Contents of this issue:
  • Detroit-area districts encourage students to attend "count day"

  • "Quick Start" program prepares students for early MEAP

  • New law: Michigan schools will start after Labor Day

  • Detroit Public Schools and Apple Computers collaborate

  • Proposal "A" drafters positive, recommend modifications

  • Plurality of Michigan voters support teacher insurance pool

  • Granholm signs student safety bills


DETROIT-AREA DISTRICTS ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO ATTEND "COUNT DAY"
Detroit — The Detroit News reported last week that Detroit-area school districts were encouraging all of their students to attend school last Wednesday for the official student count. The count determines the funding districts receive from the state.

According to The News, some Detroit schools were promising pizza parties and prizes for students who came to school for the count. The attendance numbers from the fourth Wednesday in September account for 75 percent of the formula by which the state calculates per-pupil grants. Last year, Detroit Public Schools received $7,180 per student.

Kathleen Booher, executive director of the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education, told The News that the student count is important because, "If the count is low, schools may indeed have more students than showed up. And they of course have to provide an education for those students, but they are receiving no dollars for them." According to The News, the student count is especially important in Detroit, which is running budget deficits and losing students annually. This year, DPS estimates it will lose 10,000 students and face a $200 million budget deficit, The News reported.

DPS put up billboards and ran radio ads reminding parents and students of count day, The News reported. District spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo told the newspaper, "We really need our numbers to be up this year. If we are just one student short, it could throw our budget into a tizzy." The News reported that Guyton Elementary, a Detroit school, deployed a town crier with a bullhorn in neighborhoods around the school to remind residents about count day.

Other area districts, such as Southfield, sent home reminders for parents and organized parent-teacher meetings regarding count day, according to The News.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, "Districts push to get kids in class for student count," Sept. 27, 2005
http://www.detnews.com/2005/schools/0509/27/B01-328720.htm

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Schools use tricks, treats to lure students on 'count day,'" Oct. 1, 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4716

Michigan Education Report, "Education At A Glance," Summer 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7232


"QUICK START" PROGRAM PREPARES STUDENTS FOR EARLY MEAP
Muskegon, Mich. — According to The Muskegon Chronicle, students in Grand Haven are preparing for the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test earlier than ever this year, aided by a program designed over the summer. The program is a result of a change in when the MEAP is administered; the test now takes place in October instead of January or February.

The "Quick Start" curriculum, a program put together by five Grand Haven educators shortly before the current school year began, has been implemented in the Grand Haven district to help students gear up for the MEAP. Jean McCabe, a Grand Haven district curriculum consultant, told The Chronicle, "Our purpose is less about MEAP scores than it is to help students acquire the skills that will enable them to become successful on the MEAP and in other endeavors."

Quick Start is an eight-day program that includes materials for teachers and students. According to The Chronicle, teachers are not allowed by the state to do MEAP preparation in the two weeks prior to the exam. Quick Start was designed to get students ready quickly before the window of opportunity closes.

According to The Chronicle, Susan Boesen, one of the designers of Quick Start, said students who were using the program, "snapped back into place, began working and feeling good about themselves."

The MEAP tests English, mathematics, science and social studies, and is required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The test is administered annually to third- through eleventh-graders. The early start time was designed to allow teachers to get test results mid-year so they could work on weaknesses, according to the Chronicle.

The Chronicle reported that other Muskegon-area districts are considering whether a program like Quick Start might work for them too. Some districts say they are relying on individual teachers to get students ready for the test. Linda Reipma, executive director of secondary education and MEAP coordinator at Muskegon Public Schools, told The Chronicle, "After this initial fall testing schedule we may take a look at the results and make a decision then about what we might be doing additionally."

According to The Chronicle, Quick Start co-designer Marcia Klemp thinks her program will benefit students. She said, "We wanted to get the kids quickly back into reading and writing and get them thinking right away ... (and) we want students to be life-long learners. It's not just for this test." The Chronicle reported that future plans for the program include compiling individual teachers' ideas and sharing them with other school districts.

SOURCE:
The Muskegon Chronicle, "Students getting 'Quick Start' on statewide assessment tests," Sept. 29, 2005
http://www.mlive.com/news/muchronicle/index.ssf?/base/news-4/1128006946252200.xml&coll=8

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "New MEAP procedure will begin this fall," Aug. 30, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7327

Michigan Education Digest, "More students to take MEAP; Testing earlier in school year," Sept. 6, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7344

Michigan Education Digest, "ACT scheduled to take the place of MEAP in 2007," Sept. 27, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7364


NEW LAW: MICHIGAN SCHOOLS WILL START AFTER LABOR DAY
Detroit — The Detroit Free Press reported last week that Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a bill requiring schools to start after Labor Day beginning next year.

