Contents of this issue:
  • Experts support private sector involvement in public education
  • Kelloggsville chief looks to reform graduation requirements
  • Ann Arbor Schools develop advertising plan
  • Muskegon Schools develop Spanish-English immersion program
  • Private school might be forced out of building
  • Comment and win an iPod

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Participants in a forum presented by the Education Policy Initiative at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy discussed the future of education and argued for innovation driven by the private sector, according to The Ann Arbor News.

The panel included Deborah Loewenberg Ball, the dean of U of M's school of education; Sanford Weill, chairman emeritus of Citigroup, Inc.; JD Hoye, President of National Academy Foundation; Frederick Hess, a resident scholar and director of education policy studies for the American Enterprise Institute; and Michael Flanagan, the state superintendent of public instruction, The News reported.

"What we need to do is to reframe (the education system) ... to begin to produce what we think schools should be producing," Hoye said, according to The News.

The speakers said that schools need to use the private sector to help push students to the level companies will need them to perform at to be successful. This could mean offering internships where students learn skills directly. Panel members also argued the American education system needs more flexibility and could consider placing individual schools on performance contracts and turn them over to the private sector or a group of teachers, The News reported.

"It makes complete sense that we would take advantage of the expertise in the private sector," Ball said, according to The News. "We're struggling with what the right structure should be."

The Ann Arbor News, "Private sector could aid schools," March 20, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Corporations donate millions for public school programs," Sept. 21, 2001

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The top official of the Kelloggsville Public Schools has sent a letter to the state superintendent asking for flexibility with the new state graduation requirements, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Kelloggsville Superintendent Samuel Wright argued in the letter to State Superintendent Mike Flanagan that the new requirements are too difficult for many students and are a "one-size-fits-all model" that "may very well lead to higher dropout and failure rates..." The Press reported. Instead, Wright suggests offering separate paths and tests for students heading in different directions after graduation. He suggested that by eighth grade, students would choose a "collegiate career pathway" or a "technical career pathway." Wright also asked that students in the technical pathway take a different standardized test — ACT Work Keys — than college-bound students, according to The Press.

Legislators are disappointed that educators are already dismissing the rigor of the new requirements and considering them impossible.

"They went into effect with this year's freshmen, and those kids are just over one semester into their high school careers," State Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, told The Press. "Maybe the superintendents should give their students a chance before saying they can't do this. When these kids are juniors and we're still talking about this, that's the time to make changes."

Other districts have taken an active role in reforming the new requirements. Rockford Superintendent Michael Shibler has requested residents send letters to elected officials asking for more flexibility.

"I have no problem whatsoever with rigor," Shibler told The Press. "But we also need to put students in courses that are relevant, and that's not happening when you tell all students they need to take geometry and algebra II."

The Grand Rapids Press, "Kelloggsville school chief makes district first to rebel against tougher Michigan graduation requirements," March 20, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Hope in State Graduation Standards Misplaced," Jan. 3, 2006

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Ann Arbor Public Schools has developed a plan for advertising in hopes of bringing more students into the district, according to The Ann Arbor News.

District officials are convinced they haven't done a good job of promoting the schools in the past. The aim of this new plan will be to promote the qualities that make the district "exceptional" and stand out compared to other area schools, The News reported. "We've never done a great job at promoting what we do well in this district," Liz Margolis, the district's director of communications, told The News. "We just can't rest on assumptions any more."

Ann Arbor schools lost 210 students this year, following a trend of declining enrollment due to schools of choice transfers by students assigned to the district. If students don't enroll in other public school districts, they will usually enroll in one of several private or charter public schools in the area. To counter this, the focus of the advertising plan will be to highlight the district's safety, diversity, athletics, music and community service, according to The News.

We know we have an excellent product here," advertising committee member Deb Mexicotte told The News. "We're not selling snake oil here. We want to market ourselves as the high achieving school district that we are. We are talking about the exceptional Ann Arbor schools. It's not just that you're going to get a world-class education, you're getting the whole exceptional package."

The proposed plan may cost more than $70,000 and will involve different forms of local media. The district is also working on improving customer service with all of its employees, The News reported.

The Ann Arbor News, "Ad campaign aims to attract students," March 19, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Advertising for students: Schools use radio, TV, billboards to lure 'customers'," May 24, 2007

MUSKEGON, Mich. — After a lack of interest put plans for the development of an International Academy of Muskegon on hold, the district is planning an elementary Spanish-English immersion program, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

The program will be held at Moon Elementary, which already has bilingual education classrooms for students who speak Spanish as their first language. Students will be taught primarily in Spanish, and the program is considered "two-way" because students will be both native Spanish and English speakers, The Chronicle reported.

The program will be made available to all students in the district, with free transportation. Schools of choice students from outside the district will be able to select the immersion program on their applications. The district is looking to make a long-term investment in the program, and hopes parents will stick with it. A mastery of a foreign language often gives job applicants an edge, according to Linda Wierenga, executive director of elementary education for Muskegon schools.

"When looking for teachers, seeing they have efficiency in Spanish will put them ahead of others, at least in getting an interview for a job," Wierenga told The Chronicle.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Muskegon district plans Spanish-English immersion program," March 19, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Dearborn: A Traditional Public School District Accepts the Charter School Challenge," in "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 24, 2000

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. — A 1996 sales agreement between a Jewish congregation and the Birmingham Public Schools likely will force a small, private special education school to relocate, according to Michigan Education Report, a publication of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The case is an example of the ongoing competition for students, money and space among southeast Michigan schools.

Learning Circle Academy has leased space in the Laker Educational and Youth Complex in West Bloomfield for four years, but is looking for a new location due to restrictions on educational uses of the building.

When the Birmingham district sold the former elementary school to Congregation Shaarey Zedek, the agreement prohibited any program which causes the Birmingham district to lose revenue by a parent choosing to enroll a child in a program at the Laker Center rather than one run by the district.

Oakland County, which encompasses the Birmingham district, is one of the most competitive school arenas in Michigan, with more than 100 private school sites.

Michigan Education Report, "Private special education school might be forced out of building," March 25, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "School in Focus: Learning Circle Academy," Nov. 14, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "A Charter Challenge: Finding an affordable school building can be a hurdle," Nov. 14, 2007

MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to and post a comment for a chance to win one of three iPods.

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

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at
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