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Back to School

Credit Lauren Crawford / Michigan Radio

Kids all over Michigan are starting the new school year.

We're spending the month of September taking a look at education in our state. To see the stories and interviews included in our "Back to School" series scroll below and check back throughout the month.

"Black people don't necessarily need choice, they need power," Perry told us. "The reason why black communities' schools are not doing well is because black communities are not doing well."
Flickr user Bart Everson/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Proponents of publicly funded, privately run charter schools hail them as the way to keep public schools and public school teachers "on their toes" by creating competition. 

Here in Michigan we have roughly 145,000 students in more than 300 charter schools, according to Education Trust Midwest.

And a report that group released earlier this year showed that charter school enrollment in the 2014-2015 school year consisted of disproportionately minority and low-income students. 

Andy Simonds / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Technically, Livingston Classical Academy is a "cyber school."

In reality, though, the only class that will be online this year is health – which parents will be encouraged to participate in for the more “sensitive discussions.”

A few more online classes will be added next year, like career readiness and nutrition.

Figuring out all the different pots of money that go into paying for special education is complicated, but you know what’s even more complicated? Figuring out how much special education in Michigan actually costs. And if we don't know that, we don't know whether we're spending too much or too little on special ed. 

Teacher Anastasia Katapodis with her Montessori students at Maybury Elementary School.
Sarah Cwiek / Michgian Radio

This year marks a fresh start for the newly restructured Detroit Public Schools.

The district is unrolling some new, experimental programs for students. They’re meant to entice parents who might otherwise take their kids elsewhere.

After years of upheaval in Detroit schools, success isn’t guaranteed. But at least one school has high hopes they will.

Montessori: Learning together

Anastasia Katopodis has taught young kids in Detroit for 20 years.

What is the average class size in Michigan's schools?

Sep 15, 2016
Michigan teachers on whether they've noticed class size changing over time
Courtesy Caroline Gearig / Michigan Radio

Pinning down the average class size in Michigan's public schools is not an easy thing to do.

For example, the Michigan Department of Education reports a student/teacher ratio of 23 to 1. But the way that number is calculated isn't necessarily a good reflection on how many kids are in the class.

The idea for today’s State of Opportunity story comes from you. After we ran a piece about how special ed placements vary from district to district, several of you got in touch and asked: How do schools pay for special ed?

I went to Elliott Elementary in Holt to get some answers.

United States Department of Education / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

What happens when you're the parent of a child with special needs, and your view of how you want your child to be educated clashes with the school district's?

Flickr user Frank Juarez / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The vast majority of climate scientists agree climate change is happening and it’s mainly caused by people.

A new study looks at how middle school students' beliefs about climate change are shaped by their teachers’ own beliefs.

Most kids will head back to school this week ready to learn. But some will have to spend a good chunk of time re-learning things they forgot over the summer. The dreaded “summer slide” has been linked to persistent achievement gaps between kids from lower-income families and their better-off peers.

Courtesy of Olivia Johnson

College expenses are rising. There’s no doubt about that.

Trying to pay for tuition, books, a place to live and more can stretch a budget to its breaking point.

Olivia Johnson, a criminal justice student at Ferris State University, knows that struggle, and she’s seen it on campus.

That’s why she started the Student Emergency Food Pantry for Ferris students this year.

This morning I sent my daughter off to her first day of third grade.

She was excited to go. She was ready to see her friends, and genuinely loves school.

But I'm sure she'll be less than thrilled once her teacher starts assigning homework. Like many kids, I'm sure she'd be happy if homework was simply eliminated.

That will be a reality this school year for more than 500 kids at a Massachusetts elementary school.

Flickr user USDAgov/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

There are frequent and spirited discussions about students who aren’t getting what they need to succeed in Michigan’s public schools.

Nanette Janecke of Western Michigan University is adding another group of students to that conversation: gifted students.

They’re students who could achieve a lot, but who – in most Michigan school districts – aren’t given many tools for success, Janecke said.

Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Some Macomb County school districts want to join the fight against state intervention in schools deemed to be “failing.”

Warren Consolidated Schools, Van Dyke Public Schools, Mount Clemens Community Schools, and Roseville Community Schools signaled their intention to join the East Detroit Public Schools’ lawsuit this week.

wikimedia user Fredler Brave / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Put that cell phone away. Not in your pocket, not in your purse, go park it in your locker and keep it out of the classroom.

That's the new rule for students returning to class at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek.

According to principal Jeff Bohl, it's all about helping kids get the most out of their time in class. 

As kids head back to school, it’s worth remembering that all kids have the right to a free education.

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

This summer, Detroit Public Schools ceased to exist except on paper.

But there is a new district that has the same schools, teachers and students as the “old” DPS. It’s formally known, at least for now, as the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Why did this happen? The short story is that the “old” DPS stood on the verge of bankruptcy throughout the last school year. To avoid that, the state — which has controlled Detroit schools for most of the past 17 years — executed a bankruptcy-style restructuring, minus the actual bankruptcy.