Contents of this issue:
Former teacher union leader Feldman dies at 65
ACT scheduled to take the place of MEAP in 2007
Detroit dropout programs encourage kids to go back to school
Governor's letter calls on authorizers to improve charter performance
Greenville school buses to begin using biodiesel
Holland teachers prepare for strike
Muskegon-area parents like charter schools as alternative
School district takes responsibility for bus injury
FORMER TEACHER UNION LEADER FELDMAN DIES AT 65
New York — The New York Times reported that former American Federation
of Teachers President Sandra Feldman died of breast cancer at her
Manhattan home on Sept. 18. She was 65.
Feldman, who wrote a feature for the Mackinac Center's Michigan
Education Report in 1999, led the 1.3 million-member AFT from 1997 to
2004. According to The Times, Feldman was "outspoken" and a "scrappy
fighter" for her organization. She had a reputation for publicly taking
on New York mayors and other officials when she felt they were not
looking out for the best interests of AFT teachers. Randi Weingarten,
who succeeded Feldman as president of a New York local teachers union,
told The Times, "People remember her take-no-prisoners kind of
attitude, but Sandy was far more pragmatic than people give her credit
In the Education Gadfly, an online periodical published by the Thomas
B. Fordham Foundation, Diane Ravitch noted that Feldman was also
engaged in the civil rights movement and teacher strikes in the 1960s.
Feldman most recently worked with the Bush administration to help draft
the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The New York Times, "Sandra Feldman, Scrappy and Outspoken Labor Leader
for Teachers, Dies at 65," Sept. 20, 2005
The Education Gadfly (Thomas B. Fordham Foundation), "Sandra Feldman,
in memoriam," Sept. 22, 2005
Michigan Education Report, "Unions Help Fix Failing Schools,"
ACT SCHEDULED TO TAKE THE PLACE OF MEAP IN 2007
Detroit — Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced last Wednesday that the
American College Test will replace the Michigan Educational Assessment
Program test in high schools beginning with the class of 2008. The ACT
will be administered to all Michigan 11th-graders during the spring
before their high school senior year, The Detroit News reported.
The ACT is a college entrance exam currently required by all state
colleges in Michigan, according to The News. Currently, students who
choose to take the test have to pay a $70 fee, but the state says it
will pay that cost when the ACT becomes Michigan's official high school
proficiency test. The state plans to use the ACT to determine the
winners of the Michigan Merit Award scholarship and to measure high
schools' Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind after the
change receives approval from the U.S. Department of Education.
The News reported that the MEAP was never intended to be a college
admissions test. Even in high-performing districts, some students opted
not to take the MEAP because it would not help them get into college,
but a bad score might reflect poorly on their record. Gov. Granholm
said, "To compete in a global economy, our students must continue their
education beyond high school. To make this expectation a reality, we
must give students the tools they need to succeed including the
opportunity to take a college entrance exam."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan said he
expects the switch from MEAP to ACT to "increase ... the number of
students who choose to continue their education beyond high school,"
according to The News. But some parents are not thrilled about the
government mandating a college entrance exam. The News reported that
Dawn Gietzen, a parent in Macomb Township, believes that college is
important but, "Parents should step in and guide (students) in the
The Detroit News, "ACT to replace MEAP in 2007," Sept. 22, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Group looks to replace MEAP with ACT,"
Dec. 23, 2003
Michigan Education Report, "Which Educational Achievement Test is Best
for Michigan?" Early Fall 2002
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Does the MEAP Measure Up?",
Dec. 18, 2001
DETROIT DROPOUT PROGRAMS ENCOURAGE KIDS TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL
Detroit — Three Detroit Public Schools programs, in conjunction with
community and church leaders, are helping Detroit high school dropouts
go back to school and learn valuable skills, according to The Detroit
DPS and some Detroit-area community groups are targeting 17- to 19-year-old dropouts to help them regain educational focus with mixed
traditional and vocational classes, The News reported. Some programs
are using later start times and more computer instruction to get kids
interested in returning to school.
Last Chance, a program operated by the Detroit Association of Black
Organizations, focuses on giving dropouts a combination of GED and
skilled training. According to The News, Last Chance students work on
building-trade projects such as renovating Detroit area homes. Rev.
Horace Sheffield III, who runs Last Chance, told the newspaper, "We are
bringing kids back into the public schools. It's a positive."
Detroit's Urban Arts Academy is also working closely with dropouts who
want to pursue a return to education. The organization, run by the
Detroit Hispanic Development Corp., is focused on academics, paired
with art and animation, according to The News. Urban Arts is teaching
former dropouts marketable skills ranging from computer animation to
Another program, Middle College Academy, is helping students by using
technology in the classroom. Rev. Jim Holley, who runs the Middle
College program, told The News that some students are embarrassed by
what they do not know. "A computer doesn't intimidate you like a
teacher or a classroom does. Lots of kids don't participate in class
for fear of what they don't know." Middle College focuses on students
who typically need two years of instruction to complete their diploma.
Middle College students also work part-time.
