A new state superintendent of public instruction has been chosen by the state Board of Education. Michael Flanagan, who headed the Michigan Association of School Administrators at the time of his appointment, beat out 29 applicants and earned the support of the board in May to be selected for the post. (see "State board hires new ed chief")
A March Wayne State University study highlighting Michigan’s graduation rate says that the state ranks 37th in the nation in the number of residents with college degrees. A Detroit Free Press article citing the study revealed that 24.4 percent of Michigan residents over age 25 have at least a bachelor’s degree. The nationwide average of residents with degrees, according to the study, is 27.7 percent. Border states Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as Illinois and Minnesota all have higher rates.
Education reformer, philanthropist and Wal-Mart heir John Walton was killed in June when the ultra-light plane he was piloting crashed near Jackson Hole, Wyo. The Walton Family Foundation, under John’s leadership, has made major contributions to primary education since 1987 — building schools, and spearheading school voucher and charter school movements. In a 2004 Fortune Magazine profile, Walton said, "Our family has come to the conclusion that there is no other single area of activity that would have the breadth of impact that improving K-through-12 education in America would have." Walton was 58 years old.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced in April that the state of Connecticut was filing a lawsuit challenging the No Child Left Behind Act for allegedly requiring states to pay millions of their own dollars to meet federal testing requirements. Blumenthal accuses the federal government of not providing funds he says are guaranteed by the act. He is inviting other states to join the challenge. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox’s office told Gongwer News Service that Michigan was not involved in the suit.
A new Web site functioning as a school data repository is online, according to Education Week. The site, www.schoolmatters.com, was developed by Standard & Poor’s — the prominent stock and bond indexer — to allow for greater consolidation of American schools’ statistical data. The data provided will include both academic and financial metrics on each public school district in the U.S., thus providing benchmarks by which districts may be compared.
Chicago’s Elementary School District 33 saved $200,000 by switching health care providers, according to the Chicago Tribune. A new Blue Cross Blue Shield plan costs the district $1.5 million less than their prior annual estimate, leaving enough savings to cover a $1.3 million budget deficit. School officials told the Tribune that with the new provider, they would be able to maintain their class sizes and all current programs and services.
According to an Associated Press report, grading papers with red ink is becoming inappropriate for the classroom in certain schools around the country. Parents in school districts nationwide began complaining that the color red was too negative and caused stress to students when teachers returned the marked-up homework. Leading pen manufacturers such as Bic have reported that they are producing more purple pens, as this color seems to be becoming the new favorite of teachers who are trying to create an impression of giving constructive criticism to students.
Last February, the nation’s governors held an education summit in order to develop a plan to improve high schools. One of the guest speakers was Microsoft Founder & Chairman Bill Gates, who announced the creation of a $42 million program to help raise high school graduation rates and prepare students for college, according to Education Week. Mr. Gates’ announcement came during an address in which he stated that America’s high schools are "obsolete," saying that, "Training the workforce of tomorrow with today’s high schools is like trying to teach kids about today’s computers on a 50-year-old mainframe."
The vast majority of college and university professors are left of the political center, according to research spotlighted by The Seattle Times. The study, published in April and based on a survey of 183 schools and over 1,600 university faculty members, records that 72 percent of university instructors describe themselves as "liberal," and 15 percent as "conservative." Democrats accounted for 50 percent and Republicans 11 percent of total respondents. Robert Lichter, one of the study’s authors told The Times, "There was no field we studied in which there were more conservatives than liberals or more Republicans than Democrats."
A Harvard Study documenting high school graduation rates based on race provides evidence of the continued existence of an "achievement gap." The study, produced by the Harvard Civil Rights Project and reported on by the Los Angeles Times, reports that only 68 percent of all students nationwide graduate on time. In one state, California, African Americans and Latinos displayed graduation rates of 57 and 60 percent respectively, whereas 78 percent of white students and 84 percent of Asians graduated on time in 2002.
The newest version of the SAT raised the top possible score from 1600 to 2400 due to a new three-section format that replaces the traditional two-part exam. The updated test contains portions for writing, critical reading and math, each graded on a 200-800 point scale. According to The Dallas Morning News, some students are finding the approximately 4-hour test too long, indicating that their concentration waned as they completed the exam.
Training programs for principals and superintendents are under fire from a new Columbia University report. The Education School Project, a report written by Columbia Teachers College President Arthur E. Levine, concluded after four years of research covering 28 education schools that administrator preparation programs are "inadequate" or even "appalling," reports Education Week. Training programs were evaluated on the basis of their content, policies, students and funding.
A survey by Public Agenda reveals attitudes toward college among young adults, reports the Associated Press. The survey group polled 1,000 adults ages 18 to 25 in random phone interviews in order to gather data about the general outlook of college-aged people regarding college. Overall, two out of three young adults will participate in some form of higher education, according to the U.S. Census. Most respondents said that they saw college "as a way to earn society’s respect and ensure financial security."
An analysis of inner-city teacher turnover is highlighting a severe problem, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now studied 64 Chicago schools over the course of three years. They found that 39 percent of first-year teachers at these schools do not return for a second year. According to the report, the national average is 15 percent.
An EPIC-MRA opinion poll that asked parents about the value of education recently received attention when media reports suggested that only 27 percent of Michigan parents believe a good education is essential for getting ahead in life. However, a comprehensive review of the full survey report shows that 98 percent of parents say that education is important for getting ahead in life — 78 percent labeled it either "important" or "essential." Also, the full report reveals that 87 percent of parents want their children to attend college.
A Newsweek story indexing America’s top 100 schools ranked the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills number two in the country. The rankings were based on a ratio represented by "the number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at a school in 2004 divided by the number or graduating seniors." Michigan placed 11 schools in the top 1000.