Educators agree student funding in Michigan is broken. This group hopes their research will change that.

After 19 months and hundreds of interviews with educators across the state, a collaborative of Michigan school officials, former legislators and business leaders is set to release recommendations next month for a better way to fund schools. The Michigan School Finance Research Collaborative was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from the Skillman Foundation and a $100,000 grant from the Mott Foundation. Combined with a 2016 grant from Kellogg and contributions from 18 intermediate school districts, the group has raised $842,609 to fund the study. The collaborative has high hopes for this project because the report uses information from hundreds of diverse sources to decide how to properly fund Michigan schools. (Chalkbeat)


Michigan Democrats want more transparency in charter school management

A bill package from Michigan House and Senate Democrats would require more transparency and reporting from education management organizations, for-profit or nonprofit companies that manage charter schools. The large package, which includes House Bills 5286-5294 and companion Senate Bills 674-682, is known as the School FACT act. The package would require education management organizations (EMOs) to produce annual audited financial statements, authorizers to account for fees collected to oversee charter schools and charter schools to publish their contracts with an EMO and that EMO’s financial statements on its website, and to account for its student recruiting costs. (Holland Sentinel)


New York firm buys majority stake in for-profit Grand Rapids education group

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - The New York-based private equity firm, Leed Equity Partners, has bought a stake in the growing Grand Rapids education company, Fusion Education Group. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. "Fusion has pioneered a unique and highly effective educational model that is only now becoming available to families and their children as the Company opens more and more schools across the country," said Carter Harned, managing director of Leeds Equity Partners, in a statement. The for-profit education provider operates 43 schools in 8 states and Washington, DC, with more than 4,000 students in grades 6 through 12.  (MLive)


Muskegon school board stalled on evaluation of embattled superintendent

MUSKEGON, MI - After holding two special closed meetings this week totaling 3 1/2 hours, the Muskegon Public Schools Board of Education is still mulling over its evaluation of Superintendent Justin Jennings. Jennings has come under fire from teachers and at least one board member since an MLive investigation revealed recent raises of 5 percent to 20 percent for eight of the district's 34 administrators. The board met behind closed doors on Tuesday, Dec. 5, to discuss Jennings' evaluation, and again on Thursday, Dec. 7, to do the same. But following the second meeting, the board still did not appear to have reached a consensus on Jennings' job performance. (MLive)

Related story:

> MLive: Muskegon Board of Education president steps down amid controversies


How to pay for special education is a growing concern across Michigan

Education leaders across Michigan are increasingly sounding an alarm over the way the state funds special education. A report from the lieutenant governor’s office last week blasted current the state’s current funding formula for shortchanging schools by almost $700 million a year. And a coalition of powerful Detroit leaders said it would make lobbying for changes to special education funding one of its top priorities as it tries to improve education for Detroit kids. Currently, schools are required to provide students with special services and therapies but are only funded for a fraction of their expenses. (Chalkbeat)


Middle schoolers learn problem solving, teamwork at FIRST Tech Challenge

JACKSON, MI- Thirty-six middle school robotics teams from across Michigan gathered at East Jackson High School Saturday, Dec. 9 for the FIRST Tech Challenge. The students did all the designing, building and testing of their robots. Event coordinator and coach of two teams, Chris Galicki gathered numerous volunteers from all over the state to help put on the event. "It's so hands on and they like building stuff," Galicki said. "It incorporates science, technology, engineering and math and promotes teamwork and cooperation." (MLive)


Muskegon Area Promise awarded to 204 class of 2017 graduates

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – Muskegon Area Promise scholarships were accepted by 204 students in the 2017 graduating class, but the schools with the neediest students used it the least. It was the first year the Promise was offered to qualifying students at all 16 high schools within the geographic boundaries of Muskegon Area Intermediate School District. It grew from serving 25 students from the class of 2016 at three chosen schools to 204 in the class of 2017.  It was expected that 168 scholars from the class of 2017 would use the Promise.


Mostly C's for Pennfield superintendent

Pennfield Schools Superintendent Tim Everett received mostly C's on his annual report card from the district's Board of Education. Board members graded Everett from highly effective to ineffective in seven areas and gave him a revised final evaluation score of 73.6% out of a possible 100%."We believe our Superintendent has performed his role and responsibilities in an effective way," board President Jack Wollaston said Wednesday in an email. "Tim has been a very strong leader as we’ve worked through needed improvements to our campus, with limited funds. (Battle Creek Enquirer)


These Michigan school districts reported the most student expulsions

There were 1,238 expulsions issued in Michigan’s K-12 school during the 2016-17 school year for behavior ranging from physical violence to drug and alcohol offenses, according to state data. More than half the expulsions were for 180 days – equal to a full-school year – or more, the data shows. The data also counts as expulsions disciplinary actions lasting less than that amount. For example, there were 79 expulsions of 10 days or less included in the data. The data, which districts self-report to the state, does not include suspensions. (MLive)


Grand Rapids schools, Ferris State launching Teacher Cadet Program

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Grand Rapids Public Schools is launching a Teacher Cadet Program in partnership with Ferris State University to recruit talented students to the profession, beginning the 2018-19 school year. The new Academy of Teaching and Learning will create a talent pipeline from K-12 to higher education and back to GRPS, school leaders announced Monday, Dec. 5. Those enrolled will earn college credit towards a bachelor's degree. "We want to grow our own teachers,'' said Tony Baker, school board member and Director for Community Engagement at Ferris State, about creating a continuous supply of quality candidates as well as increasing diversity. (MLive)


Lansing Catholic doubles down on anthem kneeling policy for athletes

LANSING -- A private Catholic high school will continue to discipline student-athletes who kneel during the national anthem at sporting events. The school now has a policy that applies to participants of winter sports like boys and girls basketball, according to a letter obtained by the Lansing State Journal. Tom Maloney, Lansing Catholic's president, and two other school officials said Tuesday afternoon in a letter emailed to parents that those who kneel during the anthem at a game won't be able to participate in it. If the school is aware of a student-athlete's plans to kneel in advance, they "will not dress or accompany the team for the game," the letter said. (Lansing State Journal)


New coding school moves forward with first students

MARYSVILLE - Among the students studying coding at St. Clair County Technical Education Center, seniors Chris Lieb and Aleks Nedeljkovic sat hard at work Monday. They're both part of the first class of a recently created coding program at St. Clair County Regional Education Service Agency. Nedeljkovic's father — a registered nurse — told him there would be money in coding. The 17-year-old signed up for the program after a conversation with his guidance counselor at St. Clair High School. He would recommend the program to anyone interested or curious about computers, he said.   "I would like to go into cyber security," Nedeljkovic said.  (Port Huron Times Herald)


Grand Rapids schools, Ferris State launching Teacher Cadet Program

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Grand Rapids Public Schools is launching a Teacher Cadet Program in partnership with Ferris State University to recruit talented students to the profession, beginning the 2018-19 school year. The new Academy of Teaching and Learning will create a talent pipeline from K-12 to higher education and back to GRPS, school leaders announced Monday, Dec. 5. Those enrolled will earn college credit towards a bachelor's degree. "We want to grow our own teachers,'' said Tony Baker, school board member and Director for Community Engagement at Ferris State, about creating a continuous supply of quality candidates as well as increasing diversity. (MLive)


Equitable funding tops Grand Rapids School Board legislative wish list

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - West Michigan lawmakers will meet with leaders of Grand Rapids Public Schools during a luncheon Monday, Dec. 11, to hear what they need to help students reach their full potential. The school board has a wish list of more than two dozen legislative priorities for 2017-18. However, its top priority is lobbying for a new funding formula. School board president Wendy Falb said the lack of progress on the equitable funding of public schools in Michigan is troubling. (MLive)


State fires back over 'untruths,' criticism of its federal school accountability plan

The Michigan Department of Education is firing back against an education research and advocacy organization that issued a statement sharply critical of its plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. In a "position statement" issued Thursday afternoon, MDE said the Education Trust-Midwest - a nonpartisan group based in Royal Oak - had "disrespected the months of work and thousands of education stakeholders who built the plan." Education Trust made its statement on Tuesday night after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that she had approved Michigan's plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal education law approved in late 2015. (MLive)


Betsy DeVos approves Michigan's federal school accountability plan

After initially being rejected for lacking key details, Michigan's federal school compliance plan - laying out a new way for identifying and holding accountable low-performing schools - has been approved, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Tuesday night. "While the plan meets the statutory requirements, Michigan must not view this as a ceiling, but rather as a baseline upon which to build, strengthen and expand," DeVos said in a statement. "I urge Michigan's leaders to continue to find new and innovative ways to help students succeed." Michigan's plan is required to show the state is in compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal K-12 education law passed in late 2015 that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. (MLive)

Related stories:

