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Detroit schools chief: District can now pay for counselors, art classes, and gym in every school

Mar 14, 2018
Boy in classroom with his hand raised
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

After months spent talking about expensive new programs he’d like to see, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says he’s found money in the Detroit district’s budget to hire a slew of educators who’ve been missing for years from city schools.

The budget framework he presented to a school board committee Friday calls for every city school to have a guidance counselor, an arts or music teacher, a gym teacher, and a “dean of school culture” who would be in charge of student discipline and creating in-school suspension programs.

Blue lockers
Flickr user C.C. Chapman

As we debate solutions for gun violence in our schools, teachers and administrators continue to prepare for active shooter situations by holding lockdown drills.

Jasper Nance / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

This week alone, four people were shot and killed by one gunman in Detroit. There was an apparent murder-suicide in Southfield. A Grand Rapids man was killed after being shot ten times. And today, two people were shot and killed at Central Michigan University.

Government leaders in Washington and in Lansing are trying to come up with ways to prevent mass shootings. The main focus is on shootings at schools, such as the one last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Courtesy of Matinga Ragatz

Students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School today in Florida – their first time back after 17 people were killed in a mass shooting two weeks ago.

The Parkland shooting has seemed to galvanize students, citizens, corporations, and politicians into action. Most everyone agrees something must be done to make our schools safer.

moare / MorgueFile

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday that the state has to refund more than half a billion dollars improperly taken from the state’s teachers.

That has to be an extremely welcome holiday present for Michigan’s beleaguered teachers, who for years have felt under siege from politicians who have weakened their unions, their pensions, and made them pay more for health care.

This should also be a political gift to the Democrats, who have in recent years become the party of choice for the state’s teachers, especially since Republicans in the legislature often seem to have declared war on teachers as a class.

Judge's gavel
Pixabay.com

The Michigan Supreme Court says the state must return more than $550 million to school employees who had money deducted for retiree health care.

Courtesy of Dr. Curtis L. Lewis

The Next Idea 

The teaching profession in America remains largely white and female. That means young African American males can go through school without ever seeing a teacher who looks like them.

Not only can this mean a lack of black role models, but it also means teaching doesn’t get held up as a profession that’s desirable for black men to pursue.

A small community college is suing the state of Michigan, in a fight over whether some student workers should have to enroll in the public school teacher’s retirement fund.

“Yeah, it is difficult to explain craziness, but I’ll try,” says David Mathews, President of Southwestern Michigan College. The school has about 2,600 students enrolled on campuses in Dowagiac and Niles, he says. Around half are full-time students, and half are part-time.

What impact would having part-time Legislators have on Michigan?
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio file photo

Republican legislative leaders remain committed to closing the pension system to new teachers and instead giving them a 401(k) after getting mixed news about tax revenues.

Money with bottle of pills
Images Money / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The stalled Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act cleared a big hurdle this week. Lawmakers in the U.S. House passed the bill -- thanks in part to a last minute addition from Michigan Congressman Fred Upton. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about Upton's amendment and what the bill could mean for Michigan.

They also discuss a state Court of Appeals ruling that teachers can drop out of their union whenever they like, another attempt by lawmakers to scrap and replace pensions for new teachers, and budget proposals that passed the state House and Senate this week. 

teacher with two students
department of education / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

More and more teachers are posting their resignation letters online and on social media.

A Google search for "teacher resignation letters" returns over 2.1 million results. 

Some of those letters have gone viral by echoing the frustrations that many teachers have with the state of public education. 

Rick Pluta / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Women's Hall of Fame welcomed its latest group of honorees late last year.

Among the five contemporary honorees was Olivia Letts. She was the first African-American teacher hired by the Lansing School District. She started that job in 1951 and from there, Letts spent her life as an advocate for education, community service and civil rights.

Michigan Radio

We're going to go out on a limb here and say most parents want to know how their child's school measures up in terms of standardized test scores, graduation rates, demographics and so on. 

Another big question parents ask when looking at a school: 

“How many kids are in a typical classroom?”

When you hear people talk about ineffective school systems, you’ll often hear something like, “there aren’t enough desks or books,” or “there are more than 30 kids in that classroom.”

Math flashcards
Ross Belmont / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Wayne State University is getting a $1.4 million grant to prepare elementary and middle school math teachers to teach in Detroit.

The grant from the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program will help WSU recruit and train 56 new math teachers to teach in Detroit classrooms.

moare / MorgueFile

Michigan expects there will be a shortage of teachers in certain subjects this school year. Early childhood, special education, foreign language and a variety of occupational teachers are facing a “critical” shortage.

creative commons

A new pilot program in Grand Rapids will try to raise student achievement at high-poverty schools.

Education Trust-Midwest announced Monday it's launching a program to provide greater support and coaching to teachers. Education Trust-Midwest is a nonpartisan education research organization based in Royal Oak.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

All this week we’re talking about teacher training.

