Contents of this issue:
  • Education officials urge more students to participate in MEAP
  • Assistant principal plants drugs in student's locker
  • Legislation would allow districts to suspend convicted teachers
  • Federal standards relaxed for English testing
  • Lawmakers debate over volunteer requirement for merit award
  • President Bush responds to criticism of 'No Child Left Behind'

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — State and local education officials are urging more high school students to participate in the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests to help schools meet the "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) standard set by the federal government.

A number of high school students do not take the MEAP test, which is used to grade schools' annual progress and qualify students for the Michigan Merit Award scholarship program, which provides Michigan college students a scholarship. This lack of participation hurts schools' ability to receive a positive AYP rating, which requires that 95 percent of students take the test. Some school officials believe the standards for student participation are too high, as some students drop out of high school or opt to not receive the Merit Award scholarship. But federal officials count dropout rates and academic apathy as reasons to deny a positive AYP rating.

Ann Arbor News, "More MEAP participants urged," Feb. 21, 2004 107736221372622.xml

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002

Michigan Education Report, "President signs 'No Child Left Behind Act,'" Winter 2002

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. — Police are investigating an assistant principal they say admitted to planting drugs in a student's locker.

Police report that the South Haven High School official, Pat Conroy, told them he planted marijuana in the student's locker in an attempt to get the student expelled for drug possession.

Conroy suspected the student of dealing drugs, but stated that he "lost his perspective" and had done something "stupid, arrogant and unethical," according to a police report.

A search of Conroy's office turned up bags of marijuana and other drugs in pill form, said police. Conroy admitted to holding the drugs for evidence in school board hearings, but school board president Ed Bocock said he never saw the drugs used in any expulsion hearings.

Associated Press, "Assistant principal admits planting marijuana in student's locker," Feb. 20, 2004 1077339319178900.xml

LANSING, Mich. — A bill passed last week by the Michigan House of Representatives would require greater scrutiny of teachers and school staff convicted of felonies and serious misdemeanors.

If passed as law, school officials would be required to individually evaluate every felony conviction and determine whether a suspension or hearing is necessary for each case.

Currently, school districts must appeal to the state board of education for every case of suspension based on criminal convictions.

The bill passed 98 to 6, but some questions have been raised about certain provisions included in the legislation. Michigan Education Association spokeswoman Margaret Trimer-Hartley said her organization is not behind the bill because, "We think there's quite a bit of work that needs to be done so that it doesn't unduly penalize a crime of civil disobedience." Martin Ackley, spokesman for state school superintendent Tom Watkins, said Watkins supports the concept of the bill. "We have staff working with the sponsor to craft a bill that works to protect the public while upholding the constitution," Ackley told the Detroit News.

Detroit News, "Bill would put teachers under more scrutiny," Feb. 18, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Increased concern over federal standards under the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2002 led the Bush Administration last Thursday to relax requirements for the English portion of state assessment tests.

Under the new rules, English-language learners will be allowed leniency for one year, meaning their English test scores will be excluded from aggregate scores for that time. Twelve percent, or 5.5 million, of all U.S. K-12 students are eligible for the language leniency.

The regulation change comes after several high-profile officials publicly decried the federal law, saying it is not feasible for schools to meet current expectations. At a news conference, Education Secretary Rod Paige announced several changes to the law, including the definition of a "highly qualified" teacher. "We want the law to make common sense," he said.

Washington Post, "'No Child' Tests for Schools Relaxed," Feb. 20, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "President signs 'No Child Left Behind Act,'" Winter 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Will More Money Improve Student Performance?" June 1998

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "More Spending Not the Solution to School Woes," December 1993

LANSING, Mich. — In her State of the State address last month, Gov. Jennifer Granholm proposed a plan to require volunteer service for all recipients of the Michigan Merit Award scholarship.

Granholm's plan would require that students eligible for the scholarship perform at least 40 hours of community service prior to graduation in order to receive the award, a $2,500 one-time grant given to high school graduates going to college. Currently, the scholarship is given based on satisfactory marks on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests. "Merit demands more than high test scores," Granholm said. "Merit demands high character as well."

But some parents and lawmakers say the requirement would be an unnecessary burden on high schoolers, who already are busy with college applications, extra-curricular activities and their own volunteer work. "Community service is not a bad idea," state Rep. Sue Tabor, R-Delta Township, told the Lansing State Journal. "But it should come from the heart, not forced by government."

Gov. Granholm suggested a similar volunteer program in her State of the State Address in 2003.

Lansing State Journal, "Families, lawmakers debate merit award volunteer plan," Feb. 23, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Gov. Granholm Proposes 14 Expansions of Government, 6 Limitations," February 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bush administration is responding to criticism of the requirements of the federal education standards laid out by the "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) Act of 2002. Several representatives from the federal Department of Education are currently traveling around the United States defending NCLB legislation in front of school boards and town hall meetings.

"I've been in some, I don't want to say hostile, but very contentious environments," deputy assistant secretary Ken Meyer told the Washington Post. "This law is largely misunderstood by the public because of its enormity, so people get emotional about it, and you've got pent-up frustrations."

Most of the dissent comes from arguments over where funding for certain NCLB initiatives should come from and the influence of the federal government over an issue normally left to the states. Recently, administration officials have been working with the states and schools to make proficiency rules more flexible and to counter some of the dissent.

New York Times, "Bush Education Officials Find New Law a Tough Sell," Feb. 22, 2004 (registration required)

Michigan Education Report, "President signs 'No Child Left Behind Act,'" Winter 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Will More Money Improve Student Performance?" June 1998

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "More Spending Not the Solution to School Woes," December 1993

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

Contact Managing Editor Neil Block at

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