Contents of this issue:


  • Math scores up, writing weakest link
  • Schools claim robotics title
  • Schools-of-choice racism alleged, denied
  • Stimulus money comes with warning
  • Tuition tax credit programs inch up

MATH SCORES UP, WRITING WEAKEST LINK


LANSING, Mich. - Math scores rose while reading results were mixed and other subjects showed little change on this year's Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests, according to a report from the Michigan Department of Education and media reports.

More than 75 percent of students statewide in grades 3-8 tested as "proficient or above" on the math tests given in the fall of 2008, the report said. Third-graders posted the highest number, at 91 percent proficient or better, while seventh-graders showed the most math improvement, with 83 percent rated proficient or better this year compared to 73 percent a year ago. Test results are reported in four categories: Not Proficient, Partially Proficient, Proficient and Advanced.

Reading proficiency showed little change, except among seventh-graders, who moved from a total of 72 percent proficient or above to 79 percent, the report showed. Third grade also posted the highest reading scores, at 87 percent proficiency statewide. Science and social science showed no variations of more than 2 percentage points from a year ago.

Writing was the weakest link. While scores rose by an average 2.5 percentage points across all grades, overall proficiency ranged from only 44 percent in fourth grade to 78 percent in seventh grade. Also, only about 5 percent of the total elementary population earned an "advanced score" on the writing test, the report shows.

"Certainly, this is great news," State Board of Education President Kathleen N. Straus said in a department press release. "We have raised our standards and more of our students are achieving them."

Proficiency levels are a major part in determining if schools make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

SOURCES:
Michigan Department of Education, "State test scores show increase in math for fourth straight year,"
April 2, 2008

The Detroit News, "MEAP shows math gains,"
April 3, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "MEAP writing test written off,"
March 31, 2009


SCHOOLS CLAIM ROBOTICS TITLE


YPSILANTI, Mich. -  Students from Utica, Milford Huron Valley and Pontiac Northern high schools teamed up to win the state championship in the FIRST Robotics competition on Saturday, according to a press release and media reports.

FIRST Robotics - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology - is akin to a varsity sport for engineering, science and math, according to a press release from FIRST in Michigan. Teams of students build robots which compete on a large playing field, complete with referees, scoreboards and time clocks, the release said.

This year's competition required robots to pick up and dump 9-inch game balls into goals hitched to their opponents' robots, the release explained.

Rather than one-on-one competition, teams from three schools join forces to compete against other triads. The schools listed above were the winning allies this year. Runners up were the Fremont, Berkley and Grand Rapids Creston high schools alliance, the release said.

The Grand Rapids Press reported that a robot built by students at Grand River Preparatory High School in Kentwood took Rookie All-Star honors at the event.

SOURCES:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Kentwood school's robot advances to world championship,"
April 6, 2009

FIRST in Michigan, "Teams from Milford, Utica and Pontiac Northern High School Win FIRST Robotics State Championship,"
April 5, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "It's hard, but it's fun: Project seeks to enlarge ranks of scientists, engineers,"
July 15, 2008


SCHOOLS-OF-CHOICE RACISM ALLEGED, DENIED


MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. - Accusations and denials of racism erupted at a Madison District Public Schools town hall meeting last Wednesday, where the topic was whether to allow more schools-of-choice students to enroll, according to a report by television station WJBK-Fox 2, Detroit.

Superintendent John Telford told Fox 2 News that in order to stay fiscally solvent, the district needs to raise the cap on the number of students it accepts from other districts, adding that "the obvious place to get them is Detroit."

Some Madison Heights residents say the district cannot accommodate more students and denied charges that race is the reason they oppose lifting the cap, the station reported. But Telford said one parent told him that she does not want her child to attend school with black students, according to the report.

Some Detroit Public Schools residents who attended the event said the Madison district should stop recruiting Detroit students, with one woman saying, "Leave our children where they're at."

Telford told WJBK that Detroit parents have sought out the school district, "almost in desperation."

SOURCE:
WJBK-Fox 2, "Sides clash at heated school meeting,"
April 1, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Enrollment down, choice and charters up,"
Sept. 29, 2008


STIMULUS MONEY COMES WITH WARNING


WASHINGTON - The first $44 billion in federal education stimulus money is now available to states, but U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will want detailed reports on how it is used, the Associated Press reported.

According to a chart on the U.S. Department of Education Web site, Michigan is eligible to receive nearly $1.5 billion in the initial release of funds. The largest portion, about $1 billion, is allocated through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, intended first to backfill any cuts in school foundation grants.

But loopholes created by Congress could let states and school districts spend the money on such things as playground equipment or new construction, according to the AP. It also could let lawmakers cut state-level education funding and replace it with stimulus dollars, leaving school districts with no additional money, the report said.

Duncan said last week he will withhold further funding - a second round of stimulus aid will be released later this year - from states straying from the goals of education reform and teacher job protection, the AP reported.

Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina has refused to take the money because he can't use it to pay down debt, according to the article.

To get the second round of aid, states must report on: teacher quality and evaluation systems, comparisons between state and national test data, school restructuring under No Child Left Behind, charter schools and how many high school graduates earn at least some college credit.

SOURCES:
The Associated Press, "Schools to begin receiving economic stimulus money,"
April 1, 2009

U.S. Department of Education, "Budget News,"
(accessed April 7, 2009)

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Must schools use money to keep teachers?"
March 13, 2009


TUITION TAX CREDIT PROGRAMS INCH UP


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Fourteen states offer programs that provide financial support for parents to enroll their K-12 children in private schools, according to a new federal tally. The U.S. Department of Education report was cited in the latest newsletter of the Council for American Private Education.

The number of assistance programs, typically tax credits, tax deductions or scholarship-like aid, has inched up from 22 to 24 since 2007, the report said. Between August 2007 and December 2008, three new programs in Georgia and Louisiana were added and a Utah program was repealed, for a net increase of two.

The federal report also noted that parents have more choices in the public education sector, including growing numbers of charter, virtual and magnet schools.

The report, available online, lists and describes assistance programs in the respective states, including numbers of participants and average or maximum awards. Michigan does not offer a tax credit or tuition assistance program.

SOURCES:
Council for American Private Education, "CAPEnotes,"
April 2009

U.S. Department of Education, "Educational Options in the States,"
February 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Universal Tuition Tax Credit: A Proposal to Advance Parental Choice in Education,"
Nov. 13, 1997


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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