Michigan Education

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

Michigan's academic state champs

Feb 4, 2015

Raw tests scores can't give you a full picture of student academic achievement. There are many other factors that figure into how students learn. That's why Bridge Magazine has created a ranking that takes into account not only grade-level test results, but also students' household incomes.

A federal appeals court says a former assistant state attorney general owes millions of dollars for stalking and harassing a gay student leader at the University of Michigan.

The episode has already cost Andrew Shirvell his job as a lawyer for the state. Now, he also owes $3.5 million to former UM student body president Chris Armstrong.

Shirvell challenged the jury award. He said he was exercising his First Amendment right to protest against a public figure. He also said the judgment was excessive.

The state has rejected ACT’s claim that Michigan unfairly switched its free college entrance exam to the SAT starting in spring 2016.

ACT protested two aspects of the bidding process. It said the state changed the timeline of the proposed contract and penalized ACT for having a writing portion. It says both of those things unfairly benefitted SAT.

State officials say they reviewed those concerns carefully.

The ACT is appealing Michigan’s decision to switch its eleventh grade standardized test to the SAT.

The state gives high school juniors a free college entrance exam as part of their state assessment.

The ACT claims the state’s bidding process unfairly favored the SAT. For example, it said ACT lost points because it includes a writing portion.

State officials say they made an extra effort to make sure the bidding process was fair.

Governor Snyder has chosen Darnell Earley, Flint's current emergency manager, to replace Jack Martin as Detroit Public School's emergency manager.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey, who covers education issues for Bridge Magazine, talked to us about what this means for DPS.

From Foster Care To Freshman Year

Jan 5, 2015

By the time she aged out of foster care, Jasmine Uqdah had spent nearly half her life in the system. On a summer day in 2008, Uqdah grabbed her duffel bag and two small garbage bags, and she stuffed everything she owned inside.

It wasn't much — just some clothes and a few stuffed animals. She said her goodbyes to her foster family in Detroit and moved out. She was 18 years old.

Linda Stephan

State lawmakers have some unfinished business left over from 2014 – including legislation that would overhaul teacher evaluations in Michigan.

Both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders said it was a priority before the end of 2014. But they ran out of time to work out a final deal during the “lame duck” session.

The proposal would create a statewide system for evaluating teachers and administrators based on in-class observation and student growth on standardized tests. It would also require more professional development for educators.

Therapy dogs are helping Michigan State University students take a break this week while they study for their final exams. 

The dogs are available to students at two of the libraries on campus where some students practically live during finals week.

It’s a cold day in East Lansing, but many are braving the cold to catch a glimpse of the next major step in a $730 million nuclear physics project. 

Over the next day or so, truckload after truckload of concrete is being poured into a deep pit on the Michigan State University’s campus.

At the bottom of the 65-foot-deep trench, the concrete will form an 8-foot slab that will support a key portion of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.    

The Education Achievement Authority has been the center of controversy since its doors first opened. The idea was to create a statewide school district to take over and turn around failing schools. The EAA is now in its third year, operating schools, all in Detroit, and it remains a polarizing subject in Michigan.

Michigan isn’t the only state where policymakers have created statewide school systems to turn around their worst-performing public schools. Tennessee and Louisiana have “Recovery School Districts,” or RSDs, similar to Michigan’s EAA. Nelson Smith has been studying these state turnaround systems for the Thomas Fordham Institute. His most recent report is called “Redefining the School District in Michigan”. Dan Varner serves on the State Board of Education. He’s also the head of an organization called Excellent Schools Detroit, which is seeking ways to make school choice work better in Detroit.

Michigan Public Radio Network

The state superintendent of schools is refusing to weigh in on the debate over school funding ahead of the November election. That issue has been a central talking point in the governor’s race.

Gov. Rick Snyder says he has increased education funding every year he has been in office. He includes money that went to shore up teacher pension funds. Democratic nominee Mark Schauer says Snyder has cut funding by about $1 billion.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says he is not interested in getting involved in the debate this close to the election.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Northern Michigan’s largest school district has fewer students than it did last year – 70 fewer according to the head count yesterday. Traverse City Area Public Schools still serves more than 10,000 students.

