August 27, 2013

Contents of this issue:

  • TTB criticized; appears to measure poverty
  • Rep. Lyons Calls for Letter-Grading of Schools
  • Feds sue to block Louisiana vouchers
  • Teachers who supported convicted pedophile colleague keep jobs
  • Utica teachers learn how to build 3D printers

TTB Criticized; Appears to Measure Poverty

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – With the release of the Michigan Department of Education’s Top-to-Bottom list, several Ann Arbor Public Schools were ranked poorly, according to MLive.

“[The rankings] do not accurately demonstrate the academic performance of our students,” AAPS spokeswoman Liz Margolis told MLive.
In a blog post, Godfey-Lee Superintendent David Britten posted a scatterplot of school TTB rankings and student poverty, showing that the two are closely related.
“Did we really need another expensive system for identifying which schools and districts have higher rates of poverty than others,” he wrote. “Perhaps someone should tell [MDE] that data already exists.”
School rankings on the TTB list do not match rankings published by the Mackinac Center, which does account for student poverty when grading schools.
MDE posted a two-page policy paper on its TTB website, with a similar scatter plot showing the close correlation. According to MDE, though the average percentage of minority students in Michigan schools is 27 percent, schools ranked poorly on the TTB list have an average of 78 percent minority students.
SOURCES: AnnArbor.com, “Ann Arbor school official: Ranking on new scorecards not accurate indicator of performance,” Aug. 20, 2013 

Rebel 6 Ramblings, “Michigan Top-to-Bottom Ranking – Just Another Indictment of Poverty,” Aug. 23, 2013 

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan Public Elementary and Middle School Context and Performance Database,” July 2013 
Michigan Department of Education, “2013 TTB List and Priority, Focus and Reward Designations in Brief,” August 2013 

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “At Thirkell, State Grade Doesn’t Match Up," Aug. 26, 2013 

Rep. Lyons Calls for Letter-Grading of Schools

LANSING, Mich. – On the heels of the publication of the state’s Top-to-Bottom list, a ranking that scores school performance, Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, has called for letter-grading of schools, according to MLive.
MLive reports that Rep. Lyons called the TTB system confusing for parents, ambiguous and unclear.
She further said that “A letter-grade system would provide parents with a solid sense of the school’s performance and they could use this to begin to formulate good decisions,” according to MLive.
Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia, according to MLive, already introduced a bill earlier that would implement letter grades for schools.
SOURCE: MLive, “Rep. Lisa Lyons calls for letter-grade system for evaluating Michigan schools,” Aug. 21, 2013

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “State Report Card Ranks Some Top Schools Near the Bottom,” Aug. 15, 2013 

Michigan Votes, “2013 House Bill 4154: Revise school accreditation,” Jan. 31, 2013

Feds Sue to Block Louisiana Vouchers

NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. government is suing Louisiana to block vouchers for schools that prosecutors say have “impeded the desegregation process,” according to the Times-Picayune.

The Times-Picayune reports that Louisiana’s voucher program helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds at low-scoring schools attend private schools.
According to the Times-Picayune, the federal government is arguing that letting students leave those low-performing schools can impact the racial balance in public schools, and says that “the loss of students…reversed much of the progress made toward integration.”
Louisiana State Superintendent John White told the Times-Picayune that nearly all students who use the voucher program are black. White also told the Times Picayune that it was ironic that attempts to deter racism were being used to keep black students in low-performing schools.
SOURCE: The Times Picayune, “U.S. government sues to block vouchers in some Louisiana school systems,” Aug. 24, 2013

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Time to Take School Choice in Michigan to the Next Level,” Aug. 8, 2013 

Teachers Who Supported Convicted Pedophile Colleague Keep Jobs

ROSE CITY, Mich. – West Branch-Rose City teachers who supported a colleague convicted of having an improper relationship with an eighth-grader will keep their jobs, according to The Detroit News.

The News reports that Rose City parents were upset that some teachers wrote letters of support for their convicted colleague in an attempt to ease his sentence. Several parents, according to The News, are now considering home schooling, a nearby charter school and other options.
The school board, which voted 4-2 to keep the teachers, said that it would try to accommodate parents who request that their children not be taught by those teachers, The News reports.
Board members said that discipline of the teachers would have resulted in expensive lawsuits, according to The News.
SOURCE: The Detroit News, “Rose City teachers who supported colleague in sex case keep jobs,” Aug. 20, 2013

FURTHER READING: Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Escaping the Scandal in Rose City,” Aug. 8, 2013 

Utica Teachers Learn How to Build 3D Printers

UTICA, Mich. – Michigan Technological University recently held a workshop to teach 22 teachers how to build a 3D printer, according to the (Macomb) Advisor & Source.

“We built a 3D printer from parts we printed off,” Utica teacher Geoff Clark told the Advisor & Source. Michigan Tech faculty member and researcher Joshua Pearce wrote, according to the Advisor & Source, that “3D printers will enable teachers everywhere to save tons of money and get precisely what they want for their classrooms.”
The workshop taught teachers how to build a RepRap printer, which is a 3D printer that uses all open-source software, according to the Advisor & Source. Object designs can be downloaded for free and easily manipulated, the Advisor & Source reports.
The two Utica teachers who attended the workshop told the Advisor & Source that they will be starting a 3D printer afterschool program. “We’ll have kids build the printers and take them to their schools,” Utica teacher Mike Attan told the Advisor & Source.
SOURCE: The (Macomb) Advisor & Source, “Teachers get hands-on with new 3D printer technology” Aug. 23, 2013

FURTHER READING: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Calumet High School: CAP Success Story,” July 2, 2013