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Changes to Michigan's teacher retirement system a 'positive' for state, investor service says

Changes to Michigan's teacher retirement system are a "positive" development because state and local entities "no longer carry the entire burden of investment performance risk for new employee pensions," according to an analysis by Moody's Investors Service. Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation this month that aims to steer new public-school employees into 401(k)-style retirement plans. The new law goes into effect in February. As part of the legislation, a revised "hybrid" pension plan was created that new employees can opt into. The plan -- a mix between a traditional pension and a 401(K) -- requires slightly higher employee contributions than the previous pension plan and places greater risk on employees if the plan becomes underfunded. (MLive)


Collapse of health care bill protects $98M in Medicaid for Michigan schools, advocates say

As efforts to overhaul the Affordable Care Act collapsed Tuesday, one public school advocate expressed optimism that a prized service - reimbursements for school-based health services - had escaped the chopping block. Bills in the House and Senate to repeal and replace the ACA would have capped Medicaid funding to states, a federal-state partnership that provides health care for low-income residents. Education groups worried the change would result in less funding to reimburse schools for health services provided to students with disabilities, as mandated by federal law. "We got a win," said Kathleen Merry, who oversees Medicaid reimbursements for the Wayne Regional Education Service Agency. "We did win in terms of being able to ... help our U.S. Senators to understand the ramifications to health care." (MLive)


Educator a year-round job

Opinion: Working in a public school doesn’t begin or end when the bell rings. School employees are doing more than ever with fewer resources and shrinking paychecks to make sure students get the best education possible — and that stretches into the summer months. During the summer break, many MEA members work second and even third jobs to support their families, while finding creative ways to prepare for the next school year through professional development and other opportunities. To debunk the myth that educators have “summer off,” we recently asked our members what they’re up to during break. Here are just a few examples: (Detroit News)


Howell schools, police partner to re-instate SRO

The Howell Police Department and Howell Public Schools has renewed their partnership to bring back a school resource officer beginning in the fall. Officer Don Banfield, a 16-year veteran of the Howell Police Department, will serve as the SRO, whose goal is to foster a positive relationship between students and the law enforcement community. “We are very excited to see the return of the SRO position to Howell Public Schools,” school Superintendent Erin MacGregor said. “The safety of our students and staff is our top priority and reinstating the SRO is another step we are taking to ensure that our schools are a safe and positive learning environment for all students. (Livingston County Daily Press & Argus)


Settlement 'framework' reached in lawsuit over Michigan school closures

The state of Michigan and several school districts have "achieved a broad framework" to settle a lawsuit in which the districts say the state acted unlawfully by threatening to close low-performing schools in their districts. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens on Tuesday morning said both sides have "engaged in intense settlement conversations seeking to serve the best interest of the state of Michigan and its children." Stephens said the case - brought by school districts in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Saginaw and Eastpointe - will be subject to dismissal or entry of an opinion on or before Sept. 5. (MLive)


Missed deduction irks vacationing BCPS teachers

Vacationing Battle Creek Public Schools teachers who saw extra cash in their first July paycheck won’t be as lucky the second time around. The district will deduct two health insurance premium payments this Friday after failing to deduct a payment on July 7 due to a technical error. Barb Giallombardo, president of the 275-member Battle Creek Education Association, gave Board of Education members an earful for three minutes for the mistake during the public comment portion of the board's regular monthly meeting. (Battle Creek Enquirer)


Harper Creek committee: Focus on vision, not logos

A Harper Creek schools committee has recommended the district focus on its vision statement — Educate, Empower, Equip Students for Life — and not any particular logo when it comes to image. "The mission/vision statement can also set the culture for the district — the cornerstone of how we do business at Harper Creek," said Derek Malone, chairman of the board's branding and culture ad-hoc committee. "Every interaction or communication is guided by educating, empowering and equipping the listener." (Battle Creek Enquirer)


She's in charge of transforming Battle Creek schools

Not every educator gets a chance to transform an entire school district. Anita Harvey will. And she has a five-year plan to get the job done. She is directing teams of administrators, teachers, parents and students, and making the most of a $51 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to rebuild Battle Creek Public Schools. Under Harvey's leadership, the teams will revamp early childhood education, student services, district operations, after-school programs, curriculum development, family and community engagement, and assist teachers and other employees who care about the district. (Battle Creek Enquirer)