Funding for schools in Michigan is based on student numbers. 70 fewer students would mean about $500,000 less for TCAPS.

Stobie challenges Franz on GOP's school funding record

Sep 24, 2014
David Cassleman

Politicians across Michigan are arguing about the Governor’s record on education as the November election approaches.

State Democrats say Republicans cut $1 billion from schools. But Republicans are defending their record on education.

This issue is a key one in the race for the state house district that spans from Ludington to Northport.

The head of Kingsley Area Schools says students and staff are doing surprisingly well one day after an 11-year-old allegedly brought a loaded handgun to school.

Superintendent Keith Smith says he’s proud of the quick response from his staff Wednesday – when another student alerted a teacher. He says word of the situation traveled quickly from the teacher to the principal.

“The weapon was in-hand within probably 90 seconds,” says Smith.

Smith says the gun was loaded with a single bullet. But it turned out the bullet did not match the caliber of the gun.

Peter Payette

One of northern Michigan’s most successful charter schools is trying to move on from a controversy that has stretched over the summer.

Officials at Grand Traverse Academy decided last week that they will not go after the founder of the school for $1.6 million -- or at least not now.

A financial debacle has cast a shadow over the school which has grown steadily since opening in 2000. It now has around 1,200 students. That makes it nearly as large as nearby class B school districts like Kingsley or Elk Rapids.

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.

A Michigan labor judge says the state’s largest teachers’ union must let members leave at any time.

The Michigan Education Association (MEA) only allows teachers to quit the union during a one-month period in August. But conservative groups say that is a violation of Michigan’s right-to-work law. They are applauding administrative law judge Julia Stern’s decision this week.

A group of institutions that oversee Michigan charter schools has come up with a system it says will lead to better oversight.

It’s a voluntary accreditation system that would judge authorizers based on things like transparency and efforts to turn around failing schools.

The authorizers would also shut down any charters that “consistently” rank in the bottom five percent of Michigan schools.

Jake Neher / Michigan Public Radio Network

Michigan education officials are in the process of finding a new standardized test… again.

More than a hundred people were in Lansing Wednesday to tell the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) what they want out of a new assessment.

MDE had already chosen the Smarter Balanced assessment three years ago. But many lawmakers were not happy with that test because it’s aligned with the controversial Common Core school standards.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The state Superintendent of Public Instruction met behind closed doors Monday with some of Michigan’s largest charter school authorizers. The meeting was intended to review the rules that are supposed to ensure charter academies are doing what they’re supposed to do.

It’s the first of two meetings this week with the entities that are supposed to hold charter schools accountable. There are very few details about what happened at this private gathering with representatives of universities, community colleges, and other charter authorizers. 

A workgroup of lawmakers and educators is using the Legislature’s summer recess to try to develop an “early warning” for schools in financial trouble.

A year ago, two small Michigan school districts, Inkster and Buena Vista, were dissolved because they had run out of money.

State Senator Howard Walker (R-Traverse City) leads the workgroup. Walker says his goal is to create an “early warning” system that would allow the state to step in more quickly when a district shows signs of financial stress.

One of the many decisions made by state lawmakers during their budget actions last week was to keep the MEAP in place for another year.

The more than 40-year-old MEAP exam stays put even though Michigan adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010. And the state's education department has been working for the past three years to bring in the new testing that is aligned to the Common Core. That new test is called the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

The state lawmakers' recent decision could mean that educators and students have to hit the reverse button and go back to MEAP. But State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said in April that the MEAP was simply “not an option."

Brian Smith has been reporting on the Common Core and Smarter Balanced vs. MEAP tussle. He said that as the issue moved forward, the Department of Education started to talk to testing vendors and see what could possibly be done.

Teachers Approve Three-Year Deal With TCAPS

Jun 3, 2014

UPDATED 6/4/2014

It looks like a deal has been reached between Traverse City Area Public Schools and its teachers. Members of the union have voted to accept a tentative deal that was hashed out over seven hours at the bargaining table Friday.

The agreement still has to be approved by the TCAPS board of education. That is expected to happen at their meeting Monday, according to the district's executive director of human resources, Chris Davis. She said this week that the deal falls within parameters set by the board.

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