Michigan Education

Education is a big issue in northern Michigan, whether we're reporting on school funding issues to breakthroughs in the classroom.

Morgan Springer

Many school districts Up North – and across the state – are suffering from chronic budget problems. It comes at a time when there’s also increasing pressure from parents and lawmakers for students to do better in school.

Morgan Springer

It’s back to school Tuesday for most students in public schools in Michigan. 

The law requires that class begin after Labor Day, although some districts do have waivers from the state to start earlier. In fact, an increasing number of schools are requesting them. 

Test scores for Michigan’s students showed some improvements, but declines in crucial subjects.

The state’s M-STEP scores were released Tuesday. The M-STEP tests third through eighth and eleventh grade students in various subjects, including math, social studies and English language arts.   

Scores for math and social studies were up – but fewer students were proficient in English language arts than last year.

The state shouldn’t be satisfied, even where there was progress, said The Education Trust Midwest’s Director of Public Engagement, Brian Gutman.

A free market think-tank says the use of private contractors in public schools has grown over the last decade-and-a-half.

70 percent of public school districts in Michigan forgo the search for janitors, bus drivers and cafeteria staff. Instead, those schools rely on private contractors for at least one of those services. In 2001 only about 30 percent of school districts outsourced services.

James Hohman is with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy – which conducted the study. He said no school can provide public education by itself.

The use of Native American logos and images for school mascots is once again in the spotlight.

On Thursday, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette weighed in on whether the State Superintendent can withhold money from schools that refuse to change their mascots. In the opinion, Schuette says there’s no rule or portion of the school code that lets the Superintendent keep money from schools as a penalty for their mascot. 

Morgan Springer

The pressure is on for schools to improve reading scores in Michigan. Last fall, the state legislature passed the third-grade reading bill. The bill goes into effect in two years and will require schools to hold back third-graders who are not proficient readers, with a few exceptions.

Zero tolerance in Michigan schools is out. Now the State Board of Education is working on revising the Model Code of Student Conduct to reflect the change.

Last year Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation effectively getting rid of zero tolerance in schools. Schools now have to consider things like age, student’s disciplinary history, and seriousness of a violation before they can expel or suspend a student.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston said the revision is a good idea.

A deal for the state’s budget and teacher retirement has been made.

Top Republican lawmakers and Governor Rick Snyder have been in a stalemate over what to do with the teacher’s retirement plan, but now a deal is in place.

The current teacher retirement plan gives teachers the option between a straight 401(k) and a hybrid 401(k) and pension-type plan.

Morgan Springer

Low-performing schools throughout Michigan have to turn in transformation plans to the state that show how they will improve. They are due Monday. Forty-five schools were identified by the state's School Reform Office in January. Betsie Valley Elementary in Thompsonville is one of two schools in northern Michigan on the list of schools. The other school is Bear Lake High School in Manistee County.

Morgan Springer

Research shows the quality of a toddler's education is incredibly important. It often determines a child’s success in the future. However, state and federal dollars typically don’t kick in until a child gets to preschool. Before that – from birth to three years old – families are often on their own.

Mesick Consolidated Schools District website

School officials in Mesick say they need $14.5 million to demolish, rebuild and upgrade their schools. Residents in the district will vote on the millage in May.

David Cassleman

Traverse City school officials have voted to cut Spanish class for most elementary school students in a move that the district says will save $400,000.

The board of education for Traverse City Area Pubic Schools met Monday night to vote on the proposal. The board also approved sunsetting the International Baccalaureate program at the middle school level. 

David Cassleman

Spanish class would be all but eliminated from Traverse City elementary schools under a budget recommendation made by the district superintendent’s office Monday night.

Benzie County Central Schools

A school board in Benzie County will consider closing Platte River Elementary School later this month. The head of Benzie County Central Schools says the district needs to save money.

Peter Payette

Northwestern Michigan College will soon offer classes specifically aimed at adults with learning challenges and disabilities. The college announced the pilot program earlier this week. 

