Michigan Education

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

State Set To Expand "Turnaround" District

Dec 11, 2013

It appears a controversial state-run authority that oversees struggling schools in Michigan will be expanded.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced Tuesday that he plans to add up to nine schools to the Education Achievement Authority.

Meanwhile, the state Senate could vote as early as today on legislation that would increase the EAA’s ability to expand statewide. Republicans in the Senate have been working through some concerns they have about expanding the district.

What happens when a child is struggling to read at his or her grade level?

In too many cases, the student moves up a grade anyway and the struggle continues, resulting in high school graduates who are poor, ineffective readers. And that can impact that student's chances of going to college and then getting a job that provides a good level of pay over a lifetime.

There's a package of bills sponsored by Holland Republican Representative Amanda Price now working through the State that tries to tackle this problem. It's called the "read-or-flunk law."

In a nutshell, if third-grade kids aren't reading, hold them back.

Ron French reported on the pros and cons of these bills for Bridge Magazine, and he joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

All too often, as school districts are forced to cut spending, programs like music get the ax.

And that sorry fact robs students of the chance to learn music, to make music, and leaves one to wonder: Where are the musicians of the future going to come from?

One Ann Arbor Elementary School is teaming up with the University of Michigan School of Music for a unique approach to teaching music...and they are turning to Venezuela for inspiration.

It's called El Sistema.

The program originated in Venezuela, and the idea was to teach disadvantaged children, to help them discoverer the power of music.

I spoke with Professor John Ellis with the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance, where among other things, he is Director of Community and Preparatory Programs - and Horacio Contreras Espionoza, he is a UofM grad student studying cello, and he is an El Sistema teacher at Mitchell Elementary School in Ann Arbor.

The state will not award a $5 million grant to a firm run by the brother of Michigan’s top budget official. 

It was revealed this week that the company iSchool Campus had lobbied lawmakers to add the school technology grant to the state budget. Michigan Budget Director John Nixon’s brother is the company’s CEO.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced Friday the grant will instead go to the Genesee Intermediate School District.

The department says the decision had nothing to do with concerns over a possible conflict of interest.

A recent study coming out of Michigan State University reaffirms the need for one educational discipline that’s been continuously cut over the past decade — the arts.

Researchers found a startling link between taking part in arts and crafts activities as a child and patents received or businesses launched as an adult.

According to that study, which examined MSU Honors STEM students between 1990-1995, 94% of STEM graduates had musical training in their lives, compared to 34% of all adults.

Joining us is one of the authors of the study, Rex LaMore, the director of the MSU Center for Community and Economic Development. Cynthia Taggart, a professor of Music Education at Michigan State also talked to us.

Listen to the full interview above.

It's Official! Flotilla2 Breaks World Record

Nov 21, 2013
Linda Stephan / Interlochen Public Radio

The Guinness Book of World Records confirmed Wednesday that Suttons Bay broke a record with Flotilla2. The August 31st event corralled 2,099 canoes and kayaks together on the bay creating a massive, multi-colored flotilla.

Organizer Kate Thornhill estimates the effort raised about $45,000 dollars for student programs in the cash-strapped local school district. She says she now hopes to boost the bottom line with sales of world record memorabilia.

Lawmakers Review Alleged Right-To-Work Violations

Nov 13, 2013

Republican state lawmakers say they want to get to the bottom of alleged violations of Michigan’s new right to work law.

A newly-formed state Senate committee Wednesday heard testimony from three teachers who are part of a lawsuit against the Michigan Education Association (MEA). They say the union bullied and threatened them when they tried to leave.

Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) chairs the Senate Compliance and Accountability Committee. He says the MEA also failed to alert teachers about how and when they could leave the union.

Linda Stephan

Traverse City school officials were surprised Tuesday when voters shot down two bond proposals. One would have paid for the reconstruction of three elementary schools. TCAPS was not alone though. Almost half the schools in Michigan were unsuccessful at passing bond proposals this election.

There's a nationwide search underway to find former students who don't know they've already done all or most of the work needed to earn a credential that might help them land a better-paying job.

In Michigan, several hundred community college dropouts were recently surprised to learn they had enough credits to qualify for an associate degree. There are also ex-students who apparently didn't know they're just a few credits shy of a two-year degree.

A teacher from Petoskey has joined a lawsuit against the state's largest teachers union. It's been filed by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy on behalf of eight Michigan public school teachers.

Ray Arthur wants to stop paying union dues. He says he was never given any information about how to opt out of the Michigan Education Association and in September he was told he missed the August window to do so.

Recent deaths from drowning in Grand Traverse County have put water safety in the high school curriculum. All freshmen in Traverse City schools will spend a few hours this year learning about the dangers of water.

Such instruction is less common that you might think up north.

If you grew up downstate, you might have taken swimming lessons at school and learned some of the basic safety mantras like, “reach or throw, don’t go” if a swimmer is in trouble. But few schools up north have swimming pools. Harbor Springs is a notable exception.

