Contents of this issue:


  • Property sales don't pan out
  • Paying teachers to leave
  • Schools should change election date
  • K Promise shows mixed results
  • Into and beyond the MEAP

PROPERTY SALES DON'T PAN OUT


ROYAL OAK, Mich. - Banking on property sales to pay for capital projects has not turned out well for Royal Oak Public Schools, which will borrow $5 million to make ends meet this year, according to the Royal Oak Mirror.

Voters in the district approved a $60 million bond project in 2005 which, coupled with anticipated multi-million dollar property sales, was intended to pay for building improvements, the Mirror reported. When the latest sales didn't pan out, the district borrowed from its general fund balance to pay contractors.

Now there is a shortfall in the general fund budget, according to the Mirror, leading the district to borrow from the Michigan Municipal Bond Authority for the first time since 1993. The district still intends to sell two former elementary school properties, the Mirror said.

SOURCE:
The Mirror, "School district acts fast before running out of cash," Nov. 23, 2008

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Schools for sale," Aug. 15, 2007


PAYING TEACHERS TO LEAVE


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Seventeen west Michigan public school districts paid a combined $760,000 in salaries and benefits to get 29 teachers to walk away from their jobs over the past four years, according to an investigation by The Grand Rapids Press.

The Press said it reviewed 1,000 pages of personnel files obtained from 31 districts in Kent and Ottawa counties to find out the cost of teacher settlements - cases in which teachers agreed to leave due to alleged poor performance or misbehavior.

State tenure law makes it difficult and expensive to remove a teacher who has tenure, The Press reported, so districts often choose instead to negotiate a buyout. In about half of the cases reviewed by The Press, the buyout cost was below $25,000. One teacher received more than $100,000, and six left with nothing. 

Michigan Education Association officials told The Press that tenure laws are in place to protect teachers from arbitrary dismissal by their supervisors. Teachers sometimes prefer to negotiate a settlement because winning their case before the Michigan Tenure Commission would mean returning to work in a district that took action against them, while losing their case could end their teaching career, The Press reported.

The 29 teachers who agreed to settlements represent only a minute number of the districts' combined 10,250-teacher workforce, The Press reported.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Expelled: Terminated teachers cash out quietly," Nov. 23, 2008

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Tenure law is impediment to school reform," May 12, 2000


SCHOOLS SHOULD CHANGE ELECTION DATE


BAY CITY, Mich. - Bay County area schools should conduct school board elections jointly with general elections as a way to save money and have more representative voter turnout, according to The Bay City Times.

The Times said in an editorial that schools should piggyback on the state and national elections conducted in November of even- numbered years. Bay City Public Schools could save $40,000 by shifting dates, according to the school district's finance director, The Times reported.

Voter turnout also would likely be higher, The Times said, citing a state report issued in 2000 that noted that three- quarters of Michigan school districts had less than 10 percent voter turnout for May elections. Since the Legislature passed new election laws in 2004, 103 school districts have shifted to November dates, according to The Times.

SOURCE:
The Bay City Times, "Public schools should switch to November elections," Nov. 20, 2008

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Consolidate school elections with general elections," Aug. 15, 1999


K PROMISE SHOWS MIXED RESULTS


KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Now three years old, the Kalamazoo Promise has had mixed results in its mission to send Kalamazoo Public Schools graduates to college, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette. More than 1,100 students have used the scholarship program overall, but about a third of students who qualified this semester are not using the funding, The Gazette reported.

The Gazette said that KPS graduates who qualify for the program are more likely to start college and stay there than the national average for young adults, but that academic preparedness remains an issue. ACT scores show that 70 percent of white students in the KPS class of 2008 were reading at college level, but only 16 percent of black students were, the article said. In math, 48 percent of white students were considered ready for college math, compared to 8 percent of black students.

Overall, however, the average ACT score for white students at KPS exceeds the state average of white students, while black students score at about the state average among black students, The Gazette reported.

The district is introducing new college-readiness programs, including an emphasis on preschool and kindergarten reading and writing, more advanced high school coursework and a program to help struggling middle-schoolers, according to The Gazette.

SOURCE:
The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Kalamazoo Public Schools takes aim at students' college readiness," Nov. 15, 2008

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Following the lead of the Kalamazoo Promise," Nov. 14, 2007


INTO AND BEYOND THE MEAP


A number of Michigan schools are going beyond the MEAP in search of information not only about what their students know, but when and how they learned it.

While the annual Michigan Educational Assessment Program is pivotal in determining if a school meets academic benchmarks, and while the state is rolling out a new program intended to help schools use MEAP results wisely, some educators want more data before making decisions about instruction.

"If I only look at data for a single moment in time, it can increase the probability to make a bad decision," said Robert Theaker, senior manager of assessment for National Heritage Academies, a network of 57 charter public schools in six states, including 36 in Michigan.

The Northwest Evaluation Association and other organizations now offer assessments that go beyond a "snapshot" look at a student's current ability into measuring how much academic growth a student made in a given academic year, and how much growth to expect of that student in the next.

SOURCE:
Michigan Education Report, "Into and beyond the MEAP," Nov. 25, 2008

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Data-driven in Michigan," April 21, 2008


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
mailto:med@educationreport.org

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