Lansing School District ends single-gender classrooms

LANSING - Two years after implementing separate core subject classrooms for boys and girls at Lansing’s Willow Elementary, the district’s Board of Education voted Thursday night to suspend the practice. The decision comes one year after the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into whether the use of single-gender classrooms by the district complied with Title IX, the federal law barring discrimination based on sex. The district fell afoul of federal officials because it didn’t seek their approval prior to implementing the plan, according to Lansing Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul. Doing so would have required the district to explain its goal of closing an achievement gap between male and female students and backing it up with data. (Lansing State Journal)





Detroit education advocacy group closes doors

Excellent Schools Detroit, an education advocacy group formed in 2010 for Detroit schoolchildren, closed on June 30 and transferred its initiatives to other organizations in Detroit. “In our seven years of operation we have launched a number of initiatives to help improve opportunities for Detroit school children,” said ESD board Chair Shirley Stancato in a statement. “Much of the work involved with those initiatives has involved other organizations. To eliminate duplicate efforts and maintain a sharp focus on results, we have decided to sunset ESD.” The organization issued a statement that said the organization’s school scorecard and the data will be housed at New Detroit in partnership with the Skillman Foundation. (Detroit News)


Could Detroit’s main school district be entering unchartered territory?

Even as new superintendent Nikolai Vitti plows ahead with shaking up district leadership in his quest to improve the city’s 100-plus traditional schools, much of the focus this week has been on the future of the district’s charter schools. The district has been overseeing charter schools for more than two decades. Now, Vitti says it potentially should get out of the charter school business to focus on traditional schools. That could lead to charter schools closing — like this one that the district quietly closed last month amid concerns about its poor financial footing. (Chalkbeat)


The Detroit school district fought to keep 24 struggling schools open. At the same time, it was closing an east side charter school

Leaders of Detroit’s main school district spent much of this year fighting to keep schools open.

At the same, however, the district was preparing to shut a school down. That school, the Ross-Hill Academy charter school, quietly closed forever last month after serving Detroit children on the east side for 19 years. The kindergarten to eighth-grade school had taken on too much debt, district officials said, and was in danger of not having enough money to stay open through the next school year. (MLive)


Troy school board considers using land sale proceeds for new early childhood center

The Troy School District Board of Education has sold two pieces of property and is looking at using the sale funds to develop a new early childhood education center. Over the past two years, the board looked at selling some of the five vacant properties it acquired over the years to construct new schools, as enrollment trends indicated they wouldn’t all be needed, said district spokeswoman Kerry Birmingham. “Through our learning about what makes a world class learning organization/school district, it became clear that we need to invest in the learning of our youngest students, the way that other states and countries do,” Birmingham said in an email. (Oakland Press)


Plymouth-Canton Schools chief gets good grades on evaluation

Monica Merritt felt like her first full year as the superintendent for Plymouth-Canton Community Schools went about as well as it could have. At the district's Board of Education meeting earlier this month, Merritt found out board members agreed. Merritt, evaluated using a tool provided by the Michigan Association of School Administrators, scored an 89.4 percent score (on a scale of 100). That rating places Merritt in the "effective" category. Merritt, hired to replace former Supt. Dr. Michael Meissen near the end of the 2015/16 school year, said she was obviously pleased with the evaluation. She also said, more than the rating itself, she was appreciative of the fact she and board members have been able to work well together. (Observer & Eccentric)





Campus free speech bills: Restrict or protect rights?