Michigan education officials say the state risks losing more than a billion dollars of federal school funding as the state Senate debates a set of nationwide school standards.

The state budget that took effect this week bars the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) from spending any money to implement the Common Core standards.

MDE officials say the federal dollars are only awarded to states that have adopted acceptable standards. Michigan chose to implement Common Core three years ago, with relatively little fanfare.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has asked to have its website taken offline.

The state budget that took effect Tuesday bars the department from spending any money to implement a set of nationwide school standards known as the Common Core.

"By the mere fact that we have information and assistance to local districts infused throughout our website, we felt - and we believe - that we would be in violation of the state law," said MDE spokesperson Martin Ackley.

A record number of Michigan schools are struggling to stay in the black and a law put in place this summer allows state officials to dissolve and consolidate small schools with big problems. So far the headlines have been from some of Michigan's more populated counties, but some schools in the north that are paying close attention to changes from Lansing.

A Success Story

Tri-District Virtual School To Compete This Fall

Aug 16, 2013

Three small northern Michigan school districts are teaming up next year to form a new cyber school. Suttons Bay, Manistee and Crawford AuSable all had their own online programs before joining forces for the Great Lakes K12 Virtual School. The consortium will serve all of the northern Lower Peninsula but it will have to compete with two statewide cyber schools.

  

This story continues our summer series looking back over the last 50 years in northern Michigan as we celebrate IPR’s birthday.

Few events reverberated as loudly as a decision made in Kalkaska in 1993. Then, as now, public schools were making cuts to get by. But Kalkaska decided it would be better to close early than do without band, buses and art. The decision sparked dramatic change in the way schools are funded in Michigan.

Traverse City Area Public Schools ran afoul of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act during the last election, according to a letter issued Thursday by the Secretary of State. It says a district mailer advocated a “yes” vote for a school bond proposal. The district is not allowed to do that with taxpayer funds and other resources.

“We didn’t intend to violate the act or mislead folks and I think I need to apologize to Mr. Gillman, to our parents and our staff and community for any confusion the mailer caused,” says TCAPS Superintendent Steve Cousins.

svadilfari/Flickr

School districts across Michigan are making cuts again as lean times continue for public education.

Yet this week also marks the anniversary of a revolution in education that started in Kalkaska. Twenty years ago, Kalkaska Public Schools started their summer vacation in March. It was a protest against cutting more programs to stay open.

The decision led to dramatic change in the way schools are funded in Michigan. But now there’s a feeling that schools are back where they started.

Traverse City's "Gun Safe Mom"

Dec 21, 2012

With every school shooting, Missy Smith is reminded of the tragedy her own family once suffered at the hands of a child with a gun. Her 12-year-old brother was shot and killed decades ago while visiting the home of a classmate.

Years later, as a new mom in Traverse City, Smith was uncomfortable sending her children to play in homes where guns were left unlocked. But there was an irony; Smith had married into a hunting family and there were unlocked firearms in her own home. She left gun safety to her husband at first.

The Blues Just Can't Be Beat

May 23, 2012

The Blues haven't lost a game in 3 years. And scores like 40, 50 or 60 to nothing aren't unusual. Jim Kehrer and his wife coach the Blues. Jim says that the Blues are drilled – and drilled hard – in the basics of rugby. And that they're relentless in moving the ball.

Jim says, “And the other team, you’ll see them just crumble, they’ll keep the pace for a little bit but they get so frustrated that they’re not able to do anything. They never give them a chance to breathe, never give them a chance to get any space and they eventually just crack.” 

IPR News: Baldwin Cafeteria

Apr 30, 2009

This week IPR has taken a peak at Baldwin from inside the classroom. Even in good times, unemployment is consistently high in Lake County, as is illiteracy, and poverty. But this is also a community with a rich sense of identity tied to a special history – as a once-booming vacation spot for wealthy Black Americans. Listen in to the high school cafeteria, a racially diverse place with a bit of an inferiority complex, and a whole lot of school pride.

IPR News: Baldwin Early Education

Apr 30, 2009

Times are tough all over Michigan, but times always seem to be tough in Lake County. This week IPR travels to Baldwin, to a community school where nearly all the students are poor, and one-in-five adults in the community have no high school diploma. The dream in Baldwin is to make the school district the exception: a school that’s both high poverty, and high performing. There are no silver bullets – just high hopes, and well-researched trial and error. IPR’s Linda Stephan produced this report.

IPR News: Baldwin Adult Education

Apr 30, 2009

Times are tough all over Michigan, but times always seem to be tough in Lake County. This week on Interlochen Public Radio we travel to Baldwin, a community with literacy rates estimated to rival Detroit. In Lake, the number of people in poverty mirrors the number of people who don’t have a 12th grade education. IPR’s Linda Stephan starts the series by visiting a group of adults determined to rise above those statistics. They’re going back to school.

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