> Detroit Free Press: Michigan's school improvement plan gets OK from DeVos

> Detroit News: DeVos approves Michigan's education plan


Washington, D.C., firm to hold BCPS accountable for transformation

The Battle Creek Public Schools has hired a Washington, D.C. firm to ensure the district makes good on the $51 million in promises it made to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation earlier this year. The district's Board of Education approved a five-year, $1.25 million contract with American Institutes for Research on Monday to evaluate the programs and other changes BCPS is making with the $51 million grant it received from the foundation in May.  As part of the grant agreement, the district is paying for the service with the Kellogg funds. (Battle Creek Enquirer)


We don’t need no education

Opinion: You have to hand it to them — on one hand, the Republicans who have run everything in Lansing for the past seven years have been consistent. They've done pretty much everything they can to seriously damage public education in Michigan. Relentlessly positive Gov. Rick Snyder started it all when he took office in 2011, and pushed through a massive tax cut for businesses that meant about a billion dollars less for education. The schools got some of that money back later, but they've been behind ever since. They say that we can't afford to spend more for public education, though, as the Michigan Education Association's David Crim told me, "the legislature has found over $1 billion each year to fund for-profit charter schools, and continues to do so, despite their poor academic record." (Metro Times)


Kent, Ottawa districts get money to grow farm-to-school programs

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Six school systems in the Kent and Ottawa ISDs are among 32 statewide receiving an additional 10 cents per meal this year to purchase locally grown produce, according to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). The 10 Cents A Meal for School Kids and Farms program is providing schools with match incentive funding up to 10 cents per meal to purchase and serve Michigan-grown produce. Legislators expanded the pilot program, now in its second year, from $250,000 in state seed funding to $375,000 for the upcoming school year and added a third region to last year's two regions. (MLive)


Muskegon teachers erupt with frustration over administrator raises

MUSKEGON, MI - Emotions erupted during a Muskegon Public School Board of Education meeting Tuesday as nearly 100 district parents and teachers leveled numerous concerns over back-to-back controversies that have roiled the district. Much of their ire was aimed at school board President Louis Churchwell and Superintendent Justin Jennings. The boisterous crowd called for Jennings to resign and threatened to oust Churchwell and other board members over their alleged mismanagement of Muskegon schools. (MLive)


Special education underfunded by $700 million in Michigan, report says

Special education in Michigan is underfunded by nearly $700 million, a shortfall that stretches district budgets and makes it difficult to provide services and meet student needs, according to a new report. The report, completed by a subcommittee of Lt. Gov. Brian Calley's Special Education Reform Taskforce, found that Michigan schools spend $3 billion on special education services but only receive $2.4 billion in funding. Because special education services must be provided, regardless of available state and federal funding, schools have covered the shortage by digging into their general fund budgets. That in turn has reduced the amount of dollars available to the overall student body by $459 per pupil, the report says. (MLive)


Mona Shores schools to pay former superintendent more than $86K

NORTON SHORES, MI - Mona Shores Public Schools will pay more than $86,000 to former Superintendent Greg Helmer following his resignation this month.

Helmer's resignation was effective on Nov. 14. It came after he was placed on paid administrative leave on Nov. 6. The leave was a result of a poor progress review regarding a plan of assistance that the Mona Shores Board of Education had placed Helmer on after an investigation found he had retaliated against a staff member.  (MLive)


Mich. schools move to reduce suspensions, expulsions

Suspensions and expulsions are no longer the go-to mandatory tool for student discipline in the Farmington School District. School leaders were forced to scrap that approach after the district was placed on a state watch list in 2013 for disproportionally disciplining black males in special education programs. Today, “restorative practices” in the district and around the state are being used to address conflict and misconduct to get students to talk to each other and learn empathy and personal responsibility, instead of sending them home with suspensions or kicking them out of school. It’s a philosophy that aims to repair harm to the victim rather than simply punish the offender. (Detroit News)

Related story:

> Detroit News: 12 Michigan school districts over-suspend students


Examining the crisis in Michigan’s schools

Opinion: Since the beginning of this school year, The Detroit News has lent its opinion pages to a variety of voices offering their views on the education crisis in Michigan. By now, we’ve heard enough to know for certain that the crisis is real. And state leaders are not yet moving in an urgent manner to make it go away. The Fixing Michigan Schools series that appears in most Thursdays’ Think section has affirmed that the problems with education in Michigan go well beyond the urban districts such as Detroit. Suburban and rural districts are also vastly underperfoming their peers in other states. (Detroit News)


Muskegon schools superintendent defends pay raises in speech to board

MUSKEGON, MI - Muskegon Public Schools superintendent gave a forceful defense Tuesday to the school board over the issue of pay raises for his administrators. His nearly five-minute impromptu address came after a board member brought up concerns about low teacher morale, suggesting that the district should support teachers more. Jennings' speech came on the heels of an MLive investigation that revealed recent raises of 5 percent to 20 percent for eight of the district's 34 administrators. (MLive)


State Board of Education divided on wading into guns in schools debate

An effort by Democrats on the State Board of Education to issue a statement critical of legislation that would allow concealed guns in schools was defeated this week, after the board's Republicans abstained from the vote. Cassandra Ulbrich, D-Rochester Hills, who pushed for the board to take a stance on the legislation - approved by the state Senate last week -  said guns don't belong in schools. And while she expressed support for a provision in the bill that closes a loophole in state law allowing guns to be openly carried in schools, she said the legislation is not the way to create a safer environment for children. (MLive)


Schools would be fined for 'racially insensitive' mascots under Senate bill

Schools would have to drop mascots or slogans deemed racially insensitive or risk a financial penalty under legislation in the state Senate. The bill was introduced by Sen. Ian Conyers, D-Detroit, who says offensive mascots can hurt marginalized students and community members, and - because they make the state seem less welcoming and inclusive - put Michigan at a disadvantage when attempting to lure new out-of-state or international business. "In the failure of a lot of districts to take action on culturally inappropriate or insensitive mascots and symbols, it's time for the state to set the tone on how things are done," he said. Under the legislation, the State Board of Education and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights would create a list of race or ethnicity-based mascots considered offensive. (MLive)


Hudsonville ends lunchtime Bible talks with teacher after complaints

HUDSONVILLE, MI - Hudsonville Public Schools had to terminate faith-based discussions Alward Elementary students were having over lunch with a teacher, following complaints by a civil rights group on behalf of parents. "Every public-school teacher, principal, and superintendent should know that they are prohibited from engaging in any activity with students that involves religious beliefs, rituals, or doctrines,'' said Mitch Kahle, spokesman for the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activist. (MLive)


Michigan Senate OKs concealed pistol carry in schools, churches, day care centers

LANSING — The Michigan Senate approved legislation Wednesday allowing the concealed carry of handguns in places that have traditionally been off limits to guns, such as schools, churches, day care centers, bars and stadiums. The three-bill package, which now moves to the state House, passed the Senate in 25-12 votes, over strong objections from Democrats, one day after it cleared a Senate committee. Emotions ran high, particularly in light of Sunday's massacre at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that left 26 people dead and 20 more injured. (Detroit Free Press)

Related stories:

> Detroit News: Mich. Senate OKs guns in schools, churches, preschools

> Detroit Free Press: Michigan bills would allow concealed guns in schools, churches


Okemos schools adding security measures at request of Meridian Township Police Department

OKEMOS - Officers with the Meridian Township Police Department will be at Okemos Public School buildings Tuesday as part of an investigation. Lt. Greg Frenger, the department's public information officer, said no direct threats were made against any Okemos school. Neither students nor staff have been targeted by any threats or are suspects at this time, he added. "Some very unusual things were brought to our attention and we want to make sure it doesn’t impact the school environment," Frenger said.  (Lansing State Journal)


Justices question state attorney on fate of Michigan school employees' $554 million

LANSING — Michigan Supreme Court justices peppered an attorney for the State of Michigan with questions Wednesday on why school workers are not entitled to repayment of $554 million taken from them under a law the Michigan Court of Appeals has found unconstitutional. Gary Gordon, a Lansing attorney representing the state, said the more than 200,000 current and former school workers will be refunded with interest — just not right away. Instead, for most of the school workers, the reimbursement will come in the form of health-care insurance benefits after they retire, Gordon told the justices during oral argument Wednesday. "The people will be made whole ... with interest, at some point," Gordon said. (Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> MLive: Michigan Supreme Court justices ask why state should keep $550M in teacher retirement dispute


Michigan guidance counselors, get ready for new career counseling training rules

If you're a high school guidance counselor in Michigan, pretty soon you're going to have to learn a whole lot more about preparing students for life after school. Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday signed legislation - House Bill 4181 - that targets the 150 hours of professional development counselors must undertake in order to renew their license. Now, at least 25 of those hours must cover instruction on improving the college preparation and selection process, and another 25 hours must be on career counseling. The legislation passed the House in May on a 140-7 vote. On Oct. 24, it passed unanimously in the Senate on a 38-0 vote. (Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> MLive: Gov. Snyder signs law mandating college, career training for school counselors


Michigan educators look to state Supreme Court for justice

Opinion: How would you feel if your employer illegally withheld thousands of dollars from your paycheck — and then refused to return it for years, even in the face of multiple court rulings saying they should do so?  Chances are, you’ve never heard of the “3 percent case” – the real-life version of that hypothetical situation.  But, mention it to a public education employee and watch them seethe. In 2010, the Michigan Legislature enacted Public Act 75, requiring school districts and some higher education institutions to withhold 3% of each school employee’s wages to help fund health care benefits for retirees — even though there was no guarantee employees who gave up those wages would receive benefits. (Detroit Free Press)


Is your child's teacher missing too much school?