Opinion: A pair of bills introduced in the Legislature that seek the suspension or expulsion of outspoken students are causing a stir at Michigan’s universities. Critics say the proposed measures could hinder student activism. However, the main sponsor, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton Township, says the “Campus Free Speech Act” ensures invited campus speakers have their voices heard. “It makes sure they aren’t able to shout down the speaker,” he said. “Ideally, I think it would be nice to have engagement in debate if they are willing to have a civil debate on the topic. ... If that doesn’t happen, they could hold their own forum.” (Detroit News)


Aquinas College fills new position to raise funds for students

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -Aquinas College has tapped Jon Hankins for its newly-created community relations officer position. Hankins will work with Aquinas College Foundation staff, as well as Athletic Department staff, to help raise funds to support student scholarships, academic and athletic programming, capital projects and campus life activities.  He has spent the past six years at Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, where he helped to grow and manage their corporate donor partnerships.  (MLive)


Why It's a Bad Idea to Tell Students Words Are Violence

Of all the ideas percolating on college campuses these days, the most dangerous one might be that speech is sometimes violence. We’re not talking about verbal threats of violence, which are used to coerce and intimidate, and which are illegal and not protected by the First Amendment. We’re talking about speech that is deemed by members of an identity group to be critical of the group, or speech that is otherwise upsetting to members of the group. This is the kind of speech that many students today refer to as a form of violence. If Milo Yiannopoulos speaks on the University of California, Berkeley, campus, is that an act of violence? Recently, the psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett, a highly respected emotion researcher at Northeastern University, published an essay in The New York Times titled, “When is speech violence?” (Atlantic)


House Republicans at odds with Trump’s proposed higher education cuts

House Republicans issued a 2018 budget bill Tuesday afternoon that rejects several higher education cuts proposed by President Trump but upholds plans to pull billions of dollars in reserves out of the Pell Grant program for needy college students. Ahead of a markup slated for Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee released the full funding report for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies that provides money for programs placed on the chopping block in the White House budget. (Washington Post)


The Culling of Higher Ed Begins

It has become trendy to predict that higher education is on the verge of a major collapse, what with enrollments falling as loan debt and rising tuition cause students and families to ask harder questions about the value of a college credential. The most extreme predictions envision hundreds and even thousands of colleges and universities closing over a decade or so. But more even-keeled analysts also have foreseen increases in the number of failing institutions: Moody’s Investors Service in 2015, for instance, said closures and mergers of small institutions would triple and double, respectively, in the coming years. (Inside Higher Ed)


‘If There’s an Organized Outrage Machine, We Need an Organized Response’

Anticipating the possibility of an internet mob harassing a professor because of something he or she said can seem a bit like prepping for a lightning bolt. Yes, people get struck by lightning, but more often than not it feels like a freak occurrence. It’s easily avoided, some might say, by not flying a kite in a thunderstorm. But these strikes appear to have grown more common in recent months. Sure, a professor who calls for the hanging of President Trump should expect blowback, but it’s hard to argue the same for, say, a professor who writes a lengthy essay on classical statues and how they have been co-opted by the modern white-nationalist movement. (Chronicle of Higher Education)


Why Whites and Asians Have Different Views on Personal Success

There’s a saying in China that it’s better to be the head of a chicken than the tail of a phoenix. The premise of the aphorism—it’s better to be over-qualified than under-qualified relative to one’s surroundings—is so widely accepted that similar versions of it exist across cultures. In Japan, they tend to say that it’s better to be the head of a sardine than the tail of a whale. Americans and Brits often declare that it’s better to be a big frog (or fish) in a small pond than a little frog in a big pond. Extensive research supports these axioms, particularly in the realm of education. Longitudinal studies have consistently shown that high-performing students at less-selective schools feel more competent, have higher GPAs, and more ambitious career aspirations than low-performing students at more-selective schools. (Atlantic)


UM changes public comment policy at Board of Regents meetings

ANN ARBOR, MI - The University of Michigan is changing its public comment policy to increase the number of speakers allowed to address the Board of Regents at meetings. The board on Thursday, July 20 unanimously approved a policy change that ups the number of speakers from 10 to 15. The change, however, reduces the time limit for speakers from five to three minutes each. The board allows up to five speakers on the same topic, and two other speakers who sign up after UM posts meeting agendas. Sally Churchill, vice president and secretary of the university, said UM is more receptive to public comment than several peer universities. (MLive)





