Contents of this issue:

  • Bus drivers stay on in Adrian
  • Christian school closes in Burton
  • More schools make AYP
  • Home-schoolers do well on standard tests
  • Thumb-area schools in MESSA dispute (Corrected version)
  • Debate workshops return


ADRIAN, Mich. - Adrian Public Schools students will see familiar faces behind the wheel of most school buses this year, as half of the bus drivers formerly employed by the district accepted jobs with First Student, the district's new bus service provider, according to The (Adrian) Daily Telegram.

Among them is Sue White, a former bus driver who is now the First Student contract manager in Adrian.

"There's not going to be a lot of new faces for the community,"

White told The Telegram. Fourteen of the 19 routes operated by the district will have drivers who worked for the district a year ago.

Privatizing the bus service was a controversial issue for the district in the spring of 2009, The Telegram reported. As school employees, the drivers were members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 547. White told The Telegram that she didn't know if the drivers will choose to unionize as First Student employees, and a union business manager was unavailable for comment.

White told The Telegram that First Student is using "Child Check-Mate," a system of ensuring that no child is forgotten on buses, and also plans to install global positioning systems in all vehicles. That will help the company determine if, for example, buses are idling for extended periods or are speeding.

The (Adrian) Daily Telegram, "Adrian bus drivers prepare for school year," Aug. 21, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Privatization Survey Shows Gains in Support Service Contracting," Sept. 7, 2009


BURTON, Mich. - Valley Christian Academy in Burton has closed due to financial pressures caused by dwindling enrollment, The Flint Journal reported. An advertising campaign and tuition reduction did not bring in enough students to keep the 29-year- old school operating.

"Unless the economy comes back, any tuition-based school is in danger," Principal Sam Pace told The Journal.

The school had reduced tuition to $2,500, The Journal reported.

While Valley Christian received financial assistance from area church congregations, it did not have a sponsoring church.

School enrollment in 2008-2009 was 103, according to the report, with students coming from throughout the Flint and Burton area.

The Flint Journal, "Leaving Valley Christian: Tears, goodbyes accompany close of Burton private school," Sept. 2, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Painting the Private School Picture," May 12, 2000


LANSING, Mich. - The percentage of Michigan schools making "adequate yearly progress" rose from 80 to 86 percent in 2008-2009, according to findings released by the Michigan Department of Education and reported in the Detroit Free Press.

The improvement was attributed to better math and writing scores among low-income students and a new standard under which schools receive credit for high school students who graduate in five years rather than the traditional four, the Free Press reported.

Under the terms of the federal No Child Left Behind act, schools hat fail to make adequate yearly progress are subject to a variety of sanctions, including providing transportation for students to attend a better school.

The number of schools not demonstrating AYP dropped to 528 from 758, the Free Press reported.

The number of schools that have failed to make AYP for at least five years climbed from 154 to 169, the report said. Those schools are designated for restructuring.

Detroit Free Press, "Michigan releases latest school report cards," Sept. 3, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "The shell game of making AYP,"March 18, 2009


WASHINGTON, D.C. - The nation's home-schooled children score, on average, at the 88th percentile on standardized tests in reading, math and language, according to a study commissioned by the Home School Legal Defense Association and conducted by the National Home Education Research Institute.

The study included nearly 12,000 home-schooled students from all 50 states who took the California Achievement Test, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the Stanford Achievement Test in 2007-2008, according to an opinion piece written by Michael Smith, HSLDA president, which was printed in The Washington Times.

Home-school scores showed little variation by gender or household income, Smith wrote. Boys scored at the 87th percentile and girls at the 88th. Children of parents with household income between $35,000 and $49,000 scored at the 86th percentile, while those in households with income at $70,000 or higher scored at the 89th. 

Smith suggested that the higher scores are due in part to one-on-one instruction in the home-school setting.

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 1.5 million children are taught at home, the article said.

The Washington Times, "Home-Schooling: Outstanding Results on
National Tests
," Aug. 30, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Attorney: Home-schoolers must defend parental rights," June 3, 2009


(EDITOR'S NOTE: The original version of this item contained an error. It now correctly states that Greenville Public Schools is located in Montcalm County.)

HURON COUNTY, Mich. - Dispute continues in Thumb-area schools over a union-affiliated health care plan, according to a report in the Huron Daily Tribune.

The Michigan Education Special Services Association raised rates by an average of 8.5 percent among districts in Huron County, while the statewide average increase was 4.9 percent. Port Hope Community Schools and Owendale-Gagetown Area Schools both will see double-digit increases, according to the Tribune.

MESSA is a third-party insurance administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association. It sells insurance packages underwritten by Blue Cross Blue Shield to a majority of Michigan school districts.

The Tribune reported that a number of school officials believe MESSA is too expensive and that comparable plans are available at lower costs, while teachers believe MESSA offers the best service and benefits. Saving money on health care will be a focal point during the next round of contract negotiations in many districts, school officials said.

Owendale-Gagetown believes that MESSA made a mistake in counting the number of full-family subscribers in its district, inflating its increase, and the school board passed a resolution in protest, Superintendent Dana Compton told the Tribune.

Meanwhile, in Montcalm County, the Greenville Education Association and Greenville Public Schools reached a contract agreement under which teachers can choose between MESSA and Priority Health plans, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Greenville teachers reach contract agreement that saves district $250,000," Sept. 2, 2009

Huron Daily Tribune, "School officials, union reps don't agree on MESSA," Sept. 1, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Splitting the health insurance bill," Aug.19, 2009


Should the federal government do more to help poor people?

High school debaters across Michigan will take up that question in the coming year, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy again will sponsor a series of workshops to help them and their coaches prepare.

The exact wording of the National Debate Topic 2009 is: "Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase social services for persons living in poverty in the United States."

The workshops will take place in Livonia on Oct. 5; Adrian, Oct. 6; Grand Rapids, Oct. 7; and Traverse City, Oct. 8. Registration is required by Sept. 21.

More information and online registration is available at or by contacting Kendra Shrode at 989-631-0900. The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.

Michigan Education Report, "Poverty is 2009 national debate topic," Sept. 8, 2009

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

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at

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