Under Michigan law, students who miss more than 10 days of school in a year can put their families at risk of losing cash assistance benefits from the state.

Some education pundits say teachers put students at risk of poor grades when they miss more than 10 days of work. In the Battle Creek area, nearly 85% of the teachers at Pennfield High School missed more than 10 days of school in the 2015-16 school year, according to the most recent data the district submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. (Battle Creek Enquirer)


Post Oak is raising the bar for Lansing schools

Opinion: Using language immersion to engage students is paying off for the Lansing School District. The Chinese immersion program at Post Oak Academy – begun in the mid 2000s – has pre-K through sixth grade students also performing better on state tests. And as the area's only program of its kind, it is drawing students to the district from other parts of the region and impacting the downward trend Lansing sees due to schools of choice. Research shows that language immersion programs such as the one at Post Oak have the most positive effects on kids at the elementary level. It stimulates new ways of learning and often has impacts on other subjects. (Lansing State Journal)




Health Alliance Plan insurance ending for Michigan school retirees

LANSING — About 3,000 retired Michigan school employees have until Nov. 17 to enroll in a new health plan or lose their health coverage, officials say. The Health Alliance Plan is ending its coverage with the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) at the end of this year, said Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the Office of Retirement Services. Buhs said those affected will have been mailed three notices prior to the deadline and HAP also sent out a notice. (Detroit Free Press)


Will Michigan school employees share $554M refund? Michigan Supreme Court to decide

LANSING — Will more than 200,000 current and former Michigan school employees share in  a refund of $554 million taken from their paychecks from mid-2010 to the start of 2013? That's the main question on the minds of increasingly impatient school employees as the Michigan Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday in a long-running retirement health-care lawsuit related to money involuntarily deducted from their pay. The case has dragged on for six years and the school employees have won at every turn. (Detroit Free Press)


Mona Shores superintendent placed on administrative leave

NORTON SHORES, MI - Mona Shores Public Schools placed its superintendent on administrative leave shortly after he was reprimanded for retaliation against an employee. The Mona Shores Board of Education voted on Monday, Nov. 6, to place Superintendent Greg Helmer on administrative leave indefinitely, said Stan Miller, board chair on Tuesday. Miller declined to provide more details, calling the situation a "personnel matter."  (MLive)


Wyoming passes $79.5M school improvement bond

WYOMING, MI -  Voters approved a $79.5 million school improvement bond for Wyoming Public Schools in the Tuesday, Nov. 7, general election. The proposal is aimed at creating a 21st century learning environment, improving safety and security and providing much-needed upgrades to the district's old buildings. The measure that will not increase the current tax rate of 5.65, rather extend the existing debt, passed with 69 percent of the vote - 2,377 to 1,075. (MLive)


Grand Rapids, Spring Lake schools easily pass operating millages

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -  Grand Rapids Public Schools easily passed its operating millage proposal in the Tuesday, Nov. 7, general election worth $30.1 million the first year. The non-homestead property tax request was for 19 mills over 10 years, 2018 through 2027. The tax proposal passed with 71 percent of the vote - 13,711 to 5,524 votes. The tax applies only to second homes and businesses, not primary residences. "I just want to express my thanks and appreciation to the voters and taxpayers of Grand Rapids for their continued support," said Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal. (MLive)


Ferris State analyzing special ed programs at all its charter schools

BIG RAPIDS, MI - Ferris State University's Charter Schools Office has entered into an agreement with a Highland company to analyze the special education programs of all 20 schools authorized by the university over the next two years. Francis Young International Consultants in School Improvement will be working with 10 schools this school year, including Grand Rapids-based Hope Academy of West Michigan. Creative Technologies in Cedar Springs and Lighthouse Academy in Grand Rapids are scheduled for 2018-19. (MLive)


Bearcats coaches make sure students get to school and stay in class

Kamila Brown walks around Battle Creek Central High School with the sort of two-way radio usually reserved for security guards. Just don’t mistake her for one. She’s a Bearcat coach. The Battle Creek Public Schools hired Brown and 13 other Bearcat coaches this year to mentor students, support teachers and staff and work with families whenever the need arises. “I love to work with kids," said Brown, one of eight Bearcat coaches at the high school and the varsity cheerleading coach. “I feel like these kids are our future. If I can show them that there is a better future ahead, that makes me proud to be a Bearcat coach.” (Battle Creek Enquirer)


Lansing-area religious and Montessori schools have more unvaccinated kids

Pastor Fred McGlone, superintendent at New Covenant Christian School in Waverly, has noticed a shift after more than 30 years working in education. It seems to him that more parents are anxious about vaccines. Last year, five of the 12 kindergartners at New Covenant had non-medical waivers to skip vaccines. That's nearly 42%, the highest rate in the tri-county area. "It seems like there's more interest in natural, homeopathic types of medicine," McGlone said. "In our experience, we have young parents who have heard this or that about vaccines." In the Lansing region, religious schools and Montessori schools are the most likely to enroll children who are not fully vaccinated, mimicking a pattern that can be found statewide.  (Lansing State Journal)


How one lawmaker is pushing to end shortage of skilled trades teachers

Deb Miller knows the challenge of finding qualified teachers to fill career and technical education openings in Kalamazoo County. This past summer, Miller - who leads the Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Agency's Education for Employment program - said a drafting technology program at Kalamazoo Central High School was closed because administrators couldn't find the right applicant to fill a teaching vacancy. And last school year, Miller and her colleagues struggled to find a teacher for an agricultural science program at Vicksburg Community Schools. (MLive)


More Michigan students enrolled in Career-Tech Ed

Auburn Hills — There is a waiting list to get into Martin Ballard’s classes at Avondale High School, where students learn by getting their hands on expensive digital tools. Along with drones and 360-degree cameras, a $20,000 laser cutter and a $25,000 3-D printer are part of a cache of innovative equipment new this fall to Ballard’s classroom, where six Career and Technical Education courses are taught at the Oakland County school. With all six classes full, Ballard hopes to double the number of CTE courses offered next school year and plans to add a class called “Certified Ethical Hacker certification” once the district can find another CTE-certified teacher. (Detroit News)


Michigan ranks last in education, well-being for African American children

An eye-opening study regarding the well-being of children across the nation is putting Michigan in the spotlight -- and not for good reasons. Michigan fares the worst among all other states when it comes to opportunity and growth available for African American children, according from data compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation for its 2017 Race for Results Policy Report. The study takes into account education, health and economic milestones to measure the progress of our youth at the state and national level. Michigan Radio's analysis of the report:  "The report shows that African American fourth-graders in Michigan are reading proficient at the lowest rate in the country. The math proficiency rate for eighth-grade African American kids is tied with Alabama for the lowest in the country." (WXYZ)


Muskegon schools gives administrators big pay raises in face of deficit

MUSKEGON, MI - Eight administrators in Muskegon Public Schools got pay raises of more than 5 percent this year, including one who got a 20 percent bump in pay. The increases dwarf the raises given to teachers and come at a time when the district has a financial deficit and will face declining revenue due to a projected drop in the student population. In addition to raises, a new elementary principal was hired at a salary of $101,000, a 33 percent increase over his predecessor. Four new administrative positions were also added. (MLive)


Star pup-ils: Brighton plans to place therapy dog in every school

A therapy dog in every school. That is the goal of Brighton Area Schools, which administrators believe may be the only school district in the state to own not just one dog, but two, and is on its way to owning a pack of Labrador retrievers. “Duncan and Caesar are the best listeners in the district,” said Superintendent Greg Gray. “I think parents like them just as much as the kids do. They see us looking in every possible direction to help kids… The benefits of these dogs are immeasurable. For every kid, it means something different.” (Livingston County Daily Press & Argus)


Flint ‘promise zone’ college tuition plan wins approval

Lansing — Flint and up to four other Michigan communities with high child poverty rates could become “promise zones” to provide local students with tuition-free college under legislation sent Wednesday to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk. The Michigan Senate approved the bill in a 35-2 vote, signing off on a final plan the House expanded to include communities beyond Flint, where Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Consumers Energy have pledged $2 million for the college tuition program. Promise zones initially rely on private contributions but after two years can capture half of the annual growth in local State Education Tax collections. (Detroit News)


