Contents of this issue:


  • MEAP writing test written off
  • Future teachers eye education reform
  • MEA pension plan set aside
  • Judge agrees with Vestaburg on bond issue
  • DFT: Change attitude on charters?

MEAP WRITING TEST WRITTEN OFF


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Faced with declining scores on last fall's exam, state education officials have decided not to test most elementary students in writing on the next Michigan Educational Assessment Program test, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Last fall's writing results have not been made public, but Michigan Department of Education staff confirmed that far fewer students earned advanced scores than in previous years, The Press reported.

Instead of testing all third- through eighth-graders in writing, only fourth and seventh-graders will be tested next year, The Press reported. The state also will work on a new, all-student test.

Educators told The Press that while few Kent County students reached the top level on last fall's writing exam, they also believe that money was a likely factor in the switch. The writing exam is the only state test that cannot be graded by computer.

"No. 1, this is about money," Jon Felske, superintendent for Wyoming and Godwin Heights schools, told The Press. "Watch. The test will go away next year and they'll come back with a new one that will be totally multiple choice."

Michigan Educational Assessment Program test results are used in determining whether schools meet federal goals mandated in the No Child Left Behind Act, The Press reported. Poor test results can lead to sanctions.

Teachers who created the exams set the bar too high, Joseph Martineau, the state's director of educational assessment and accountability, told the state Board of Education, according to The Press. He also said the exam is unreliable and that it would be better to have students take longer, more in-depth exams in grades four and seven, the article said.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "MEAP essay exam sacked, but officials question if it's about money or problems with the test,"
March 29, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "The shell game of making AYP,"
March 18, 2009


FUTURE TEACHERS EYE EDUCATION REFORM


ANN ARBOR, Mich. - A University of Michigan student wants other aspiring teachers to join him in a club that would address their concerns with teacher preparation, according to a report in The Michigan Daily, the campus newspaper.

Dave Metler, a senior in the School of Education, has founded the Michigan Education Reform Club to bring together undergraduates and education professionals for discussions about best practices and teacher preparation, he told the Daily.

"I think reform begins with ourselves first," Metler said. "There is no consensus in the nation for how to prepare teachers. I am working with the club in developing an assessment of the science of education that kind of sets standards for teacher prep. ... We are trying to identify the high leverage practices that we need to master as teachers."

U-M Education Dean Deborah Ball already is heading a project to reform teaching practices within the School of Education, she told The Daily, but said that Metler's club would be a practical supplement.

Metler has already contacted members of Illinois State University's club, Urban Needs in Teacher Education, for advice, The Daily reported. He also is working with Kappa Delta Phi, an education honor society, and the Student Michigan Education Association.

SOURCE:
The Michigan Daily, "Student group aims to reform the education profession,"
March 25, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Teacher Quality Primer,"
June 30, 2008


MEA PENSION PLAN SET ASIDE


LANSING, Mich. - A plan to boost teacher pensions as a way to move near-retirees out of the system has been shelved in the state Senate, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Authored by the Michigan Education Association, the plan had some bipartisan support, but Senate Education Committee Chairman Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, put it aside after a study showed it could cost up to $4 billion over 30 years, the Free Press reported.

The plan would have boosted pensions for up to 29,000 eligible school retirees if they retired soon, according to the article, opening up those jobs for younger teachers at lower pay.

MEA spokesman Ed Sarpolus told the Free Press that the plan had plenty of support in the Legislature but was tangled in election politics.

"The proposal was well-intentioned but too costly," said Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, the Free Press reported.

SOURCE:
The Detroit Free Press, "Plan to boost some Michigan teacher pensions dies,"
March 29, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Pension plan too costly, administrators say,"
Feb. 3, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Pension Boost Proposal Exposes Political System's Dysfunctions,"
March 16, 2009


JUDGE AGREES WITH VESTABURG ON BOND ISSUE


LANSING, Mich. - Vestaburg Community Schools won a round in its battle to put a bond issue before the voters, according to a report in the Greenville Daily News.

A circuit court judge has ordered the Michigan Department of Treasury to prequalify the district's bonds so that it could place the $9 million request on the May 5 ballot, the Daily News reported. Prequalification is required by law, according to the article.

District voters will be asked to extend an existing building and site millage by 18 years, with a new expiration date of 2044; the money would be used for safety and energy efficiency upgrades to two buildings, according to the Daily News.

The judge ruled that the state's refusal to grant Vestaburg schools access to a state-guaranteed, low-interest loan program was unconstitutional and denied the district "equal opportunity," the Daily News reported. The district had alleged that the state arbitrarily changed the way in which it applied the prequalification statutes.

In a separate report, treasury department spokesman Terry Stanton told the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc. that the department is reviewing its options. The department refused to prequalify the loan based on the district's borrowing history, MIRS reported. State law requires districts to pay off prior borrowings before borrowing again, but in Vestaburg's case it had repaid a state loan with a third-party loan, and the original debt was not yet paid in full, the report said.

SOURCES:
The Greenville Daily News, "Vestaburg wins millage lawsuit,"
March 25, 2009

Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., "School beats Treasury in court on bonding flap,"
March 26, 2009
(Subscription required)

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "School property taxes could increase $5.5 billion over 10 years," Sept. 8, 2002


DFT: CHANGE ATTITUDE ON CHARTERS?


DETROIT - Members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers will vote April 2 on whether to end their opposition to charter schools, according to a Detroit News editorial. The change in attitude rests on the need to boost DFT membership by organizing charter school teachers, The News said, but could also have the effect of increasing the number of charters as well as education reforms like teacher merit pay.

The union has stood against charters for 14 years and has been a significant obstacle to efforts to lift the state cap on the number of charter schools, The News said. Most Michigan charter school employees are not unionized; the schools operate independently under the terms of a contract issued by a state university.

The editorial noted that DFT membership numbers are falling as students leave the system and the state.

DFT President Keith Johnson encouraged members to support the change, according to The News, saying that, "If we don't do it, it would open the way for the MEA (the rival Michigan Education Association) to organize charters when our membership is shrinking."

The News said that if teacher unions want to organize charter school teachers, they should be required to adopt flexible, modern bargaining contracts.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, "Editorial: Detroit teachers should vote for education's future,"
March 26, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Charter report favorable, state board wants more,"
Feb. 24, 2009


MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at
mailto:med@educationreport.org

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