Contents of this issue:

  • AP participation, failure rates both up
  • School group not ruling out ballot initiative
  • Local union wants agenda time for MEA
  • Districts pay for 'best school' title
  • Catholic school will forgive tuition


WASHINGTON, D.C. - More high school students than ever are taking Advanced Placement tests, but the failure rate is increasing as well, according to USA Today.

The newspaper's analysis showed that about 41 percent of the record 2.9 million students who took AP exams last year received a failing score. (To pass, students must earn at least a 3 on a scale of 1 to 5.)

AP courses are intended to challenge high school students with college-level work; some colleges award early credit to students who pass AP exams.

While USA Today did not discuss Michigan individually, the College Board 2009 report shows that about 67,000 Michigan students took AP classes last year, with a failure rate of about 35 percent across all subjects.

Michigan's mean scores varied widely, from 2.00 on the "Italian Language and Culture" exam, taken by 10 students only, to 4.65 on the "Chinese Language and Culture" exam, taken by 48 students. Michigan's most popular AP test is English Literature and Composition; about 8,700 students took that exam last year, earning a mean score of 2.85.

College Board officials told USA Today that it is misleading to lump all tests together to derive a pass-fail rate. For example, scores on AP Physics tests are consistently increasing, while AP English Literature scores are dropping, USA Today reported.

Also, average scores tend to drop as a wider range of students participate.

USA Today, "Failure rate for AP tests climbing," Feb. 4, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "MME scores mainly unchanged," July 15, 2009


DETROIT - Michigan voters could see an education funding question on the ballot this year if the state Legislature doesn't take action on the issue, the head of the "Save our Students, Schools and State" organization told the Detroit Free Press.

"I am offended at the notion that we have to go to the ballot," Tom White, SOS chairman and former head of the Michigan School Business Officials, told the Free Press. "But if we have to go, we will."

Just what the organization would seek in a ballot initiative was not detailed, but White told the Free Press that one thing SOS promotes is a reduction in school employee health insurance costs.

SOS members include representatives from the Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Parent Teacher Student Association and other education groups. It does not include the Michigan Education Association or American Federation of Teachers-Michigan.

"It's not an anti-union thing," White told the Free Press. "We're not going to be able to solve this ... with just getting new money."

Detroit Free Press, "Group pushing for changes in school funding could take its case to voters," Feb. 7, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Cuts to the Classroom: How Will Funding Reductions Affect Michigan Students?" Nov. 9, 2009


NOVI, Mich. - In a disagreement over who is allowed to book time on the school board agenda, the Novi Education Association said that if it can't bring in a representative from the Michigan Education Association to speak at a board meeting, then it will hold a community meeting of its own, according to the Novi News.

According to the News, the Novi teachers union wanted an MEA consultant to make a public presentation to the school board regarding a board request that teachers consider contract concessions.

However, while the school board wants to hear from the local union, it is not required under the current contract to give meeting time to the MEA, Bob Schram, assistant superintendent of human resources, told the News.

Tom Brenner, NEA president, has filed a grievance over the issue and also told the News that the union would host a public presentation by an MEA consultant regarding the district's budget.

Novi News, "Union president irked MEA cannot present to board," Feb. 4, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Source of the School Budget Quagmire," Dec. 7, 2009


YPSILANTI, Mich. - Nine southeast Michigan school districts paid $25,000 each to be named a "top school district" in Michigan by a Detroit-area public relations firm, according to AnnArbor.com.

The schools did not have to meet any criteria other than paying the money, AnnArbor.com reported. In addition to being designated top districts, the schools are cited on a Web site titled "bestschoolsinmichigan.com," and the company, Sussman Sikes, bought time on a Detroit-area television station to broadcast a feature on the schools.

Sussman Sikes representatives did not return multiple messages from AnnArbor.com requesting comment, the report said.

Several administrators in the participating districts said they view the payment as a way to showcase their schools and attract students, AnnArbor.com reported. Lincoln Consolidated Schools Superintendent Lynn Cleary told AnnArbor.com that print media in the area has declined and that the publicity allows Lincoln to reach a large audience.

Ann Arbor Public Schools decided against participating, spokesman Liz Margolis told AnnArbor.com, because of budget considerations and a lack of transparency over how districts came to be named "best schools."

AnnArbor.com, "Lincoln pays $25,000 to be named one of the top school districts in Michigan," Feb. 4, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan School Funding Problems Solved!" Feb. 4, 2010


WARREN, Mich. - Students won't have to leave De La Salle Collegiate High School next fall if their parents become unemployed and can't afford tuition during the school year, according to the Associated Press.

The all-boys, suburban Detroit high school has about 830 students and has set tuition at $8,700 next year. However, the school will forgive tuition for parents who become unemployed, according to an AP report published at mlive.com.

The benefit would apply to a specific school year, according to AP. De La Salle Principal Patrick Adams says the goal is to give families some security in a tough economy, according to AP.

Mlive.com, "Detroit area school gives tuition break to jobless," Feb. 6, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Catholic Schools and the Common Good," Aug. 16, 2005

MICHIGAN EDUATION 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

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