Educators push for bills to ease substitute teacher shortage

With schools across Michigan facing a substitute teacher shortage, lawmakers took testimony Tuesday on bills that would make it easier for retired educators to return to the classroom on a temporary basis. "I would love the opportunity to have them in my classrooms and not have to scramble for subs," said North Muskegon Public Schools Superintendent Curt Babcock. "It probably won't fix the problem completely, but it definitely will help." Babcock appeared before the Senate Education Committee alongside state Rep. Holly Hughes, R-Montague. She's the lead sponsor of a bill that would indefinitely extend a state law - due to expire in July 2018 - allowing retired teachers to return to the classroom as substitutes without forfeiting a portion of their pension. (MLive)


Michigan charter schools would get some millage money under Senate bill

Charter schools in Michigan would be able to collect revenue from enhancement millages under legislation being considered in Lansing. These are regional millages levied by intermediate school districts that provide additional money for the local districts within those ISDs. For instance, Wayne County voters in 2016 approved a 10-year enhancement millage that is raising $80 million annually — split among the county's 33 districts. That money would have to be shared with more than 100 charter schools if the bill passes, though it's unclear whether that would happen right away or when — and if — the millage is renewed. The current law "creates an inequality for the students and families that attend" charters, Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, said during an Oct. 3 legislative hearing.(Detroit Free Press)


Charter schools would get a cut of countywide funding under Senate bill

Within the past year, voters in two of Michigan's largest counties - Wayne and Kent - approved new countywide millages to boost school funding at a time when many districts were suffering from tight budgets and declining enrollment. But charter schools, which enroll a significant number of students in each county, didn't get a cut. The reason: The 1997 law permitting such millages made no mention of charter schools, which were still in their infancy at the time. A bill sponsored by Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, would give charter schools a piece of the funding generated by regional enhancement millages. (MLive)


All Rockford schools' water to be tested where Wolverine dump site found

ROCKFORD, MI- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality confirmed Friday, Oct. 13, it will test the water at all Rockford Public Schools not on municipal water, at the request of Superintendent Michael Shibler. On Thursday, Oct. 12, East Rockford Middle School students and staff began using only bottled water for consumption, after leather and rubber scraps were discovered at a former Wolverine World Wide tannery dump site near the school. (MLive)


Brighton, Hartland student enrollment rises, Pinckney falls 211

After an initial student count, districts in the county have a wide range of changes in enrollment -- from an increase of 30 to a decrease of about 211. The Oct. 4 student count, which is not yet finalized and can change as students who were absent are added, shows an increase of about 30 students in Hartland and 25 in Brighton. There were decreases of about 25 in Fowlerville and 76 in Howell. Pinckney, the hardest hit district, lost 211 students. (Livingston County Daily Press & Argus)


Hertel pushes ‘affirmative consent’ sex education bill

Lansing — A Democratic Michigan senator said Tuesday he is working with First Lady Sue Snyder’s office on a plan to require that Michigan schools teach affirmative consent in sex education courses. Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, is sponsoring a bill that would require schools that already teach sex education to include information about the importance of asking for consent because Hertel says the onus too often falls on women to say no.


McCulloch Academy shutting its doors by Thanksgiving

JACKSON, MI - McCulloch Academy will be shuttered by Thanksgiving. The Jackson School Board voted unanimously on Monday, Oct. 9, to move ahead with plans to close the elementary school that serves students in kindergarten through second grade. The next step is finding new Jackson Public Schools for the 70 students there to attend, Superintendent Jeff Beal said. Administrators already are working with parents to relocate their children to the school of their choice as quickly as possible, he said. (MLive)


State superintendent to struggling schools: Choose your partners wisely

The world is full of do-gooders, many of whom want to make a difference in the lives of struggling students. But Michigan’s top school official had this advice for schools: Think before accepting the help.  It’s a lesson state Superintendent Brian Whiston said he learned during visits last year to 38 schools that had been targeted for closure after years of low performance. Most of those schools — with the exception of a charter school that was closed by its authorizer — were given a chance to stay open after the state signed “partnership agreements” with the nine districts involved.  (Chalkbeat)


Transgender bathroom policy reaffirmed by Grass Lake School Board

GRASS LAKE, MI - Transgender students in Grass Lake Community Schools can continue to use the bathroom and locker room of the gender they identify as. The Grass Lake School Board reaffirmed this districtwide policy at its meeting Monday, Oct. 9 in the George Long Elementary School media center. The board first announced the policy allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their self-identified gender on Aug. 21. The bathroom issue arose in Grass Lake last school year after a transgender student at George Long was allowed to use the boys' bathroom -- the gender the student identifies as. (MLive)


After failed bond, Greenville schools pursues revised, smaller proposal

GREENVILLE, MI - Greenville Public Schools has been hosting a series of community meetings to educate voters about its proposed 20-year, 1.2-mill levy that would generate $46.4 million for school improvements. The bond proposal on the Tuesday, Nov. 7 election ballot is described as focusing on safety, rigor and relevance. It would cost the owner of a house with a market value of $100,000 an estimated $60 a year. In May, voters rejected a larger request for a 30-year, $52.3 million bond. Superintendent Linda Van Houten said she and her team aggressively sought feedback from district families and other community members and revised a smaller proposal for their 3,674 students. (MLive)


Michigan student performance lagging, but public unaware of trend

Michigan voters support their local public school's performance but are split on whether the state's education system as a whole is doing an effective job, according to survey of likely voters conducted for Business Leaders for Michigan. The survey found that 64.5 percent of respondents strongly approve of the job their local public school is doing. However, respondents were split - by a margin of 47 percent to 43.1 percent - on the performance of Michigan's school system as a whole. Business Leaders for Michigan represents the state's top executive. The survey was conducted by phone over a three-day period in late August, and was given to a sample of 600 likely voters. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. (MLive)


Look up tuition at more than 300 Michigan private schools

Average full tuition at a Michigan private high school is about $11,900, while full tuition averages about $6,800 for elementary schools, according to an MLive survey of private school tuitions. However, those averages are skewed upwards by a number of large -- and expensive -- private schools in metro Detroit. Moreover, the MLive survey looked at full tuition without discounts, a price point that few may pay, especially at some Catholic and Christian schools that offer multiple discounts and scholarships. (MLive)


Five years of high school can net East Kentwood students a college degree

KENTWOOD, MI - Grand Rapids Community College is expected to sign an agreement Monday, Oct. 9, with Kentwood Public Schools for its sixth tuition-free Early/Middle College program. In 2018-19, sophomores accepted into the program will be at East Kentwood High School for five instead of four years. But when they leave, they'll have both a high school diploma and an associate's degree. The Michigan Department of Education must approve the program application first. "This kind of program gives more of the students in our community the opportunity to not only have access to college but complete a degree without taking on debt,'' said Dan Clark, dean of academic outreach and the Lakeshore campus for GRCC. (MLive)


Michigan's 75 largest private schools by 2016-17 enrollment

Cranbook School in Bloomfield Hills is Michigan's largest private school, according to 2016-17 enrollment data collected by the state's Center for Educational Performance and Information. Cranbrook had 1,670 students in preschool through 12th grade last school year. One reason for the school's No. 1 ranking: It has all its students on one campus, unlike some private institution where students are divided between multiple locations. The state's largest private high school is Detroit Catholic Central in Novi, with 1,042 students in 2016-17. A majority of the state's largest private schools are in metro Detroit, and the biggest share -- 38 of the top 75 -- are Catholic schools. (MLive)


Michigan school enrollment: Who won big, who lost big?

