Contents of this issue:


  • State considers upping bar on MEAP; report slams current scores
  • Benton Harbor sets up new teacher evaluation process
  • Detroit bus attendants will keep jobs
  • Alternative education backers speak up in Holt
  • New rule would limit fat, salt in public school lunches

State Considers Upping Bar on MEAP, Report Slams Current Scores


LANSING, Mich. — Education officials are considering raising the “pass/fail” bar on state standardized tests, though the likely result will be larger numbers of failing students and schools, according to the Detroit Free Press.

In related news, The Education Trust-Midwest released a report saying that setting the bar too low on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program has created the false impression that students are performing well, while scores on national tests show they are not, various media reported.

The Michigan State Board of Education last week discussed a proposal to raise the “cut scores” on MEAP tests as of 2011-2012, which means that students would have to earn higher scores in order to pass any given subject, the Free Press reported.

If the proposed new cut scores had been in place in 2009, only 34 percent of third-graders would have passed the math exam, compared to the 95 percent who passed under existing guidelines, the report said.

Officials said the higher requirements are needed to make sure students are prepared for college and work, the Free Press reported.

In its report, The Education Trust-Midwest said Michigan is among the lowest-performing states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, The (Adrian) Daily Telegram reported. The report points to several individual schools as exceptions that should be treated as models for others, including Michener Elementary in Adrian and North Godwin Elementary near Grand Rapids, according to The Grand Rapids Press and the Daily Telegram.

Both schools show high academic achievement across all income levels and among minority students, two typically lower-achieving sectors, the media reports said.

SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, “Proposal to raise bar on test scores could throw off schools,” Jan. 12, 2011

The (Adrian) Daily Telegram, "Michener named a 'school to watch' by education group," Jan. 10, 2011

The Grand Rapids Press, "Education group says state can learn from North Godwin Elementary's turnaround," Jan. 13, 2011

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


Detroit Bus Attendants Will Keep Jobs


DETROIT — Shortly after the mother of an autistic student filed suit in federal court, Detroit Public Schools announced that the district will not lay off 88 bus attendants for special education students as previously announced, according to The Detroit News.

District officials said that Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb verified the need for attendants for 185 students based on a review of students’ Individual Education Plans, The News reported.

Paula Johnson filed the lawsuit on behalf of her elementary-age son and other children, according to The News. About 20 parents also spoke out against the layoffs at a meeting of the Michigan State Board of Education on Tuesday.

The layoffs were expected to save the district about $2 million, The News reported.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, “Layoff of DPS bus attendants halted,” Jan. 14, 2011

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Special education numbers down,” September 11, 2010


Benton Harbor Sets Up New Teacher Evaluation Process


BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Teachers in Benton Harbor Area Schools have agreed to new contract language that allows the district to remove an educator from a school due to poor performance, according to The (St. Joseph) Herald-Palladium.

Superintendent Leonard Seawood said at a school board meeting that the agreement makes it more likely that the Michigan Department of Education will approve the district’s redesign plan, which has twice been rejected due primarily to the teacher evaluation system, The Herald-Palladium reported.

The redesign plan was mandated by the state after Benton Harbor High School was identified as “persistently low-achieving,” the report said. Board trustee Martha Momany said that, without the new contract language, the result may have been a state takeover of the high school, according to The Herald-Palladium.

Seawood said the language does not necessarily allow removing a teacher from the district, The Herald-Palladium reported. Teachers will be evaluated every year instead of every three years, and may be required to complete an improvement plan, the report said.

SOURCE:
The (St. Joseph) Herald-Palladium, “BH teachers agree to annual review,” Jan. 12, 2011

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, “Teacher evaluation talks begin,” Feb. 19, 2010


Alternative Education Backers Speak Up in Holt


HOLT, Mich. — Alternative education students need an environment that matches their learning style, like the one already in place in Holt Public Schools, supporters of the program told the school board at a recent meeting, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Fearful the program may be cut or reduced, supporters said that would be a disservice to the 50 to 100 students who enroll each year, the Journal reported. Superintendent Johnny Scott said all district programs are currently being reviewed, not just alternative education, according to the Journal

Alternative education teacher Michelle Beerbower said the district should consider the needs of at-risk students and noted that some students from neighboring districts where alternative programs were closed are now interested in Holt's program, the Journal reported. She said her own assessments indicate that many alternative students learn better in a hands-on environment where they can handle and examine materials, according to the Journal.

Board trustee Deb Roeske said board members appreciated the comments, but that it was premature for the board to comment since no recommendations on any program changes have been brought to the board, the Journal reported.

SOURCE:
Lansing State Journal, "Holt's alternative education supporters confront school board," Jan. 15, 2011

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, “Alternative education under pressure,” March 13, 2010


New Rule Would Limit Fat, Salt in Public School Lunches


SAN FRANCISCO — Public schools would have to serve less salt, fat and calories and more fruit, vegetables and whole grains in school lunches if a rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is adopted, according to media reports.

The federal government would pay schools 6 cents more per meal but require nutritional changes that include, for the first time, calorie limits on meals, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Officials said it was an effort to address childhood obesity.

Among other rules, one provision would ban foods with nutrition labels that show more than zero grams of trans fat, and another would require that half of the grains served be whole grain, The Chronicle reported. Sodium levels would be reduced gradually over the next decade.

The Agriculture Department is scheduled to take public comment until April 13 on the proposal, according to The Chronicle. Once implemented, state education officials would have to monitor schools for compliance.

SOURCE:
San Francisco Chronicle, “U.S. plan aims to make school meals more healthful,” Jan. 14, 2011

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, “More students in meals programs,” Oct. 31, 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 med@educationreport.org

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