But there’s one thing that’s almost impossible to teach students in college: how to manage a classroom.

Auburn Elementary

In many undergraduate education programs, students spend a lot of time in the university classroom to prepare them for their student teaching in the final year. 

Until that placement, theory sometimes has little chance to meet up with practice.

user Wonderlane / Flickr

There's wide agreement among education experts that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in how students do in school.

Kids at a public school in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The State of Michigan wants its next generation of teachers to know more.

But raising educational standards for teachers is proving to be a challenge.


Here's what you remember your teachers saying to you

Mar 30, 2015

The Teachable Moment Project collected remembrances from you of the teachers in your life.

By intentionally leaving “memorable words” open to your interpretation, we heard from you about teachers who inspired you, as well as teachers who derailed dreams.

What's the most memorable thing a teacher has said to you?

Mar 2, 2015
Wikipedia / National Archives & Records Administration

Most of us can remember an influential teacher, or a significant moment we had with a former teacher.

Whether they were words of advice or words that put you in your place, these teachable moments can ring in your ears from school days gone by. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

TAYLOR, Mich. (AP) - A state labor commission has ruled in favor of school employees in suburban Detroit who argued that a 10-year contract in the Taylor district was an illegal move to force them to pay union dues.

In a 2-1 decision Friday, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission ordered the Taylor district and the union to take no adverse action against teachers or other employees who decline to support the union. 

Mercedes Mejia

Eleventh grade is a pretty stressful year for kids. There's the ACT (which will soon be replaced by the SAT). There are college tours to schedule, and applications to complete.

And the stress level is about to to get amped up. That's because Michigan's high school juniors face a much heavier load of testing this spring.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey joined us. She reports on education for Bridge Magazine. Jeffrey Bohl also joined us: he's the principal of Lakeview High School in Battle Creek.

Senator Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Twp, introduced Senate Bill 727.
Michigan Senate Republicans

New legislation in the state Senate would close Michigan’s teacher retirement system to new teachers. Instead, all new teachers would get a “defined contribution” 401(k)-style plan.

Under a partial overhaul of teacher retirement approved by state lawmakers in 2012, new teachers can choose between that or a “hybrid” plan, which combines elements of a defined contribution plan and a traditional pension. The new legislation would end that choice, giving new teachers only the 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The emphasis on “high stakes testing” in America’s schools may be having an unexpected side effect.

A Michigan State University researcher says teachers are citing the testing as their reason for quitting the profession.

Alyssa Hadley Dunn is a professor at the MSU College of Education.  She also was once a high school teacher in Atlanta, Georgia.   

She says she decided to quit after years of pressure to “teach to the test.”     

creative commons

What makes a teacher great?

And how should we measure a teacher's success and effectiveness?

These are questions that take up a lot of the debate about education in Michigan. We've got policymakers, educators, politicians and parents all weighing in, and the resulting conversation is often loud and unproductive.

Education writer Elizabeth Green explores these challenging questions, and looks at how we are preparing teachers for the realities of the classroom.

Green’s new book is Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach it to Everyone). She says great teachers are not born, but trained.

“By assuming (some teachers are born great, and some teachers aren’t), we fail to prepare teachers with the specialized knowledge that nobody is born knowing how to do. And as a result, we leave students vulnerable to teachers who haven’t learned the basic things they need to know to help students learn,” says Green.

* Listen to the full interview with Elizabeth Green above.

What stories should we tell about the arts?

That's a question we sometimes ask on our Facebook page. Jason Towler suggested we profile Ypsilanti music teacher Crystal Harding and he had a good reason to suggest her.

Harding was Towler's music teacher back in 1988, when Towler was a first-grader at Erickson Elementary School.  Harding is all about having a good time through music, singing, and dancing. Here she is in action:

Harding made a big impression on the shy young man, and that's what this story is about.

A Balanced Budget Amendment making the federal government not spend more than it takes in: It sounds pretty good. Get rid of those trillions and trillions of dollars of national debt. But one economist says that's not necessarily a great plan.

Then, it feels like we hear about recalls everyday, from food, to cars, to toys. They make news, but are consumers facing so-called recall fatigue? Are there just so many recalls that we've started to tune them out?

And, 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. But are we placing too much pressure on teachers when we expect them to fix these problems?

Also, it’s official. Merriam-Webster now recognizes “Yooper” as a word.

First on the show, for years there’s been talk that Michigan needs to put more money into its roads.

Gov. Snyder has said he wants at least $1.2 billion annually for road maintenance and repair.

A new report says the state needs closer to $2 billion a year.

But negotiations at the state Capitol stalled – until the last few weeks.

Earlier this month, some $200 million was OK’d in a supplemental budget. It looks like another deal could be in the works.

Now word on the street is that this is not some grand bargain. Instead, there are reports that the amount would be closer to $300-400 million. It’s a start, but why now?

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst, and he joined us today.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
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.

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