Excuse David Eichberg for what he says may sound like a cliched response to a big question: How did his Berrien Springs Public Schools district increase its enrollment by 97% in the last decade? "We really looked at how do we meet the needs of all learners," Eichberg said Monday. And they did that in a number of ways — creating "multiple pathways for students to progress through our K-12 learning system." (Detroit Free Press)


Closure of McCulloch Academy up for Jackson School Board discussion

JACKSON, MI - The fate of Jackson's McCulloch Academy is up for discussion at a special Jackson School Board meeting Monday, Oct. 2. The board will make no decisions at this meeting, but Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Beal said he hopes community members and parents will attend to share their opinions. JPS leaders are considering closing the kindergarten through second-grade school before the end of the year due to a continued drop in enrollment. McCulloch has had a 50-percent enrollment decline since 2012, they said. (MLive)


Michigan puts new twist on school turnaround efforts

Ten character traits are pinned to a board inside every classroom at Eastpointe Middle School. Words such as “reflective,” “open-minded,” “thinkers,” “balanced” and “risk-takers” appear in large black print to remind students it’s not business as usual at this Macomb County public school, which faced the threat of closure after years of chronically low student achievement. This fall, the school rebranded itself as an International Baccalaureate Programme, which focuses on teaching children to think critically and challenge assumptions in local and global contexts. The dramatic change is part of the district’s approach to turning around its lowest-performing school and is the impetus for reaching new academic growth goals it set in a three-year Partnership Agreement with the state to avoid closure in the future. The district is in the process of accreditation for the program, which also takes three years. (Detroit News)


GOP cancels vote to boost poor students at charters

Lansing — A planned vote on legislation in the Republican-controlled state House that would have let charter schools voluntarily use poverty and geography as a factor in admission was canceled because there wasn’t enough GOP support, House Speaker Tom Leonard says. The plan by a Detroit Democrat would have let charter schools give priority for admittance to poor students who live nearby if they qualify for free or reduced school breakfast, lunch or milk. Under state law, students are admitted on first-come, first-served basis and are chosen by a random selection process when there are more applicants than available seats. (Detroit News)


Michigan grads' career goals: Doctor, nurse ... or unsure; definitely not librarian

Ask a recent Michigan high school graduate what career they're interested in, and you might get one of two answers: "I want to go into the health professions," or "I'm not quite sure." But they're clear on one thing: Very few of them are interested in becoming a librarian. Those are some of the takeaways from data included in Michigan's SAT report for the Class of 2017. The College Board, which administers the SAT, released results of the SAT for that group of students Tuesday. (Detroit Free Press)


How Michigan's SAT scores stack up to rest of nation

Michigan’s average SAT score climbed in 2017, the second year the college entrance exam was given to all high school juniors in the state. But how does Michigan stack up to the rest of the nation? A new report by College Board, the organization that created the SAT, sheds light on the answer. Below are the overall scores of the 11 states where at least 70 percent of students took the exam. Michigan is one of three states -- the other two are Connecticut and Delaware -- where all students take the SAT. In Michigan, the test is given to all 11th graders, and serves as a college entrance exam and a state reading and math assessment. (MLive)


50 Michigan districts with biggest net losses from school choice in 2016-17

More than half  of Michigan's traditional public school systems experienced a net loss in 2016-17 enrollment because of charters and school choice programs that allows students to cross district lines, according to an MLive analysis of state data. Below is a list of the 50 Michigan school districts with the biggest net losses in percentage, based on their fall 2016 enrollment compared to the number of public schoolchildren living in their district. (MLive)


Williamston Schools weighs transgender policy amid opposition

WILLIAMSTON - Williamston school leaders have proposed a policy that would allow students to use locker rooms and restrooms based on their gender identity and provide other accommodations for transgender students and those who don't conform to gender norms. The Williamston Community Schools Board of Education will discuss the draft policy on Oct. 2. Among the provisions: not disclosing student's transgender or non-conforming status — even to parents — unless granted permission from the student or in an emergency situation and requiring teachers and staff to refer to students by their preferred name and pronoun. (Lansing State Journal)


Bus dilemma: Districts are short on drivers, long on rides

Parents and students in Livingston County want shorter bus rides. District administrators and transportation directors want bus drivers. But who wants the job? “The lack of people interested in being bus drivers is terrible, especially the last few years,” said Alice Johnson, executive director of transportation for Livingston Educational Services Agency, which oversees bus drivers and routes for the Brighton, Howell, Hartland and Pinckney schools. “It’s a national problem.” (Livingston County Daily Press & Argus)


Michigan’s prosperity depends on improving education

Opinion: Ask any employer what matters most when choosing a place to build or expand a business and one of the first answers you’ll hear is the availability of an educated and skilled workforce. In fact, workforce quality has been consistently ranked as one of the most important site location factors to employers. While the link between prosperity and education has been well understood for generations, if Michigan truly wants more good paying jobs, it needs to produce more talent with the education and skills these jobs require. (Detroit News)


More state 'partnerships' with low-performing schools expected this fall

More school districts with one or more low-performing schools are expected to enter into "partnership" agreements with the Michigan Department of Education later this fall, the department announced in a news release Wednesday. The partnership agreements are the method MDE is using to turn around Michigan's lowest performing schools. Districts retain local control of their schools but agree to meet specific academic improvements within an 18- to 36-month time frame or face further accountability measures. (MLive)


Christian schools launch effort to improve diversity and inclusion

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Grand Rapids Christian Schools and Holland Christian Schools have teamed up with the Cultural Intelligence Center to improve their diversity and inclusion efforts, officials said Wednesday, Sept. 27. School leaders say the partnership with the center, based in Holt, is an effort to formulate strategic roadmaps to better their organizations and equip their faculty, staff, students, and even families to work more effectively. (MLive)



How do Michigan students rank on the SAT?

Today the folks who administer the SAT released national results of the test, providing the first clear picture of how students across the U.S. performed on the new exam. Across the nation, the mean score was a 1060, out of a possible score of 1600. The new exam, which debuted in 2016, assesses students in two subjects: evidence-based reading and writing, and math. It is considered to be a more difficult exam because it's aligned to what students must know to be ready for college or careers. The College Board, which administers the test, releases data based on graduation classes. So the scores below reflect how students who graduated as part of the Class of 2017 performed. (Detroit Free Press)


Michigan is 12th best state for teachers, study says

Michigan teachers have it pretty good according to a recent study released by the personal finance website Wallethub. In the data crunch released on Sept. 25, Michigan is ranked as the 12th best state for teachers in 2017. The study compares the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 21 key indicators of teacher-friendliness including teachers' income growth potential, pupil-teacher ratio and teacher safety. Michigan received a total score of 57.82 just ahead of Rhode Island and just ahead of Utah. (MLive)


Battle Creek schools scramble to keep students cool

Battle Creek-area schools are scrambling to keep students cool during a record-breaking hot spell. "Everyone is doing everything they can to try to keep the learning environment cool," said Joe Ratti, president of the 275-member Battle Creek Education Association. "With heat snaps like this, there's not much we do can other than some of the basic things like covering the windows and giving the kids lots of breaks. "We at least have some of the resources in school to cool them," he added. "Some kids don't have those resources at home." (Battle Creek Enquirer)

Related story:

> MLive: Heat forcing early dismissal of thousands of students Tuesday


In Michigan, path to elite colleges flows through richer high schools

The school year is barely underway, and parents throughout Michigan already are knee-deep in the college application planning process. Where should their children apply? Can they get in? A two-year community college or Michigan State?  Bridge Magazine took an exhaustive look at state data showing where nearly 102,000 high school graduates from 2016 attended college. The records are instructive because they reveal enrollment patterns within schools and districts and among different demographic groups. (Bridge)


Michigan schools closing the 'digital divide,' report says

Michigan has made good progress making sure schools have access to affordable high-speed internet, but 157,490 students - out of about 1.5 million statewide - remain in districts that don't meet minimum federal connectivity goals, according to a new report. Failing to meet the goal can be problematic for teachers looking to take advantage of digital learning opportunities that are increasingly becoming a part of today's classrooms, said Dan Runcie, state engagement manager for Education Superhighway, a nonprofit organization that released the new report examining internet connectivity in U.S. Schools. A poor connection can result in webpages or applications that won't load or work in a timely manner, he said. (MLive)


Report: Charter teachers less likely to be chronically absent

Teachers in traditional public schools have far worse rates of chronic absenteeism than those who teach in charter schools, according to a report out today. But a union official in Michigan questioned the findings. That report was released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education reform advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., and Ohio. The findings: Nationwide, 28.3% of teachers in traditional public schools are chronically absent, compared to 10.3% in charters. A teacher is chronically absent after missing more than 10 days of school for sick or personal leave. In Michigan, the rate for teachers in traditional public schools was 24.7%, while the rate was 12.4% for charter teachers. (Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> Education Week: Regular Public School Teachers Miss More School Than Charter Teachers, Study Finds


More kindergartners a boon for BCPS

Battle Creek Public Schools has a cornucopia of kindergartners this school year. BCPS announced on its website and Facebook on Friday that it is adding two classrooms to accommodate a higher-than-anticipated increase in the number of kindergarten students. Superintendent Kim Carter said 50 more kindergartners than expected were enrolled in her schools. The new school year began Sept. 5. "As many school districts often do, we need to change several classroom assignments in the early grades to right-size according to our enrollment," Carter posted on the website. "Classroom transitions are being made immediately, so students can adjust quickly and forge ahead with a great year of learning." (Battle Creek Enquirer)


New education officers listen to experts

Opinion: In this fast-paced, information overloaded society, individuals are longing to be heard. Educators are especially eager to share their thoughts, their hopes and their frustrations. That’s why my first order of business as MEA’s new president was to embark on a “listening tour” so I could hear from the experts on the front-lines who know best what makes public education work. Along with Vice President Chandra Madafferi and Secretary-Treasurer Brett Smith, we want to make sure teachers and support staff (the unsung heroes in public schools) have their voices heard. Together we are hearing stories from members, learning why they do what they do, and what support they need to ensure a great public education for every student. (Detroit News)


Bills proposed to improve Mich.’s classroom environment

Detroit — A group of state Democratic lawmakers introduced a seven-bill package on Monday that calls for the creation of a plan to annually test water and air quality in every Michigan school and create an environmental education task force. The bills — announced by state Reps. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit; Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Township; Kristy Pagan, D-Canton Township; and Robert Wittenberg, D-Oak Park — would help local schools improve the health and wellness of students and staff, reduce environmental impact and energy costs and address environmental understanding. The bills, which will be formally introduced on the House floor on Tuesday, would: (Detroit News)


Make Michigan schools accountable. Get rid of State Board of Education.