According to the Free Press, schools must still provide 1,098 hours of instruction to students, but classes may not start before Labor Day. Granholm said it would be up to individual districts to decide how to meet their instruction-hour goal, the Free Press reported.

The bill was supported by tourism officials and business leaders from the northern and western parts of Michigan, who hoped it would boost late summer travel, according to the Free Press. In a statement about signing the bill, Gov. Granholm said: "There is no doubt in this state that tourism is an important part of our economy. I made sure that this would not harm education. ... You can have both a robust economy and a robust education system."

According to Michigan Information & Research Service, three months ago the governor had not made a decision on the post-Labor Day bill. Low poll numbers in Northern Michigan may have been a factor in her decisions, MIRS reported. In a press conference last week, Gov. Granholm said that the legislation will "jumpstart our economy, which has needed a boost," and will create jobs in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, MIRS reported.

MIRS also reported that the Michigan Education Association was concerned that starting after Labor Day would give teachers less time to prepare students for the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests. Mike Flanagan, state superintendent of public instruction, said that the MEAP schedule would be revised in light of the scheduling change, according to MIRS. The union also prefers that individual districts are given the choice of setting their own start dates.

According to MIRS, in a press conference last week, Gov. Granholm said: "As a parent and as one voter, I like the idea of starting classes after Labor Day. But I do things as governor based on what's good for the state of Michigan."

SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Gov. Granholm signs bill to have classes start after Labor Day," Sept. 29, 2005
http://www.freep.com/news/statewire/sw121964_20050929.htm

Michigan Information & Research Service, "Governor Signs Labor Day Bill," Sept. 29, 2005
http://www.mirsnews.com/capsule.php?gid=339#5302 (subscription required)

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Post-Labor Day start bill could reach governor soon," Sept. 20, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7358

MichiganVotes.org, "2005 House Bill 4803 (Ban school year starting before Labor Day)"
http://www.michiganvotes.org/Legislation.aspx?ID=39618


DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND APPLE COMPUTERS COLLABORATE
Detroit — Detroit Public Schools and Apple Computer Inc., have joined forces to facilitate a new high-tech high school project within Detroit's Crockett High School, according to The Detroit News.

The district and Apple recently reached a $1.2 million, four-year agreement for DPS to lease computer equipment from Apple for the project, The News reported. DPS will receive iPods, digital cameras, software and 780 laptop computers as part of the agreement. Many of the laptops will be spread out to DPS middle schools, but 240 of the computers will be used at the new Detroit Digital Learning Community High School, a smaller, experimental high school within Crockett, which focuses on creating a high-tech learning environment, The News reported.

According to The News, Juanita Clay Chambers, the district's chief academic officer, said that the new school is "reshaping the whole teaching and learning environment. We have found that type of learning has motivated (students) to do a better job." Detroit Digital will allow students to take notes, write reports and do other work on computers over a wireless network, Chambers said.

The News reported that Detroit Digital High is part of Gov. Granholm's push for smaller high schools that some education officials see as being more effective than traditional high schools. Granholm's education adviser, Chuck Wilbur, told The News: "The governor sees this as the first of a whole new generation of high schools in Michigan. It is the first of what we will hope to be a wave."

Under the lease agreement, Apple will provide DPS with 100 days of technology teaching and on-site support, The News reported. DPS is using federal money to pay the lease.

SOURCE:
The Detroit News, "Apple, Detroit schools team up," Sept. 27, 2005
http://www.detnews.com/2005/schools/0509/30/B01-328718.htm

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "The answer is smaller schools," Winter 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4074

Michigan Education Report, "Schools prepare for the 'Digital Age,'" Winter 2001
http://www.educationreport.org/3223


PROPOSAL "A" DRAFTERS POSITIVE, RECOMMEND MODIFICATIONS
Lansing, Mich. — A group of former legislators responsible for the development of the landmark 1994 Proposal "A" school funding law released a report last week that reviews impact a decade later and calls for a number of improvements to tighten Michigan's school funding system, according to Gongwer News Service.

The group is composed of six Democrats and six Republicans who were instrumental in putting together Prop A in 1994. Only one, Michigan Senate Minority Leader Bob Emerson, D-Flint, is still in the Legislature but the group has continued to review and monitor Prop A, Gongwer reported.

According to Gongwer, former state Representative Lynn Jondahl said on a public television program last week that Prop A should receive high marks for stabilizing school funding and narrowing funding gaps between rich and poor districts. But the group says there are still some issues that need to be addressed.

