Contents of this issue:
- Most seniors not 'college-ready'
- Schools move to November elections
- Pontiac wants stimulus flexibility
- Audit: Millions in waste at DPS
- Promise Zone work begins in Lansing
MOST SENIORS NOT 'COLLEGE-READY'
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Only 16 percent of Michigan's Class of 2009 is "college ready," if ACT scores are used as a predictor, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.
The report said that based on Michigan Department of Education analyses, the majority of college-bound seniors may need at least one remedial class or are at risk of failing college English, social studies, algebra or biology.
For example, of the 5,428 graduates in the Kalamazoo area, fewer than 900 tested as "college-ready" in all four core academic subjects, The Gazette reported. ACT spokesman Ed Colby told The Gazette that the testing company compares actual college success rates with students' previous ACT scores, enabling it to predict the scores needed to earn at least a "C" in college classes.
"People should be concerned," Penny Bundy, admissions director at Western Michigan University and a former ACT official, told The Gazette. "The ACT assessments are very credible, they have longitudinal data to back it up, and they've looked at this issue again and again and again."
Michigan's new, stiffer high school graduation requirements should result in higher ACT scores in coming years, Joseph Martineau, of the Michigan Department of Education, told The Gazette. Other education officials pointed to students who have succeeded in college despite ACT scores that fell below the "college-ready" level.
Urban districts and very small districts appear to have the lowest college-readiness levels, The Gazette reported, some as low as 10 percent. Colby told The Gazette that a recent ACT study showed that college success can be predicted by grades and test scores earned in eighth grade.
The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Only 16% of state grads 'college-ready;' Most high school students lack adequate skills in at least one subject, ACT shows," Aug. 9, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "Will a state-mandated high school curriculum of 18 credits ensure better-prepared students in the 21st Century? No"
Michigan Education Report, "Study: Over $600 million per year for remedial ed," Nov. 1, 2000
SCHOOLS MOVE TO NOVEMBER ELECTIONS
GRAND LEDGE, Mich. - More school districts are moving to cost- saving November elections, according to a report in the Lansing State Journal. Grand Ledge Public Schools is one example; rather than foot the bill for its own spring election, it will share costs with other municipalities in a joint November ballot this year, the Journal reported.
Charlotte Public Schools Superintendent Nancy Hipskind told the Journal that November elections have greater visibility.
"I think sometimes the other election date people kind of lose track of, but there's usually enough going on at the November election that they usually have some awareness of that," Hipskind told the Journal.
Williamston Community Schools moved to November elections in 2008, but when a recreation millage failed on that ballot the district returned to voters this May, the Journal reported. The millage passed in May, though voter turnout was significantly lower, according to the Journal.
"We needed decisions from the community in order to be able to make budget decisions for this upcoming school year," Superintendent Joel Raddatz told the Journal.
Lansing State Journal, "Schools moving elections to save cash," Aug. 6, 2009
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Secret Ballot?" May 22, 2006
PONTIAC WANTS STIMULUS FLEXIBILITY
PONTIAC, Mich. - The Pontiac School District budget for 2009- 2010 rests on using stimulus dollars in a way that is not allowed, according to school officials, and the district as well as Oakland Schools may hire two legal firms in an effort to persuade the federal government to relax the rules, The Macomb Daily reported.
Pontiac has reduced spending by $16 million, but has another $7.6 million to go in order to make payroll and continue operations in the coming year, the report said. It wants to shift stimulus funds allocated to the Title I program for disadvantaged children into the general operations budget to cover the overspending, according to The Daily.
That's not allowed under stimulus regulations, but the school board learned at a recent meeting that Oakland Schools, the area intermediate district, will chip in $25,000 in legal fees to "win some flexibility," Pontiac school attorney George Pitchford said, according to The Daily.
Pontiac already hired the legal firm Brustein & Manasevit earlier this year; Oakland has offered to pay $5,000 toward that effort, The Daily reported. Oakland also has offered to pay up to $20,000 to the firm Hogan and Horston, according to the report, but Pontiac would have pay charges over that amount. The Washington, D.C., firms charge $250 to $300 an hour, and $300 to $600 an hour, respectively, The Daily reported.
Pontiac school trustees asked whether funds should be spent on expensive attorneys, given the district's finances, according to The Daily, and were told that next year's budget already is based on moving about $7.3 million in stimulus funds to general operations.
The Macomb Daily, "Pontiac schools seek federal stimulus money," Aug. 5, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "Detroit not the only school district seeing red," June 30, 2008
AUDIT: MILLIONS IN WASTE AT DPS
DETROIT - Detroit Public Schools paid about $2.1 million a year for health coverage for people who weren't eligible, according to a recent audit, while a public safety inventory turned up unused motorcycles, BlackBerry phones and metal detection devices, according to WDIV-TV4.
In other Detroit news, school teachers and city workers threatened to walk out in opposition to wage cuts, furloughs or other demands for union concessions by the city or school district, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The school district's emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, said the district learned through the audit that it was picking up the health insurance costs of about 411 ineligible dependents, WDIV reported. In the future, employees will have to repay any costs incurred in those cases.
A separate audit showed undocumented inventory in the district's public safety department as well as overtime costs exceeding the budget by more than $1 million in the last two fiscal years, the station reported.
Detroit teachers were among the attendees at a recent union rally in support of maintaining current salaries and benefits, and in opposition to privatization, the Free Press reported.
Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan.
WDIV-TV4, "DPS Audits Find Millions in Waste," Aug. 5, 2009
Detroit Free Press, "Detroit unions threaten to strike over cuts," Aug. 6, 2009
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Detroit's Schools are Going Bankrupt, Too," July 24, 2009
PROMISE ZONE WORK BEGINS IN LANSING
LANSING, Mich. - Ten community members were named to the Lansing School District's Promise Zone advisory board last week and now will begin the work of establishing scholarship guidelines and raising money, the Lansing State Journal reported.
Lansing is one of 10 regions in Michigan designated as a Promise Zone under a new state law allowing them to capture a portion of the growth in property tax revenue and use it for scholarships, the Journal reported. Tax dollars must be matched with dollars gathered in local fundraising, the report said.
The board intends to create a program under which students can receive scholarships covering two years of tuition at Lansing Community College, according to the Journal, though they have not yet decided when the program will officially begin.
Officials said Lansing's experience with the HOPE scholarship program, which offered tuition to 500 at-risk sixth-graders, will help the advisory board in its work, the Journal reported.
Lansing State Journal, "Panel set to work on Promise Zone scholarship effort," Aug. 7, 2009
Michigan Education Report, "Promise Zone bills signed,"Jan. 16, 2009
MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (https://www.educationreport.org), an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (https://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.