According to The News, DPS graduates less than 50 percent of its
students in four years. It is estimated that there are more than
100,000 people between the ages of 16 and 24 in Michigan who are not in
school and do not have a diploma, The News reported. DPS expects to
lose 10,000 students this year. District CEO William Coleman III told
The News that the district is focusing on educating eighth- and ninth-
graders about DPS's vocational programs, analyzing their suspension
policies and setting goals for truant officers, according to The News.
Currently, Last Chance, Urban Arts and Middle College are serving
hundreds of Detroit youths, but each of the programs plans to expand in
the near future.
The Detroit News, "Dropouts go back to school," Sept. 22, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Census data shows troubling amounts of
dropouts," June 8, 2004
Michigan Education Report, "High School Dropout Changes Course and
Changes Students' Lives as Public School Teacher," Spring 1999
GOVERNOR'S LETTER CALLS ON AUTHORIZERS TO IMPROVE CHARTER PERFORMANCE
Lansing, Mich. — In a letter to charter school authorizers last week,
Gov. Jennifer Granholm said she was concerned about a "troubling
pattern of low performance," according to Booth Newspapers.
The letter was sent to 11 university and community college presidents,
reported Booth. Granholm urged the university heads to put pressure on
charter school management companies who in her view are not meeting
According to Booth, roughly three-quarters of Michigan's 220 charter
schools are managed by for-profit companies, the most of any state in
Jim Goenner, executive director of Central Michigan University's
charter school office, told Booth, "I'm a little puzzled. I don't think
the data represents a troubling trend. It represents an improving
trend." Gongwer News Service reported that Goenner was just returning
from an annual conference on the topic of optimizing charter school
performance when he was reached for comment. "We must have read the
governor's mind," he told Gongwer.
Booth reported that last year, 82 percent of Michigan charter schools
made the federal Adequate Yearly Progress standard, up from 61 percent
only a year before.
Granholm is also concerned about accountability, calling the charter
school's lack of a corresponding home district a missing link,
according to Booth. However, Dan Quisenberry, executive director of the
Michigan Association of Public School Academies, told Booth that he
considers the universities' responsibilities over the charter schools
they authorize an "additional link" in the chain of oversight, not a
According to Gongwer, many of the university charter school authorizers
said that they had been working on improving performance even before
the governor's letter last week. Goenner told Gongwer, "We are on the
leading edge of where educational measurement is going."
Booth Newspapers, "Charter schools need to shape up, Granholm says,"
Sept. 23, 2005
Gongwer News Service, "Granholm calls on charter authorizers to aid
school improvement," Sept. 22, 2005
https://www.gongwer.com/programming/news_articledisplay.cfm? article_ID=441840105&newsedition_id=4418401&locid=1&link=news_articledisplay.cfm? article_ID=441840105%26newsedition_id=4418401%26locid=1
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Charter Schools Don't Need More
Michigan Department of Education 'Oversight,'" Aug. 12, 2003
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "When Will Conventional Public
Schools Be as Accountable as Charters?" Aug. 16, 2004
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Setting a Higher Standard of
Accountability in Public Education," Nov. 12, 2001
GREENVILLE SCHOOL BUSES TO BEGIN USING BIODIESEL
Grand Rapids, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Press reported last week that
Greenville Public Schools will begin using biodiesel fuel in their
buses. The environmentally motivated move is being promoted as a money-saving measure.
According to The Press, diesel fuel prices jumped more than 30 percent
between the end of last school year and the beginning of the new school
year. Greenville Transportation Director Joe Knight told the newspaper,
"We had budgeted for an eight percent increase, but we weren't
expecting to pay that much. If prices continue to climb, we could be
looking at spending an extra $40,000 for fuel." So the district now
plans to switch over gradually to biodiesel.
The diesel that Greenville wants to use is B-20 fuel, which is 20
percent soybean oil and 80 percent diesel, according to The Press. The
local distributor, Petersen Oil and Propane, says that the fuel
provides significant protection against engine wear and burns cleaner
than conventional diesel. Jill Blair, Petersen's bulk facilities
manager, said, "We're one of the first distributors in the area to make
this product available, and Greenville will be our first school
customer to try it."
Knight said that Greenville buses drove 376,000 miles last year at
roughly $3.20 per mile per bus in total costs. Considering that cost,
Knight told The Press, "You look to save money wherever you can."
According to The Press, St. Johns Public Schools was the first Michigan
school district to use biodiesel beginning in 2002. St. Johns' head
mechanic told The Press that the district is saving about $3,000 a year
with the fuel, and that performance has improved: "We have experienced
very positive results using a B-20 blend in our fleet. Our buses don't
have the exhaust soot on the back that has to be scrubbed off, and the
fleet average fuel mileage has increased from 8.1 to 8.8 miles per
Soy diesel currently costs slightly more than conventional diesel, but
The Press reported that districts like Greenville are banking on a
future increased demand for the fuel and the reduced maintenance costs
that biodiesel could bring to save money in the long run.