Opinion: I've been trying to figure out just why Michigan's decades-long decline in our kids’ school performance has been largely accepted by the public without widespread cries of outrage. Nor has an overpowering sense of urgency developed in those who understand how disadvantaged our kids will be when they try to compete in a skills-based world economy after leaving school. You might find this utterly baffling.(Bridge)


Database: How safe is your school bus? Here are the facts by district

About one in five school buses failed safety inspections, according to the latest data from the Michigan State Police. Public and private school district buses used for student transportation were subject to inspections -- over 16,000 vehicles -- between Sept. 1 2016 and Aug. 31, 2017.  A total of 162 districts had a 100% passing rate, while 69 districts had a 100% failing rate for their vehicles.  The number of school buses inspected range from one in smaller districts to more than 200 vehicles in large districts such as Detroit and Utica.  The state also inspects new buses that are still at dealerships and buses used by contractors. These numbers are included in the statewide totals. (Detroit Free Press)


Is there an education crisis in Michigan?

Opinion: Michigan has had a “crisis in education” for decades. According to the media, we have been in education crisis for two or three generations. I am acutely aware of how important our children’s education is, and of the need for constant attention to what affects it, just as a driver must always pay attention because it is possible at any moment to go off the road. But unless we consider driving to be a daily crisis, I believe it irresponsible to proclaim as “crisis” every significant issue that arises in education. The notion of “crisis” suggests reactive thinking when what is required is a strategic perspective. Jumping to emotional conclusions in order to prod the political process characterizes too much of the discussion of Michigan’s education policy. (Detroit News)


Improving early literacy the right start

Opinion: The start of a new school year is usually greeted with a great deal of optimism among teachers, parents and students alike. My own daughter is starting kindergarten this month, and her excitement is contagious. Like all parents, I hope and expect she will grow a lot over the next year, and master new skills and gain new confidence. Hoping for the best for my daughter, and for all children in Michigan, though, does not blind me to the fact that public education in the state is in a crisis, a years-long downward spiral heading to the bottom. (Detroit News)


50 Michigan high schools with highest SAT scores

Michigan’s average total SAT score for 2017 was 1007.6, an increase of 6.4 points from the year before. The college entrance exam includes math and writing, and is taken annually by 11th graders. The total score scale runs from a low of 200 to a high of 1600. This year marks the second time high schools have been required to administer the test, as opposed to the ACT. Here’s a look at the 50 Michigan high schools with the highest total SAT scores. Many of the schools on the list serve relatively affluent student bodies, or operate as rigorous International Baccalaureate academies or early/middle college programs. (MLive)


50 Michigan high schools with the lowest SAT scores

Michigan’s average total SAT score for 2017 was 1007.6, an increase of 6.4 points from the year before. The college entrance exam includes math and writing, and is taken annually by 11th graders. The total score scale runs from a low of 200 to a high of 1600. This year marks the second time high schools have been required to administer the test, as opposed to the ACT. Here’s a look at the 50 Michigan high schools with the lowest total SAT scores. Many of the schools on the list include alternative or credit-recovery programs serving students who are academically or financially at-risk. Some, such as Covenant House, a charter school with locations in Grand Rapids and Detroit, serve homeless students. (MLive)


Mich. 3rd-graders face rising threat of being held back

If Michigan can’t dramatically improve a dismal proficiency rate in reading among elementary students, the state could be looking at holding back more than half of its third-graders by 2020. That’s the implication of a tough new state reading law that in three years will prevent students from advancing to fourth grade without basic reading skills. About 56 percent of third-graders did not pass the reading test on Michigan’s state assessment in 2017, meaning about 60,308 students would have faced being retained under Michigan’s new reading law if the retention trigger was in place. (Detroit News)


Why are parents pulling their children from BCPS?

When Elizabeth Insley had to find a public school for her three children about a decade ago, she chose Battle Creek Public Schools over her home district because of a program for gifted students. Now that all of her children have graduated from Battle Creek Central High School, Insley recommends BCPS to parents seeking an alternate school for their children, especially those who live in the BCPS district. "It actually is a good school district,' she said Friday. "They are trying to do the best they can with the available resources they have. (Battle Creek Enquirer)


Look up 2017 SAT scores for Michigan high schools

Michigan's average total SAT score climbed to 1007.6, up from about 1001 last year, according to data recently released by the Michigan Department of Education. This marks the second year Michigan's high school juniors have taken the SAT, which serves as a college entrance exam and a state English language arts and math assessment. The total score runs from a low of 400 to a high of 1600. In addition to the increase in Michigan's total score, the state's average score in reading and math increased as well. (MLive)


Michigan lawmaker pushing for revised A-F school accountability system

Saying Michigan's federal education plan doesn't give parents the information they need about school performance, state Rep. Tim Kelly on Thursday announced he'll push for an A-F letter grade system in the Michigan Legislature. "We need to get serious about accountability, and I think that includes an A-F," said Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, speaking during a joint meeting with the House Education Reform and subcommittee on School Aid and Appropriations. (MLive)


Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost.

toss a dart at a map of Detroit, and the bull’s-eye, more or less, would be a tiny city called Highland Park. Only three square miles, Highland Park is surrounded by Detroit on nearly all sides, but it remains its own sovereign municipality thanks largely to Henry Ford, who started building Model Ts there in 1910. Ford didn’t care for the idea of paying Detroit taxes, so he pressured Highland Park to resist annexation by the larger city. By the end of the decade, his Albert Kahn-designed factory had revolutionized mass production. Five years later, Walter Chrysler started his own car company a few blocks away. (New York Times)


The Lansing Pathways Promise school millage is hard at work

Opinion: It’s an exciting time to be part of the Lansing School District. The Lansing Pathways Promise school millage, approved for $120 million by voters in May 2016, is already yielding results for the more than 11,000 students in the district ... and it's only going to get better. Lansing students returning to Riddle and Averill elementary schools this week were greeted with building improvements – such as new paint, flooring and windows – that were completed over the summer. (Lansing State Journal)


Seeking answers to improve Michigan’s schools

Opinion: For both of us, education has been our preoccupation in pushing for policies that will make Michigan a better place to live. We’ve watched three consecutive governors declare education as their priority. We’ve weighed their initiatives to change school governance and the classroom experience, to hold teachers and school districts accountable, to take over local systems and to break out schools for special attention. Over nearly 20 years, Michigan has set lofty five- and 10-year goals for matching the performance of the nation’s best achieving states. Plan after plan has been rolled out for getting there. (Detroit News)


10 things you need to know about the new school year in Michigan

The kids look spiffy in their new back-to-school gear. Now that they're off for the first day of school, it's time to set aside the school-supply lists and focus on what's ahead for K-12 education in Michigan. Some kids are going to learn lessons that could help them save lives. It'll be another fresh start for the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Schools will be better able to battle opioid addiction. And they'll be trying new approaches to discipline. For most of the state's 1.5 million public school children, the 2017-18 school year begins today. Here are 10 things you need to know: (Detroit Free Press)


Summer vacation ends for 13K Battle Creek-area students

Summer vacation ended Tuesday for around 13,000 Battle Creek-area students, but no one seemed more thrilled on the first day of school than the school administrators and teachers who welcomed them back to their buildings. New Lakeview Superintendent Blake Prewitt started his day at 6:30 a.m. in the bus garage to make a point that everyone in his district — bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, principals and teachers — is important. (Battle Creek Enquirer)


Students excited to start at updated Port Huron schools

PORT HURON TWP. - A week ago, Alison Mullin didn’t think Michigamme Elementary School would be ready by the first day. Carpeting wasn’t put down, some windows were still being installed, and the office was not completed. However, everything was ready by the time students walked through the doors on Tuesday. “When I walked in the building today, it was unbelievable,” said Mullin, a social worker for Michigamme, Indian Woods Elementary and Central Middle School. (Port Huron Times Herald)