The eight courses will cover a variety of lifelong learning topics, including robotics and animal care. 

 


Photo courtesy of Gary D. Smith at Picture This.

The varsity girls basketball coach at Traverse City West High School has died, school officials confirmed on Wednesday. 

Mike Wilde coached a variety of sports in Traverse City Area Public Schools for more than 30 years, including basketball, baseball and football.

Morgan Springer

A school in Grand Traverse County has been working to turn things around. Blair Elementary School is a lower-performing school with a number of challenges. Last fall, IPR reported that the school significantly improved reading scores. Now the school is tackling behavioral issues.

Old Mission Peninsula School - TCAPS Facebook page

Update 12/12/16: The board for Traverse City Area Public Schools votes to redistrict Old Mission Peninsula, sending public schools students on the peninsula to Eastern Elementary School in the fall of 2018. At that time, TCAPS will stop running Old Mission Peninsula School.

Public school students on Old Mission Peninsula will likely go to Eastern Elementary School beginning in fall 2018. Officials for Traverse City Area Public Schools could decide Monday whether to formally redistrict those students to Eastern Elementary School.

David Cassleman

State Republicans want to reform the retirement system for public school teachers by eliminating pensions.

Since 2012, new teachers have received a hybrid retirement plan that blends a traditional pension with a 401(k). But legislation being debated during the lame-duck session would close the traditional pension system for future new hires and would offer them a 401(k)-style plan only. 

Republican lawmakers say the goal is to create a more reliable retirement system. The old pension system has unfunded liabilities totaling $26.7 billion, according to the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency. 

 


Morgan Springer

 

The administration and faculty at Northwestern Michigan College have finally reached a contract agreement. The agreement comes after more than a year and a half of tense negotiations.

Collective bargaining began when the faculty unionized in 2015. Bronwyn Jones, an instructor at NMC and a faculty representative in the negotiation process, says the faculty originally unionized in part because they felt left out of the college's decision-making processes and the faculty's relationship with administration was strained.

Northwestern Michigan College

Faculty at Northwestern Michigan College could again report directly to the college board at regular meetings, according to the NMC administration. But the faculty says the offer comes with too many restrictions.

The faculty report agenda item has been a point of contention since 2007. That’s when the college board stopped hearing directly from teachers at its monthly meeting. After that, faculty could speak at board meetings for 3 minutes periods during the public comment section of the agenda.

Morgan Springer

The pressure is on for districts and teachers to have their students reading proficiently. That’s after Michigan’s third grade reading bill passed this month. The bill says that students who don’t read well by third grade might be held back. It would take effect in three years. So for schools that are struggling, that means turning things around fast. There’s a grade school near Traverse City that has been trying to figure out how to do that.

 

Traverse City Area Public Schools

The superintendent for Traverse City Area Public Schools says it is unlikely the district will find a way to save Old Mission Peninsula School. Last year, Paul Soma recommended the district close the elementary school due to low enrollment. But when an anonymous, private donor offered $800,000 in March toward saving the school, TCAPS officials postponed the decision to close it. 

Since then, a community group has been meeting with school officials to come up with a creative way to save the school using the private money.

Morgan Springer

It was count day in Michigan public schools Wednesday. It's the day where public schools figure out how many students they have and how much money they’ll get from the state. State money is calculated on a per pupil basis.

Preliminary results show that Traverse City Area Public Schools lost 70 students. Last year, TCAPS had 9,594 students. This year there are 9,524.

One school, Old Mission Peninsula School, lost 20 students. Last fall, school officials recommended closing the school due to low enrollment numbers. 

Morgan Springer

Updated October 5, 2016: The contract agreement was ratified this morning by Traverse City Area Public Schools' board. The teachers union ratified the agreement on Monday.

Traverse City teachers could secure a three-year contract giving them a pay increase into 2020. Officials in Traverse City Area Public Schools have reached a tentative contract agreement with the Traverse City Education Association, the teachers' union.

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