Contents of this issue:
  • New MEAP director promises changes in two years
  • State GOP leader pushes for resignation of state superintendent
  • U.S. Senate approves D.C. voucher program
  • Reward system for passing MEAP challenged
  • Education groups to lobby against cuts
  • Parents choose right schools under school choice

NEW MEAP DIRECTOR PROMISES CHANGES IN TWO YEARS
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On a visit to Grand Rapids, the newly appointed director of the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests announced plans to fix current problems with the test program within two years.

Ed Roeber, Michigan's new MEAP director, discussed his plans with parents, lawmakers and Grand Rapids district officials. Roeber said part of his plan to improve the MEAP includes visiting with districts to teach administrators how to use MEAP data. "I've come in kind of as a problem solver," Roeber said. "I've had a very good conversation with folks [in Grand Rapids] and got some useful ideas I can take home with me."

In addition, Roeber said he wants to process data fast enough to return MEAP scores for elementary- and middle-school students by May 7 of each year. Problems now plaguing the scoring process include delays in the release of scores and the loss of thousands of students' test results.

SOURCES:
Grand Rapids Press, "New director promises to fix MEAP test in two years," Jan. 24, 2004
http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-12/ 107494300465580.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Does the MEAP Measure Up?" December 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3919

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "POLICY BRIEF: Which Educational Achievement Test is Best for Michigan?" May 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4382


STATE GOP LEADER PUSHES FOR RESIGNATION OF STATE SUPERINTENDENT
LANSING, Mich. — The leader of Michigan's Republican Party last week called for the resignation of state Superintendent Tom Watkins.

Citing lack of accountability and a lack of positive results, GOP Chairwoman Betsy DeVos, Grand Rapids, requested that Watkins step down from his post. "Rather than accountability, what we get from Watkins are platitudes of wonderful things that are to come," DeVos said. "It's time for Tom Watkins to resign." Watkins scrapped a 2001 statewide accreditation plan that left unaccredited over 1,000 schools, angering legislators in favor of higher standards for Michigan schools.

Supporters of Watkins claim he has maintained accountability for schools even without the original accreditation plan. "We hired Tom to really promote and strengthen public education and he's really doing that," state Board of Education President Kathleen Straus told the Detroit News. "It's not going to happen overnight."

Watkins was appointed in 2001 by the state Board of Education.

SOURCES:
Detroit News, "GOP chairwoman wants state education boss to resign," Jan. 22, 2004
http://www.detnews.com/2004/schools/0401/22/d12e-42504.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Making the Grade," January 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6113

Michigan Education Report, "State Board of Education adopts school grading plan," Spring 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4270


U.S. SENATE APPROVES D.C. VOUCHER PROGRAM
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate last Thursday approved an experimental voucher program for District of Columbia students, totaling $40 million over the next five years.

The voucher plan, part of a large omnibus spending bill, passed with a 65-28 vote. If unchallenged, the program will provide 1,700 District students with a voucher of up to $7,500 to attend the private school of their choice. "School choice is one policy that will help create an educational system that makes no distinction between the poor and the privileged in terms of the quality of education received," Education Secretary Rod Paige told the Washington Times.

Critics of the bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives last week by just one vote, say the money should instead be used to improve public schools in the District.

Leading the criticism was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who will work to repeal the voucher program before September, when it goes into effect.

SOURCES:
Washington Times, "Voucher program approved for D.C.," Jan. 23, 2004
http://www.washingtontimes.com/metro/20040122-102022-9837r.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Friedman Says Vouchers and Tax Credits Useful Route to Greater School Choice," March 19, 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4117

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling: Restoring Parental Control of Education," Jan. 29, 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3236


REWARD SYSTEM FOR PASSING MEAP CHALLENGED
SAGINAW, Mich. — A principal's plan to reward her students for improved Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) scores may draw a court summons, as it may violate the privacy rights of students by indirectly revealing whether they failed or not.

Carollton Middle School Principal Traci Smith instated the plan to give students incentive to do well on the MEAP tests. Passing students receive a free game of bowling and a movie. "It's almost like you're releasing the scores of individual kids," Carrollton Board of Education Trustee Mark Miller said at a board meeting. "I just want to be concerned that we're not put in a legal position."

All the school's students are invited to participate in the bowling and the movie, but the school would subsidize only those passing the MEAP tests. Carollton Superintendent Craig C. Douglas is a supporter of Smith's reward for students. "We're trying to make an uninteresting test interesting, and make a test that is not inherently meaningful, meaningful," Douglas told the Saginaw News. "So I applaud her for thinking outside the box."

SOURCES:
Saginaw News, "Proposed MEAP reward faces test," Jan. 20, 2004
http://www.mlive.com/news/sanews/index.ssf?/base/news-9/ 1074613928147751.xml

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Does the MEAP Measure Up?" December 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3919

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "POLICY BRIEF: Which Educational Achievement Test is Best for Michigan?" May 2002
http://www.mackinac.org/4382


EDUCATION GROUPS TO LOBBY AGAINST CUTS
LANSING, Mich. — Education groups around the state, including Michigan's largest teacher unions, recently formed a new lobbying group to prevent cuts in education funding amid a $900 million budget shortfall.

The coalition, which does not yet have a name, wants to convince Gov. Jennifer Granholm and key state legislators to reduce cuts in education budgets. "Unified groups tend to speak with a louder voice," Tom White, chairman of the coalition, told the Detroit Free Press. "This will help express the pain that we hear because of cuts in the current year, and the impact of cuts in the future."

The new group is a reincarnation of the Red Cedar Coalition; a lobbying group built in 2003 to convince Gov. Granholm to add and increase specific taxes to increase funds for education.

SOURCE:
Detroit Free Press, "Education lobby to launch anti-cut drive," Jan. 20, 2004
http://www.freep.com/news/education/ntax20_20040120.htm


PARENTS CHOOSE RIGHT SCHOOLS UNDER SCHOOL CHOICE
DEARBORN, Mich. — The number of students enrolled in the Schools of Choice program has increased substantially in the last several years, showing increased popularity of the program, which allows children to attend other participating schools in their district or in contiguous districts.

According to state figures, 17,439 students were enrolled in Schools of Choice in the 1999-2000 school year. This year, 39,851 are participating in the program. State officials say the increase shows that more parents are paying careful attention to their child's education.

The Michigan Education Association (MEA), the state's largest teachers' union, gives parents advice on how to choose the best school for their child. "We urge parents to get into the schools. Talk to principals. Talk to teachers. Get a good feel for the school and the programs. Then, consider your child's strengths and weaknesses, and consider what about a particular school might satisfy those concerns," said Margaret Trimer-Hartley, director of communications for the MEA.

SOURCES:
Detroit News, "Parents do homework before picking schools," Jan. 26, 2004
http://www.detnews.com/2004/schools/0401/26/a01-45569.htm

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 2000
http://www.mackinac.org/2962

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Case for Choice in Schooling," January 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3236


MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report ( http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 130,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy ( http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Neil Block at
med@educationreport.org.

To subscribe, go to:
http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/mer/#subscribe.

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