Contents of this issue:


  • No more ‘adequate yearly progress’?
  • State board divided on charters, panel OKs ‘parent trigger’
  • Math & Science Center yanks climate change book
  • Pennsylvania considers school vouchers
  • Report focuses on growing student debt

No More ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’?


WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Adequate yearly progress” mandates would be eliminated under a proposed overhaul of the federal No Child Left Behind act, leaving states to set their own academic goals without federal intervention, according to media reports.

A draft bill to amend the act was introduced in a Senate committee by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, last week, Fox News reported.

If adopted, the measure would eliminate the requirement that schools meet specific academic targets, including the provision that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014, according to Fox News. Instead, states would have to continue to conduct regular testing and show that all students are making “continuous improvement,” Education Week reported separately.

States would determine what to do about lack of progress except in the worst cases, when the federal government would intervene, according to Fox News.

Harkin said the new measure would create a “partnership” between the federal government and states, but some civil rights groups already have said it will allow schools to dodge accountability, Fox News reported, particularly among minority populations.

Even if the law is not amended, the U.S. Department of Education has said it will consider granting waivers from certain provisions of NCLB to states that request them, Education Week reported.

SOURCES:

Fox News, “'No Child Left Behind’ Overhaul Introduced in Senate,” Oct. 11, 2011

Education Week, “Senate ESEA draft bill Would Scrap Adequate Yearly Progress,” Oct. 11, 2011 (Subscription required)

FURTHER READING:

Michigan Education Digest, “Michigan wants NCLB waiver, calls goals unreasonable,” Aug. 2, 2011


State Board Divided on Charters, Panel OKs ‘Parent Trigger’


LANSING, Mich. — The State Board of Education is divided on whether and how to increase the number of charter public schools in Michigan, even as a state Senate committee passed legislation that would allow parents to convert failing conventional schools to charter operations, according to media reports.

The split on the state board showed up at its October meeting, according to the Detroit Free Press, when members couldn’t agree on what to say in an advisory letter to the state Legislature.

The suggested language called for allowing more charters as long as the school operators had a successful track record and also for greater transparency in charter operations, the Free Press reported. That failed to get board approval, according to the report.

In related news, a state Senate committee passed a measure that would allow the conversion of a failing conventional school to a charter school if 60 percent of parents approve, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

The “parent trigger” bill is separate from a measure to lift the cap on the number of university-authorized charter schools overall, which the Senate passed earlier, the Free Press reported.

SOURCES:

Detroit Free Press, “Board of Education: No consensus on proposed charter school bills,” Oct. 11, 2011

The Grand Rapids Press, “State Senate committee approves plan for ‘parent trigger’ to convert failing schools to charters,” Oct. 12, 2011

FURTHER READING:

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Commentary: Research Shows Parental Choice Works,” Sept. 23, 2011


Math & Science Center yanks climate change book


BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The Battle Creek Area Math & Science Center removed a book about climate change from its seventh-grade science kits after the Michigan Farm Bureau said that the volume is inaccurate and lacks solid science, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.

“A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids” was sent to about 35 school districts as part of a pilot test of the seventh-grade kits, according to the Enquirer. It was intended as supplemental reading.

The book was written and self-published by Julie Hall, co-founder of the website ProgressiveKid.com, the Enquirer reported. The Enquirer reported that the book frequently cites its own website as well as Wikipedia, calls livestock living conditions “horrible” and describes Al Gore as an “eco hero.”

A Farm Bureau official told the Enquirer that, “(T)here wasn’t a lot of solid science there.” The bureau and the Center are now working to develop material for lessons on how to discern the difference between fact and opinion, the Enquirer reported.

The Center also is looking for a replacement book and has offered refunds to districts that received the original volume, according to the Enquirer. It also will tighten its book review process, the Enquirer reported.

“This one slipped through the cracks,” Director Connie Duncan told the Enquirer.

SOURCE:

Battle Creek Enquirer, “Michigan Farm Bureau slams books in Math & Science Center kits,” Oct. 11, 2011

FURTHER READING:

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Corporate Environmental Indoctrination,” Sept. 9, 2011


Pennsylvania Considers School Vouchers


YORK, Pa. — Pennsylvania is the latest state to consider a school voucher program to serve low-income children who now attend failing public schools, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Gov. Tom Corbett announced a plan to offer taxpayer-funded vouchers to students who attend the lowest-performing schools and whose families earn 130 percent or less of the federal poverty rate, according to The Inquirer.

The vouchers could be used at other public schools, private schools or public charter schools, The Inquirer reported. Any school that accepts a voucher student would get 75 percent of the state funding for that child, while the student’s school district would receive the remainder, according to the report.

A state education department official said that about 140 Pennsylvania schools are in the bottom 5 percent academically and that the program would cost about $21 million in the first year based on an estimated 4,100 students participating, according to The Inquirer.

In related news, the governor’s proposal would lift the $75 million cap on the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, which gives tax credits to businesses that provide tuition funding for low-income students, The Inquirer reported.

Teachers union representatives and the state school board association said that the proposals would harm conventional public schools in Pennsylvania, according to The Inquirer.

SOURCE:

The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Corbett rolls out his school-voucher plan,” Oct. 12, 2011

FURTHER READING:

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Time to Take School Choice in Michigan to the Next Level,” Aug. 8, 2011


Report Focuses on Growing Student Debt


FLINT, Mich. — An August study on student loan debt shows that Wayne State University has the highest “debt-to-degree” ratio among Michigan public universities, at $28,000, The Flint Journal reported.

That figure is not the average debt per student, but a calculation of the total amount borrowed in federal student loan programs divided by the number of degrees issued by a given school in a particular year, The Journal reported.

The “Debt to Degree” study was published by the Washington-based Education Sector, a nonprofit organization. The study’s authors said that high educational expenses and low graduation rates are pushing up the ratio and that colleges should do more to address both issues, The Journal reported.

Among private Michigan colleges, Marygrove had the highest ratio at nearly $60,000, while Henry Ford Community College had the highest among community colleges, at about $23,000, according to The Journal.

The University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus had the lowest average among public universities, at about $11,000, The Journal reported.

School officials told The Journal that numerous factors affect the ratio. Students from low-income families tend to borrow more, which pushes up the number, as does borrowing for living expenses on top of tuition and taking extra long to complete a degree, officials said. The amount of need-based financial aid available at each university is another variable, as is the number of students who borrow money but do not complete a degree, the report’s authors said.

Mott Community College spokesman Michael Kelly said that officials there tried to reduce the amount students borrowed but were stopped by the U.S. Department of Education, The Journal reported.

The national education debt is nearing $1 trillion, the Debt to Degree report said, according to The Journal.

SOURCES:

The Flint Journal, “Some Flint colleges have high debt-per-degree ratios, national report shows,” Oct. 8, 2011

Education Sector, “Debt to Degree: A New Way of Measuring College Success,” Aug. 3, 2011

FURTHER READING:

Michigan Education Digest, “Student loans surpass credit card debt,” Aug. 12, 2010


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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