MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST August 3, 2010

Paying for reform, smaller board, pre-algebra


Contents of this issue:


  • Will reform proceed without 'Race' money?
  • Lansing board considers downsizing itself
  • States get tougher on merit scholarships
  • Detroit adds seventh-grade pre-algebra
  • Marquette cautious on selling school

WILL REFORM PROCEED WITHOUT 'RACE' MONEY?


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Some Michigan lawmakers say the state should push ahead with education reform even though it did not win "Race to the Top" funding, but a teachers union spokesman says the state may need to reconsider, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

The new laws, intended to strengthen Michigan's application for the federal competitive grant, include raising the dropout age to 18, expanding charter schools and alternative teacher certification, linking teacher and principal evaluations to student test scores and taking over failing schools, The Press reported. The state had hoped to win up to $400 million.

Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, told The Press that he does not want to see the reform package dismantled. Michigan Education Association spokesman Doug Pratt said that lawmakers now have to either pay for the reform plan or consider delaying or dropping parts of it, The Press reported.

Grandville Public Schools Superintendent Ron Caniff said new rules on teacher and administrator evaluations will raise costs and questioned whether those or other measures constitute an unfunded mandate, according to The Press.

State Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Township, told The Press, "That might be a fair conversation to have. But I certainly wouldn't want to see these reforms repealed."

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Should Michigan repeal education reforms after they failed to earn state Race to the Top funding?" July 28, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Michigan out of 'Race'," July 28, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "Michigan's meaningless teacher certification reform," July 27, 2010


LANSING BOARD CONSIDERS DOWNSIZING ITSELF


LANSING, Mich. — Shorter terms and fewer members are two ideas the Lansing School District Board of Education should consider, some board members said at a recent retreat, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Board member Myra Ford, re-elected to a six-year term in November after previously serving from 1980 to 1992, said a four-year term might attract more candidates, the Journal reported.

She also brought up the idea of downsizing from nine members to seven, according to the Journal. Both moves would bring Lansing in line with other mid-Michigan districts, though larger districts like Flint and Grand Rapids also have nine-member boards, the Journal reported.

A longer term gives board members more time to learn the overall operations of larger districts, Robert Ebersole, assistant legal counsel for the Michigan Association of School Boards, told the Journal.

He said it's possible a smaller board might be more efficient, though a larger board could be seen as bringing more viewpoints to the table, the Journal reported.

SOURCE:
Lansing State Journal, "Lansing school board member says board terms should be cut," Aug. 2, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "The proper role of a public school board," June 21, 2010


STATES GET TOUGHER ON MERIT SCHOLARSHIPS


BOULDER, Colo. — A weak economy has led many states besides Michigan to cut back on merit-based college scholarship programs, even though states overall spent 5.6 percent more on all college grants last year, according to a report by Education Week.

As tuition rises and tax revenue falls, states that want to provide scholarships will have to move away from broad programs to more targeted assistance, Paul E. Lingenfelter, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers in Boulder, Colo., told Education Week.

Too many programs help college students who would attend even without assistance, he said, and the design of others give students an incentive to take easier classes in order to remain eligible.

"Everyone is saying this is a terrible thing, but there wasn't the will or the money," Val Meyers, the associate director of the office of financial aid at Michigan State University, told Education Week about the de-funding of the Michigan Promise Scholarship.

Nevada may not renew its merit-based scholarship program after this year; West Virginia and New Jersey upped eligibility and cut awards; and Florida switched to a flat payout rather than percent-of-tuition model, Education Week reported.

SOURCE:
Education Week, "Economy Forces States to Scale Back Scholarship Programs," July 27, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "15 Specific Ideas to Move Michigan Forward," June 7, 2010


DETROIT ADDS SEVENTH-GRADE PRE-ALGEBRA


DETROIT — Detroit Public Schools seventh-graders will be required to take pre-algebra classes beginning this fall, according to a report at Mlive.com.

The move is part of the district's five-year academic improvement plan, which eventually also will require eighth-graders to take Algebra I, Mlive.com reported.

Last year Detroit students registered the lowest math scores in the history of National Assessment of Educational Progress standardized testing, Mlive.com reported. Currently, Detroit seventh-graders learn general math concepts.

Students beginning ninth grade this fall also will be required to take pre-algebra and level-one algebra as part of the five-year plan, the report said.

SOURCE:
Mlive.com, "Detroit Public Schools requiring seventh-graders to take pre-algebra classes," July 30, 2010

FURTHER READING:
MichiganVotes, "2009 Senate Bill 757 (Reduce high school graduation standards)"

www.michiganvotes.org/2009-SB-757


MARQUETTE CAUTIOUS ON SELLING SCHOOL


MARQUETTE, Mich. — The Marquette Township Board wants to turn a former elementary school into a community center, but Marquette Area Public Schools apparently is unwilling to proceed without assurance that the building would not be used by any future occupants as a school, according to The (Houghton) Daily Mining Gazette.

There is "some sensitivity" among school board members related to the sale of a school in a different township that eventually became the site of Crossroads Christian Academy, according to The Gazette.

Marquette Township officials said the school would provide more space for offices and potentially new township services, as well as more technology capabilities, according to The Gazette.

The school building currently is used as a child development center and as office space for nonprofit agencies, The Gazette reported. The district has used federal stimulus money and rental income to offset staff and maintenance costs at the site, but when the stimulus funds are used up, then the district will have to find other resources to pay for upkeep, Superintendent Jon Hartwig said, according to The Gazette.

SOURCE:
The (Houghton) Daily Mining Gazette, "MAPS, township begin talks on former Vandenboom school," July 22, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Schools for sale," August 15, 2007


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 med@educationreport.org

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