Contents of this issue:

  • Some districts giving up trimesters
  • Union backing still seen as key to 'Race'
  • District will evaluate four-day schedule
  • Michigan firm develops iPad math programs
  • Local district, ISD could share superintendent


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Grand Rapids Public Schools and West Ottawa Public Schools have announced a move back to semesters next year, while other West Michigan high schools are remaining on a trimester schedule, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Administrators told The Press that the main reason is academic. Students need a full year to master the content in courses now required for graduation, such as algebra II, they told The Press. They also said that semester scheduling requires fewer teachers and so will save on instructional costs, according to The Press.

The semester plan typically divides the school year into two, 18-week learning periods, while trimesters divide the same time into three 12-week periods. Under the trimester system, a student would complete algebra II in 24 weeks, compared to 36 weeks under a semester plan.

"We heard from teachers over and over how challenging it is to cover all the content in a trimester," Jane DeGroot, Grand Rapids Public Schools director of secondary leadership, told The Press. Another factor is that Grand Rapids plans to switch to more online instruction next year, and that coursework is organized in semester format, according to The Press.

Meanwhile, Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Shibler told The Press that trimesters give students more opportunity for elective courses like foreign language and art.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Two of West Michigan's largest school districts revert from trimester to semester scheduling to save money," March 26, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "New high school graduation requirements in action," May 6, 2008


DETROIT - Education officials say that union support will be needed if Michigan wants to win money in the second round of the Race to the Top competition, but few details have emerged on just how that will happen, according to a Detroit Free Press report.

The Michigan Department of Education said it will "bring together all of the education stakeholders" to discuss the matter, but spokesman Martin Ackley declined comment specifically on teachers unions, the Free Press reported.

Meanwhile, a Michigan Education Association spokesman told the Free Press that the union would "be inclined to participate in a truly collaborative process."

In the first round, Michigan secured limited support from the Michigan Federation of Teachers, while the Michigan Education Association didn't sign on at all, the Free Press reported.

Delaware and Tennessee, which won first-round competitive grants, had 100 percent and 93 percent union support, respectively. The next application, for up to $400 million in federal funds, is due June 1, according to the Free Press.

Union backing is viewed as an indicator of local support for education reform and improving teacher quality, Richard Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, told the Free Press.

Doug Pratt, the MEA spokesman, told the Free Press that the union is concerned with protecting collective bargaining rights in low-performing schools earmarked for reform.

Detroit Free Press, "State studies how to win school aid," April 9, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Nicely Played, MEA! 'Race to the Top' is starting to look like a fiasco," March 9, 2010


HOUGHTON, Mich. - The Adams Township School District saved about $25,000 by experimenting with a four-day schedule for three months, but now students are back to a five-day school week, according to The (Houghton) Daily Mining Gazette.

The district saved nearly $13,000 in labor, $8,000 in utilities and about $4,000 in transportation costs by closing for 11 Fridays, according to The Gazette. Each school day was slightly longer under the four-day week.

Superintendent Patrick Rozich told The Gazette that the district now will evaluate the experiment, including feedback from parents as well as from some faculty who said that students didn't appear to be working as hard.

"We're going to look more into that because we weren't exactly pleased with some of the changes, especially academically," Rozich said, according to The Gazette.

Rozich is applying to the Michigan Department of Education for a waiver next year to go to a four-day week at Jeffers High School, The Gazette reported. The district is also investigating wood-burning systems as a fuel source.

"The fuel system is killing our budget," Rozich said, according to the Gazette.

The (Houghton) Mining Gazette, "Four-day week comes to an end," April 7, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "Winter Weather Wonderland," Nov. 21, 2006


GRAND HAVEN, Mich. - A Grand Haven company that already publishes educational tools such as flash cards and computer programs now is providing applications for the new Apple iPad, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

School Zone Publishing Co. developed three programs designed to help elementary students practice their skills at money, time, fractions and other basic math, The Press reported. The applications are among about 1,000 iPad-specific programs, the report said.

"This is the ultimate, by going to touch technology, in addition to having sound and motion you have touch, that just takes it just absolutely to another level," Jonathan Hoffman, president and CEO of School Zone, told The Press.

The company has been developing software for Apple computers for 20 years. Hoffman told The Press that he has long believed in the use of handheld computers as educational tools.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Grand Haven software maker says iPad takes education programs 'to another level,' will launch 3 apps Saturday," April 2, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "Profit has a role in public schools," Feb. 23, 2007


LANSING, Mich. - Local public school districts and intermediate districts could share superintendents under legislation proposed recently in the Michigan House of Representatives, according to the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

State Rep. Mike Lahti, D-Hancock, said the bills would expand the shared services already allowed under state law, according to MIRS.

An intermediate school district in Lahti's legislative district spurred the idea after it began sharing a business manager with another district, but was barred from sharing a superintendent, MIRS reported.

House Bills 6008, 6009 and 6010 are sponsored by Lahti and Rep. Terry Brown, D-Pigeon, and have been referred to the House Education Committee.

The Michigan Association of School Administrators supports the proposal, Brad Biladeau, legislative liaison, told MIRS.

Biladeau and Lahti said rural school districts would be most likely to share a superintendent with an intermediate district, MIRS reported. Brown and Biladeau cited cost savings and fewer qualified superintendents in the job market as reasons for the proposal, according to MIRS.

Michigan Information & Research Service, Inc., "Districts to Share Superintendents?" April 9-10, 2010 (Subscription required)

Michigan Votes, "Let ISD Superintendent also be Regular School Superintendent," March 25, 2010




MICHIGAN EDUCATION 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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