5 reasons (non)parents hate the start of the school year

Opinion: Tuesday is the first day of school for most students around here. Some, though, are already back in session. Parents are celebrating and school staffs are groaning. But whether or not you have school-age kids of your own, the start of school impacts just about everybody. I have no children of my own, so getting thrown into the turmoil of the back-to-school frenzy is enough to make my hairs stand on end. (Observer & Eccentric)


Betsy DeVos' history volunteering in Grand Rapids school featured on This American Life

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' history of volunteering at a public school in Grand Rapids got a mention on nationally-syndicated radio program This American Life over the weekend.  In the segment that aired Sunday, titled "Vouching Towards Bethlehem," producer Susan Burton highlights DeVos' experience working at Burton Elementary School, a K-5 elementary school in Grand Rapids Public Schools. Burton reported DeVos was a mentor at the school for five years through the organization Kids Hope USA starting in 2003. (MLive)


Report finds chronic absenteeism a problem in Michigan schools

At 660 schools in the state of Michigan, more than 30% of the students are chronically absent, according to a newly released report  on chronic absenteeism in the nation's schools. That number — which represents 19% of all schools in Michigan — puts the state well above the national average for the percent of schools with extreme levels of chronic absenteeism. The national average is 11%. "When that high of a level of churn is happening, it's both affecting the kids who are chronically absent, but it's also affecting the ability of the school and the teacher to create a meaningful educational experience," said Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works. (Detroit Free Press)


Will your kid pass 3rd grade? It depends on Lansing

What should we make of test scores that fall, year after year — a nearly 6 percentage-point drop in third-grade reading proficiency across the state since 2015 alone — in a state where fewer than 50% of children are testing at grade level in any subject? Nothing good.  The number of kids who do proficient work in reading on the MSTEP dropped statewide, from 47.3% of students in grades three-eight  passing in 2016 to 45.9% this year. The number of students scoring proficient on the science test are also down, a little, and math and social studies are up, a little. (Detroit Free Press)


We shouldn’t rest until every kid can read

Opinion: Addie starts school Tuesday, taking that big, bittersweet step toward growing up. I asked my granddaughter what she was going to do in her kindergarten class, and she gave me a Christmas Eve smile and answered, “I’m going to learn to read.” I’m confident she will. Not just because she’s a bright child. She will be attending a good school, with the resources and committed teachers necessary to deliver a quality education. And she’ll be supported at home by educated parents who will stand by her throughout her school years. But I also know there are many other children starting their first day of school just as hopeful and excited as she is, who will never learn to read as well as demanded to be successful in life. (Detroit News)


Bishop announces new plan to shape the future of Catholic schools

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Most Reverend David Walkowiak, bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, recently announced a new strategic plan for Catholic schools aimed at shaping the direction of the programs over the next five years. "Catholic Schools: Bridging Faith and Future,'' is in the beginning stages of implementation and is helping the diocese realize its vision of an alliance of Catholic schools expanding outstanding educational ministry, officials say. Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School announced a community-wide $10 million fundraising effort to transform the learning experience on its downtown campus. (MLive)


Lunch and breakfast will be free for all in Comstock Public Schools

COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP - Comstock Public Schools says breakfasts and lunches will be available free of cost to all students in the district during the 2017-18 school year. That is a result of the district's participation this year - and possibly for the next few years -- in a national school lunch and breakfast program called the Community Eligibility Provision. It is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that works with the State of Michigan to administer the School Nutrition Program. It already provides free and reduced-price lunches to income-eligible students as well as a free breakfast program. Comstock Public Schools calls its breakfast program the Universal Breakfast Program. (MLive)


M-STEP results in Michigan: Troubling trend revealed

Michigan's elementary and middle school students are slowly making gains in math and social studies on the state's tough standardized exam. But a troubling trend is obvious in results released Tuesday: That progress is overshadowed by declines nearly across the board in reading and writing, as well as continued struggles in science. The declines in reading and writing couldn't come at a worse time, given the state is upping the stakes and requiring schools, with some exceptions, to hold back students whose performance indicate they're not reading at grade level. Those rules kick in during the 2019-20 school year. (Detroit Free Press)

Related stories:

> Detroit News: Less than half of third-graders proficient in English

> MLive: 'Disappointing' reading scores and other takeaways from new M-STEP results

> Detroit News: Michigan weighs next step after M-STEP

> MLive: 50 school districts where fewest students passed M-STEP reading test

> MLive: 50 school districts where most students passed M-STEP reading test


Here are Michigan's top SAT scoring high schools

Quick, what do the top scoring Michigan high schools on the SAT have in common?

They have a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum. They're more likely to be part of the International Baccalaureate program. They're more likely to be an early college. And they have fewer needy students than the average school in the state. Here are the top-scoring public schools, with their average SAT score this year and the number of students tested. 1. International Academy, Bloomfield Hills, 1329, 374. 2. International Academy of Macomb, Clinton Township, 1287, 112 (Detroit Free Press)


BCPS stakes reputation on 'Goals for Greatness', scorecard

Battle Creek Public Schools officials asked parents, students and community members earlier this year to share their concerns about the district. Hundreds did through an online survey, community focus groups and individual interviews. Board of Education members responded to their concerns at their regular monthly meeting on Monday. They approved a set of goals and signed off on a scorecard to hold themselves accountable to the community. (Battle Creek Enquirer)


Howell teachers have new contract; Brighton teachers vote today

One Livingston County school district has a new teacher contract while a second could follow suit today. The Howell Public Schools Board of Education approved a two-year contract during a special board meeting Monday while Brighton Education Association members should have a decision Tuesday on a proposed one-year contract that the district’s Board of Education approved also on Monday. (Livingston County Daily Press & Argus)


10 facts about demographics of Michigan school districts

Curious about the median family income in your school district? Wonder what percentage of kids go to private schools? Michigan school district data tells us something about students -- for instance, their race and whether they qualify for subsidized lunch -- but for more specific demographics, we need to turn to the U.S. Census Bureau. Using five-year averages from its annual American Community Surveys, the Census offers estimates for each school district on a variety of topics, from median family income, to  percentage of adults with a college degree, to the number of single-parent homes. (MLive)

Related story:

> MLive: See median income, other demographics of your Michigan school district


Michigan schools recently targeted for closure start new year under state 'partnership'

It was the first day of school at Muskegon Heights Academy, and Superintendent Rane Garcia was ready to get to work. The hallways were clean and polished, teachers had completed their professional development - and now it was time to greet students. "Let's go, guys!," Garcia exclaimed as the first children approached, kicking off the district's annual first day 'fist bump,' where school staff and community members line up outside the building to greet students.         The spirited welcome was an important moment for the academy. (MLive)


See what percentage of Kent, Ottawa graduates were 'college ready'

Schools in West Michigan and across the country are moving to adopt college-and career-ready accountability systems, under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Educators say the goal has always been for public school students to graduate high school ready for college or a career.Fifteen of the 20 Kent ISD district are resuming classes before Labor Day for academic gains. Students in six districts headed back to school, Monday, Aug. 28: Grand Rapids, Forest Hills, Rockford, Caledonia, Northview, and Kenowa Hills. (MLive)


Grand Rapids police adding officers for a safe start to school Monday

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky said there will be extra police officers on duty on Monday, August 28, concentrated on the school zones as thousands of students resume class at Grand Rapids Public Schools. "People are going to be surprised Monday morning driving to work that school is in session, if they are driving through school zones," said Rahinsky, during a press conference at Campus Elementary with Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal and Chief of Staff Larry Johnson, who also oversees public safety and security. (MLive)


What parents need to know as Michigan's 3rd grade reading law takes effect

The reading skills of Michigan's youngest learners will be front and center in classrooms across the state this school year. A new law aimed at improving early literacy is going into effect, requiring that students in grades K-3 be formally tested in reading at least three times per-year, including once within the first 30 days of school - though many districts say they have already been doing so for some time. Individualized improvement plans must be created to help students who are struggling. (MLive)

Related story:

> MLive: As early literacy law takes effect, see 3rd grade reading scores at your school


West Ottawa schools, teachers union, agree to 4-year contract

HOLLAND, MI - The union representing the teachers of West Ottawa Public Schools reached a four-year agreement with the district for a new contract through the 2020-21 school year. The terms of the contract extension call for a step increase for teachers plus a 1 percent cost of living increase for each of the four years of the agreement with changes to the health insurance provided for teachers. "This agreement provides stability for the West Ottawa teachers, but the base teacher salary will likely increase by less than inflation for the next four years,'' said Mary DePree, President of the West Ottawa Education Association. (MLive)


Transgender students OK to use Grass Lake school bathroom of gender they identify as

GRASS LAKE, MI - Transgender students in Grass Lake Community Schools can continue using the bathroom of the gender they identify as, but changes are being made to ensure the privacy of all students. The Grass Lake School Board announced Monday, Aug. 21, it will continue to follow a December 2016 ruling made by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The court's decision is a guideline to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. The district will follow that ruling until it's either supported or overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, Grass Lake Superintendent Ryle Kiser said. (MLive)