The group said the increasing number of funding categories designated for specific uses, which Prop A attempted to reduce, has "served to diminish the financial strength of the basic (state) grant." They recommended changing the way in which school pupil counts are conducted and suggested issuing per-pupil grants based on the prior school year's pupil count to ease districts through the transition of losing students, Gongwer reported.

Other changes proposed by the group include greater flexibility in using enhancement millages at the intermediate school district level; finding ways to prevent Michigan's wealthiest districts from losing funding in real dollars without widening the funding gap between rich and poor districts; encouraging the Legislature to fix the conflict between the increase in assessed property values allowed by Prop A and the requirement for a rollback in millages stipulated by the Headlee Amendment; and helping district cash flow by looking at when state aid payments are made, according to Gongwer.

Many have praised Prop A for promising significant property tax relief and less disparity among school districts. However, as Mackinac Center Legislative Analyst Jack McHugh commented earlier this year, public schools "have diligently searched for loopholes in Proposal A's prohibition on new local taxes for operating expenses." McHugh noted: "Statewide, local school building, site and sinking fund taxes have risen from 2.6 to 4.3 mills-a 65 percent increase."

SOURCES:
Gongwer News Service, "Prop A Lawmakers Propose Changes," Sept. 29, 2005
http://www.gongwer.com/programming/news_articledisplay.cfm ?article_ID=441890104&newsedition_id=4418901&locid=1 &link=news_articledisplay.cfm ?article_ID=441890104%26newsedition_id=4418901%26locid=1 (subscription required)

Michigan Education Report, "School officials find a new 'Proposal A' Loophole," Spring 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7039

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Fix Michigan Schools with Proposal A+," Winter 2002
http://www.educationreport.org/4071

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Finance Reform Lessons from Michigan," Oct. 12, 2001
http://www.mackinac.org/3802

Michigan Prospect, "Proposal A Forum,"
http://www.michiganprospect.org/html/propa_forum.html


PLURALITY OF MICHIGAN VOTERS SUPPORT TEACHER INSURANCE POOL
Lansing, Mich. — A poll conducted by Marketing Resource Group for Inside Michigan Politics shows that 49 percent of Michigan voters would support a measure requiring teachers and other public school employees to become part of a state insurance pool to reduce healthcare costs for public school districts, Michigan Information & Research Service reported last week.

According to MIRS, the poll results showed that of the 49 percent who would support such a measure, 26 percent said they strongly support it and 23 percent said they somewhat support it. Of the 27 percent who were opposed to the idea, 15 percent were strongly opposed and 12 percent were somewhat opposed. MIRS reported that 24 percent of respondents did not have an opinion on the issue.

The poll surveyed 600 likely voters.

SOURCE:
Michigan Information & Research Service, "Poll: Plurality Like Teacher Health Pool," Sept. 28, 2005
http://www.mirsnews.com/capsule.php?gid=338#5293 (subscription required)

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "District shortfalls spark employee insurance debate," Aug. 16, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7239

Michigan Education Digest, "Insurance Analyst: MESSA vulnerable due to prices," Sept. 13, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7354


GRANHOLM SIGNS STUDENT SAFETY BILLS
Lansing, Mich. — Gov. Granholm signed an 18-bill bundle of school safety legislation last Wednesday, according to Michigan Information & Research Service.

MIRS reported that the legislation, which was prompted by media investigations of sex offenders in schools, was introduced by Republicans as the Student Safety Initiative in June. During a signing ceremony in Grand Rapids, Gov. Granholm said, "Parents deserve peace of mind knowing that their children are safe, especially when they are away from home. This legislation will ensure that sexual predators cannot harm children while they are riding the bus, playing on the school playground, learning in classrooms, or at day care," according to MIRS.

A news release from the governor's office said that Gov. Granholm sent a letter to legislators in May urging them to craft legislation that would keep sex offenders out of schools, require background checks on school and day care employees, allow past sex crimes to be considered at trial and prevent convicted offenders from returning to classrooms, MIRS reported.

MichiganVotes.org noted that Public Act 121, which the governor signed on Sept. 23, prohibits "certain convicted sex offenders on probation from residing within a 'student safety zone,' defined as an area within 1,000 feet of a school."

SOURCES:
Michigan Information & Research Service, "Granholm Signs Student Safety Package," Sept. 28, 2005
http://www.mirsnews.com/capsule.php?gid=338#5283 (subscription required)

MichiganVotes.org, "2005 Senate Bill 617 ('School Safety' package)"
http://www.michiganvotes.org/2005-SB-617

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "School safety legislation passed by Senate," Sept. 6, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7344

Michigan Education Digest, "Bills require fingerprints for more school workers; old prints purged," Sept. 13, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7354

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 140,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Ryan Olson at [med@educationreport.org].

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