The Grand Rapids Press, "Buses bank on biodiesel to cut costs,"
Sept. 22, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally
Responsible Public School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002
HOLLAND TEACHERS PREPARE FOR STRIKE
Holland, Mich. — The Holland Sentinel reported last Friday that Holland
teachers are getting ready for a possible labor standoff with Holland
Public Schools. The Michigan Education Association and its local
bargaining unit in Holland are concerned that the district might
"illegally impose" a contract on the 340 district teachers, according
to the newspaper.
The MEA has set up a "crisis center" in Holland, and teachers were seen
there picking up t-shirts and making signs, The Sentinel reported.
Employees of public schools are prohibited by law from striking in
Martin Lankford, an MEA representative, told The Sentinel, "If the
school board imposes a contract or a portion of the contract on the
teachers, this bargaining unit will consider all of its options,"
which, according to Lankford, include a strike.
The Sentinel reported that MEA and National Education Association
personnel from the Traverse City area and Florida arrived in Holland
this week to offer strike training sessions for teachers and to monitor
the situation. HPS Superintendent Frank Garcia told The Sentinel, "I
would be disappointed if our teachers would participate in any illegal
activity. I'm also surprised the HEA and MEA would bring outsiders from
as far away as Florida to assess our community."
A major issue stalling negotiations is health insurance and benefits,
according to The Sentinel. The district says that it will be bankrupt
in two years if they implement the teachers' demands. Teachers have
been working without a contract since Aug. 31. The next bargaining
session is Sept. 28.
The Holland Sentinel, "Teachers gear up for labor struggle,"
Sept. 23, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Holland district concerned about possible
illegal teacher strike," Sept. 20, 2005
MUSKEGON-AREA PARENTS LIKE CHARTER SCHOOLS AS ALTERNATIVE
Muskegon, Mich. — According to The Muskegon Chronicle, parents in that
part of Michigan are happy with the education alternative they find in
area charter schools.
An article published in The Chronicle on Sunday, Sept. 18 noted that
the fear that many charter schools would take the best students from
conventional public schools has not been realized. In 2004-5, seven
charter schools in the Muskegon area had a total enrollment of 1,833
students, The Chronicle reported. Some are from families struggling
economically, while others simply were not satisfied at conventional
Parents seem to enjoy the alternative, according to The Chronicle. Many
charter school staff members enjoy the constant parental contact.
Charter schools also typically offer a small classroom atmosphere,
which many parents appreciate.
According to The Chronicle, some teachers and staff work in charter
schools simply because they are drawn to their unique environment.
Terri Garza, a reading aide who works at Timberland Charter Academy,
told The Chronicle, "My friends who are teachers in other schools
always question why I don't go to public schools, but I say, 'Give me a
reason to.'" Shannon Nash, a teacher at Timberland, likes working in a
charter school because, "I can be free in how I use the curriculum, and
the small classes allow me to make more of an impact on learning."
Parents Dave and Karen Glick told The Chronicle that their son at Three
Oaks Public School Academy "will not go anywhere else." He was bullied
in their district's public school, but now has no problems at his
smaller charter school. Karen Glick said, "When your kids get involved
with something they like, and you see them growing, you'll do anything,
endure anything and try anything for them."
Many charter schools have a dress code, limited sports options and do
not offer transportation, but like conventional public schools, they do
not charge tuition. According to The Chronicle, many parents simply see
charters as their best option.
Muskegon Chronicle, "Parents, students appreciate an alternative to
public schools," Sept. 18, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Stop Beating Up on Charter
Schools," Dec. 2, 2002
Michigan Education Report, "Report: Charter progress outpaces public
high schools," Spring 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Choice Has Been Tried — And
It Works!", Oct. 4, 1999
SCHOOL DISTRICT TAKES RESPONSIBILITY FOR BUS INJURY
Saginaw, Mich. — The Saginaw News reported last week that Carrollton
Public Schools acknowledged the district is responsible for rider
safety on their buses.
The statement came after kindergartener Marlon Wilkins Jr. fell asleep
and missed his stop on his way home from school. His 10-year-old sister
forgot he had begun full-day kindergarten and did not realize he was on
the bus, The News reported. The driver called him twice when his sister
got off the bus. After the driver learned Marlon had missed his stop,
she had a student bring him to the front of the bus, but he again fell
asleep in the front seat. When the driver braked, Wilkins was jostled
out of his seat and cut his head on the bus floor, according to the
The News reported that Marlon's mother, Maria, was angry with a
district policy that states it is not the driver's responsibility to
make sure children exit the bus at the correct stop.
Superintendent Craig C. Douglas told The News, "We accept
responsibility for the kids' safety. We are very sorry he got a cut on
his head. We are glad it was not a serious cut." Marlon Wilkins
required brief medical attention, but was back at school two days
later, according to The News.
The Saginaw News, "Schools accept responsibility for students' safety
on buses," Sept. 22, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Parent Trap," July 1, 2005
MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education
a quarterly newspaper
with a circulation of 140,000 published by the Mackinac Center
for Public Policy (https://www.mackinac.org
nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.