Students back in class today in 5 Kent ISD districts

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Most students in the Kent Intermediate School District  won't be spending the final days of August at the park, mall or beach, but back in the classroom. On Monday, Aug. 21, thousands of kids from five districts are the earliest to return to class in Grandville, Godfrey Lee, Comstock Park, Godwin Heights and Thornapple Kellogg. This year, 15 of 20 Kent ISD districts and one in the Ottawa Area ISD will begin class prior to the traditional after Labor Day start. Last year, only Rockford and Holland schools had an early start, after receiving the required waiver from the Michigan Department of Education. (MLive)


Kalamazoo teachers unhappy with contract talks

KALAMAZOO, MI -- With a new school year just around the corner, Kalamazoo teachers are unhappy with how negotiations for a new contract are going. The last contract expired Wednesday, Aug. 16, and three more negotiation sessions are scheduled before school starts again on Sept. 5. Dozens of educators picketed outside the administration building before Thursday's board meeting to highlight their displeasure with the state of the contract talks, Kalamazoo Education Association President Amanda Miller said. "Teachers aren't being prioritized in the budget," Miller said. (MLive)


Education decline imperils gains in Michigan

Opinion: ‘Is the American dream dying in Michigan,” asked the subject line of an email that arrived Thursday morning. The second: “Can our education system resuscitate it?” Not very easily, judging by the numbers Public Sector Consultants harvested from a report it helped produce for the governor’s 21st Century Education Commission. It’s grim reading. “Until we are honest about current performance in our state,” it says, “we cannot demand the changes our education system needs to more effectively support today’s kindergarteners and tomorrow’s college students.” Exactly right. (Detroit News)


Schools must provide pencils, won't erase supply lists

Hundreds of people lined up Wednesday outside McMorran Place to ensure their children will have school supplies before returning to the classroom. But according to Michigan law, giveaways such as this one aren't necessary — and neither are teachers' back-to-school shopping lists. State law requires school districts to provide students with all supplies — down to the last eraser.  The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 1970 that requiring a child to bring his or her own supplies to school a violation of the constitution — a free public education is supposed to be free.  (Port Huron Times Herald)


Rigorous test poses challenges to Michigan's English language learners

Each year, students across Michigan with a limited grasp of English take a test gauging whether they are ready to transition out of programs or services designed to build their language skills. Typically, between 13 and 15 percent of students receive an overall score that’s high enough to do so. But for the 2016-17 school year, once the scoring system on the English-proficiency test was made more rigorous, less than one percent of the 97,221 Michigan students who took the exam reached the minimum score, according to data from the Michigan Department of Education. (MLive)


Teachers, hold up under pressure

Opinion: In a few weeks, my six years as MEA’s president comes to an end. Reflecting on everything that’s occurred during this turbulent time — including unprecedented political attacks on the education profession — I’m struck by two things. First, the resilience of MEA’s members, this union, and the labor movement in the face of these threats has been remarkable. Many believed we wouldn’t still be around to stand up for workers, families, and public education — and they were wrong. Second is the commonality of these attacks and the prevailing political belief behind them — that the almighty dollar is more important than people. We must stay focused on fighting that world view, especially in the way it’s been pushed by forces such as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Gov. Rick Snyder, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, and Attorney General Bill Schuette. (Detroit News)


Transgender student's bathroom rights debated by parents in Grass Lake

GRASS LAKE, MI - Opinions on which bathroom a 9-year-old transgender student should use when school starts next week brought more than 100 people to the Grass Lake School Board meeting Monday. In a packed room at George Long Elementary School, the board listened to more than 25 residents at its Aug. 14 meeting. Classes resume in Grass Lake and the rest of Jackson County on Aug. 23. The debate originates from the school's decision last year to allow a transgender student to use the boys' bathroom. (MLive)


House Democrats push African-American history mandate following Charlottesville violence

Following last weekend's violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Democrats in the Michigan House of Representatives are pushing for legislation requiring African-American history be taught in all public schools, saying education is key to eliminating racism. "We all have to do a better job of getting to know each other and understand each other," said Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, the lead sponsor of the bill. "But it starts in our schools in educating children properly so they're able to push back when they here lies pushed forward about different races of people." Her legislation, introduced in March, would require that students in all grade levels be taught about the history and contributions of African-Americans in the development of the U.S. and the world. (MLive)


Grand Rapids schools asking voters for an operating cash renewal

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Grand Rapids school leaders can't say enough about the importance of the renewal of the non-homestead operating millage on the ballot Tuesday, Nov. 7. Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal said the 18-mill operating levy is vital to the district because it represents more than $27 million that goes into the budget to support teaching and learning. "This is not a new tax and it is not a tax that homeowners pay,'' she said. "If it is not renewed, we would be forced to make devastating cuts that would destabilize the district, disrupt our children's education, and really negatively impact the success of the GRPS Transformation Plan.'' (Detroit Free Press)


How Michigan students benefit from after-school programs on the chopping block by Trump administration

When Aniel Rosario and his family moved to Grand Rapids from the Dominican Republic in 2016, the third-grader at Burton Elementary/Middle school couldn't speak much English. Now, about a year later, the nine year old is making big progress, his mother and teachers say. They delight as he talks excitedly about the day's lesson - using Legos to learn about math and engineering - at LOOP, an after school and extended learning program hosted by Grand Rapids Public Schools that serves low-income students. "Before he started this program, he didn't know how to speak English," his mother, Alida Sanchez, said through an interpreter. "So the fact that he even has the confidence to talk with you about these things is incredible." (MLive)


Memphis schools sinking fund approved by voters

Voters narrowly approved a sinking fund for Memphis Community Schools Tuesday. The 1 mill tax request was approved 445 to 412, according to Riley Township officials. Superintendent Brad Gudme has said the tax will fund projects ranging from an improved, secure entrance at the district’s junior/senior high school — safety being something he added to be their first priority — to parking lot improvements and more. "Very excited, and thankful for everybody getting out to the polls for us," Gudme said. "Could not be happier." (Port Huron Times Herald)


Michigan's school compliance plan requires 'extensive revisions,' feds say

Michigan's federal school compliance plan requires "extensive revisions" and includes "insufficient information" on its proposed accountability system and other key areas, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In a letter to state Superintendent Brian Whiston dated Aug. 4, Acting Assistant Secretary of Education Jason Botel said Michigan's federal Every Student Succeeds Act plan "does not fully describe" how it will meet requirements on a portion of the law covering statewide accountability systems, challenging academic standards and assessments, and school support and improvement activities. (MLive)


Jackson County superintendent leaving for job up north

MICHIGAN CENTER, MI - After nearly seven years at the helm of Michigan Center Schools, Scott Koziol is stepping down. Koziol, who became the district's superintendent in January 2011, is leaving to become director of instructional services for the Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District. His ending date in Michigan Center and start date in Charlevoix still is pending, Koziol said. At its Monday, Aug. 14 meeting, the Michigan Center School Board is expected to finalize plans for an interim superintendent. At a meeting Thursday, Aug. 3, the board appointed its president, Rex Blakeman, and treasurer, Mike Edwards, to meet with Michigan Center Junior High School Principal Brady Cook about the position, Koziol said. (MLive)


What happened to the closed school in your neighborhood?

The Grand Rapids School Board approved closing 10 school buildings at the end of the 2012-13 school year. The closings were part of Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal’s Transformation Plan that called for investing in programs that were performing well, discontinuing those that were ineffective, offering more school choices to retain and recruit families, and right-sizing to reflect a significant decline in enrollment. Chief Financial Officer Larry Oberst said the district doe not actively market its buildings but periodically receive unsolicited offers. The school board is currently getting new appraisals on vacant schools, after receiving a few offers over the last year. (MLive)


State: Hartland school board mass mailing violated law

State officials say Hartland Consolidated Schools Board of Education members violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act in a mass mailing sent to voters. The state Bureau of Elections determined school board members failed to identify who paid for a letter mailed to 385 voters in the district, and that the board failed to file an independent expenditure report disclosing how much was spent on the mailing.  The letter at issue asked voters to vote yes on a May 2 ballot proposal for a sinking fund tax for building and security improvements. It was signed by the board's seven members.  (Livingston County Daily Press & Argus)


Let schools start as early as they want

Opinion: Given Michigan’s lackluster school performance compared with most other states and countries, school districts should have every tool possible to improve student achievement. One of those tools is extending the school year, and that means the ability to start prior to Labor Day. The summer brain drain for kids is real, and the best way to combat it is with shorter summer breaks. Yet for more than a decade, K-12 districts have operated under an unnecessary law telling them they can’t. In 40 states, districts can set their own start time, and many choose to begin in August. Only two others demand post-Labor Day starts. (Detroit News)



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