The legislation applies to all school districts with deficit elimination plans or emergency managers. But it was written with the Detroit Public Schools in mind.

Detroit State Representative Fred Durhal, who sponsored the bill, says the new law should help set bondholders’ minds at ease.

There’s an interesting controversy going on in the  Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, a middle-class school district in Western Wayne County. It has to do with banning books.

And while it hasn’t made headlines, the implications are ominous, and scary. This is a sizable district, with three high schools with more than six thousand students.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Detroit last week, he brought up the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program. He called it the “best economic development tool” for a city, and urged Detroit to develop something similar.

Amelia Carpenter / Michigan Radio Newsroom

An Islamic group is no closer to building a new school in Pittsfield Township after a long and controversial meeting last night. The Michigan Islamic Academy owns a residential property in the township and wants it rezoned. The township turned the Academy down after hearing from about 50 people on both sides of the issue.

Stu Collins lives close to the Academy’s property. He says he was pleased with the outcome.

“I welcome them somewhere else just not at that site. I think most people who were opposed to it can concur with what I’ve just said here,” Collins said.

Tarek Nahlawi is with the Academy. He says they are going to keep fighting.

"We are disappointed," he said. "I wouldn't expect this. We came into this with full hope that they would look at things in an objective way - not in a subjective way."

The Academy has said the Justice Department will get involved if the property is not rezoned. The board of trustees for the township still has to vote on the issue.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

More than 100 students are expected to attend a youth forum in Detroit on Apr. 26 to share their ideas for what makes a good school. The forum is  put on by the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit and starts at 5:30 p.m.

Rick Sperling is the group’s founder. He says lawmakers, school board members, and teachers have all voiced their opinions about school reform, but he says student voices have been missing from the conversation:

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The state Board of Education voted in favor of raising the “cut scores” or cut off scores for what’s considered "proficient" on the state’s standardized MEAP test.

Susan Dynarski is an education professor at the University of Michigan:

"The cut score that the state has defined as indicating proficiency in math is currently set such that 95% of third graders are above that score. By moving up that score, 34 percent of third graders will be defined as proficient."

Dynarski says the new scores will give parents and schools a more accurate representation of how well students are doing and what areas need improvement:  

"The idea of the cut scores is to provide a signal about what proficiency is and what you should be aiming for, and if you set the bar at a higher level, the idea would be then that they’d be aiming for that higher level."

The new cut scores, which are still to be determined, will go into effect for the 2011-12 school year.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A  new Harvard University report say high schools need to do a better job preparing students for whatever career path they choose…whether it’s becoming a doctor or an electrician.

The "Pathways to Prosperity" study finds that America’s education system is focused too much on college prep and not enough on alternatives, like vocational and career and technical education (CTE).

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke at the release of the report on Wednesday:

The Pathways to Prosperity study envisions a new system of career and technical education that constitutes a radical departure from the vocational education of the past.

The need for that transformation is pressing.  I applaud your report’s frank discussion of the shortcomings of our current CTE system and its call to strengthen the rigor and relevance of career and technical education.

I am not here today to endorse the specifics of your policy recommendations. I want instead to suggest two takeaway messages from your study and the Department’s reform efforts.

Secretary Duncan's two takeaways?

  1. CTE, the "neglected stepchild of education reform," can no longer be ignored.
  2. CTE needs to be re-imagined for the 21st century.

Patty Cantu is director of the CTE office for Michigan’s Department of Education. She's not surprised by the report:

"The pendulum swings this way in education a lot. We focus on one area, and then we say, oh, that’s right, we have this other important thing and just as valuable thing that we also have to take into consideration."

Cantu says the head of Michigan's Department of Education, Mike Flangan, is very interested in "not only embracing academic rigor, but also the rigor of [the state's] career and technical education program."

The report says students should be able to choose career paths early, like they do in Europe. Secretary Duncan says "we can’t just copy the vocational education systems of other high-performing countries. But we can learn from them about how to build rigorous educational and work-experience programs with strong links to high-wage, high-demand jobs."

Many government leaders are debating the value of preschool programs, like Head Start.  A new Michigan State University study finds students do get an educational benefit from pre-K programs.  

 MSU researchers compared about 80 children, between 3 and 4 years old,  whose birthdays were just weeks apart.  Some were just old enough to enter preschool.  The others had to wait. MSU researcher Lori Skibbe says the students who attended pre-school got a jump start on their peers in literacy.  

"We found that children who essentially made the cut off we’re in preschool earlier demonstrated greater gains in literacy than children who were not enrolled in preschool at this time.”  

Other recent studies suggest that pre-K programs do not have long term beneficial effects on students.   Skibbe disagrees.  She says the programs do help students develop literacy skills they need. 

The MSU study appears in the journal, Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

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."

Interior of EMU Science Complex
EMU

EMU calls it the largest single construction project in the history of the University.

Today the school put the interior of the Science Complex on display.

AnnArbor.com has put together a slide show of the complex.

The AP reports the $90 million Science Complex was paid for through the sale of bonds and through a 4% tuition increase that was approved in 2005.

Tom Watkins of Northville Michigan has been given the Upton Sinclair Award for education from EducationNews.org.

Watkins is the CEO of TDW and Associates, an educational consulting firm, and a former Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Michigan from 2001 to 2005.

In their release, EducationNews.org writes

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Want to open up a charter school? A new report says Michigan has one of the nation’s friendliest laws when it comes to allowing charter schools to open.

The Center for Education Reform, a charter advocacy group in Washington, DC, says Michigan has the 5th best charter school law in the country.

Oak Reed sitting on fence
Photo courtesy of Oak Reed

Oak Reed ran for Homecoming King at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, but school officials tossed out Reed's ballots because, anatomically, Reed is not a male. That set off a national debate over transgender rights:

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

Governor Grahom recently aired the idea of an extended school year for Michigan students. She says U.S. students are at a disadvantage globally. So how often are kids in other countries in school?

One dollar bills
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

We collectively owe around $828 billion in revolving credit debt (that includes credit card debt), according to the latest numbers from the Federal Reserve.

Now, a column in the Detroit Free Press is reporting that for the first time ever, student loan debt has outstripped  revolving credit debt, coming in at $850 billion.