A's on the rise in U.S. report cards, but SAT scores founder

The good news on America's report cards: More high school teachers are handing out A's. But the bad news is that students aren't necessarily learning more. Recent findings show that the proportion of high school seniors graduating with an A average — that includes an A-minus or A-plus — has grown sharply over the past generation, even as average SAT scores have fallen. In 1998, it was 38.9%. By last year, it had grown to 47%. That’s right: Nearly half of America’s Class of 2016 are A students. Meanwhile, their average SAT score fell from 1,026 to 1,002 on a 1,600-point scale — suggesting that those A's on report cards might be fool's gold. (Detroit Free Press)


A Rust Belt City's School Turnaround

BUFFALO, N.Y.—When 18-year-old Karolina Espinosa looks back to her freshman year at Buffalo’s Hutchinson Central Technical High School, graduation seemed like a long shot. “At the time,” she said, “both of my parents were incarcerated. I had trouble with reading, and I had problems with attendance.” But in May, sitting in the office of her school’s family support specialist, Joell Stubbe, Karolina talked excitedly about going to Buffalo State University, where she’s been accepted into the class of 2021.   Karolina credits the turnaround to her relationship with Stubbe. “She’s like my older sister,” Karolina said. “I don’t really talk about my problems ... or deal with my emotions with people. I don’t even talk to my [real] sister about them or cry in front of her. And I do that with [Stubbe]. Without her I wouldn’t even be in school, honestly. I would have been a dropout.” (Atlantic)


It’s past time for South Carolina to provide adequate schools for all

Opinion: Ms. Ehime Ohue’s opinion piece in The Washington Post on July 6 brings into high relief the fact that South Carolina continues to provide inadequate basic preparation to significant numbers of its talented and highly motivated students. I began my professional career 55 years ago as a teacher in an underfunded, segregated public school in Charleston, South Carolina. I encountered many talented and highly motivated students who, like Ms. Ohue, were eager to learn. (Washington Post)


How Universal College Admission Tests Help Low-Income Students

There is widespread concern about over-testing in schools. Yet we need all students to take the right tests if low-income and minority children are to have a good shot at a quality college education.

The two standard college admission tests — the SAT and the ACT — could be administered universally and free of charge to students. That would reduce the administrative barriers to applying to college, help identify talented disadvantaged children, and increase the likelihood that they will attend a college that matches their skills. A child born into a high-income family is six times as likely to earn a college degree as one who is poor, research that I have participated in shows. (New York Times)


Kansas Justices Question New School Funding Plan

Kansas Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical Tuesday that a new school funding plan offers enough money for education. The justices at times appeared exasperated by arguments in favor of the formula, and by requests that the court wait potentially years to see whether the new law works. Afterward, some lawmakers suggested the court probably would order more funding and that they could be back for a special session this fall. (Education Week)


How We Are Ruining America

Opinion: Over the past generation, members of the college-educated class have become amazingly good at making sure their children retain their privileged status. They have also become devastatingly good at making sure the children of other classes have limited chances to join their ranks. How they’ve managed to do the first task — giving their own children a leg up — is pretty obvious. It’s the pediacracy, stupid. Over the past few decades, upper-middle-class Americans have embraced behavior codes that put cultivating successful children at the center of life. As soon as they get money, they turn it into investments in their kids. (New York Times)


How Teachers Are Taught

One charter school teacher-training program gives first-year teachers a part-time workload and allows them to learn alongside mentor teachers. Another has summer workshops that include home visits with students’ families. A third network often starts the year with a week of workshops at a Westchester hotel, has a staff member devoted to professional development, and brings in consultants for math, writing, and reading instruction. These are a handful of training programs at charters that may soon substitute for the formal state-certification process, which requires obtaining a master’s degree and passing certification exams. (Atlantic)


DeVos tells conservative lawmakers what they like to hear: More local control, school choice

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos blasted Washington, teachers unions and “defenders of the status quo” Thursday as she pledged to shrink the role of the federal government in U.S. schools and colleges. “This drives the big-government folks nuts, but it’s important to reiterate: Education is best addressed at the state, local and family levels,” DeVos said, winning applause from lawmakers gathered in Denver for the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Conference (ALEC), an influential group known for promoting conservative policy goals nationwide. DeVos has long been an ardent proponent of giving states more power over education, but in recent weeks, some conservatives have questioned her moves as the Education Department began reviewing state plans to implement a far-reaching new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. (Washington Post)


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