Contents of this issue:

  • Audit: Extra high school money had little effect
  • Law would let some opt out of algebra II
  • Custodians agree to concessions
  • MESSA hike takes up most of savings
  • Colorado district adopts performance pay


LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan Department of Education spent more than $67 million to help low-performing schools improve academically from 2005 to 2009, but the extra money had little effect on high school performance, according to an Auditor General report, the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc. reported.

The department tried various support initiatives designed to boost student achievement, but proficiency rates in troubled high schools didn't improve any faster than those in non-Title I high schools, the report said, according to MIRS.

Improvement was seen in less than two percent of high schools that received financial assistance, MIRS reported, though math scores did rise in Title I elementary and middle schools that received financial assistance.

MDE spokesman Martin Ackley told MIRS that school districts typically focus assistance on lower grades and that it can take years for reform to show results. Officials also told MIRS that the standardized test used in high school changed during the time period audited, and that the audit compares proficiency levels in one year's junior class with the following year's junior class. Those classes are composed of different students, officials told MIRS.

The Auditor General report also noted that the department didn't check on whether the money was spent on student achievement efforts; one district spent only 19 percent of the school improvement grant it received for fiscal year 2008, MIRS reported.

Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., "Audit Questions if MDE Helping Troubled Schools," May 7, 2010 (Subscription required)

Michigan Auditor General, "Performance Report of High-Priority Schools," May 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "New Research Suggests 'Reforming' Rather Than Closing Failing Schools a Forlorn Hope," March 30, 2010


LANSING, Mich. - Michigan lawmakers have adopted legislation under which high school students would not have to take algebra II in order to graduate, as long as they take statistics, data analysis or some other substitute class, according to media reports.

The Associated Press reported that House members approved the bill in a 104-3 vote, and Senate members, 32-3. Now it now goes to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has resisted changes to the tougher graduation requirements that Michigan enacted four years ago, AP reported.

The Detroit Free Press reported that students would have to consult with counselors and have parental consent before making the switch.

The bill's supporters said that failing algebra II was leading more students to drop out, or to receive "certificates" rather than high school diplomas, the Free Press reported.

The Associated Press, "Michigan lawmakers OK substitute for algebra class," May 6, 2010

Detroit Free Press, "Senate OKs Algebra II bill," May 7, 2010

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


ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ann Arbor Public Schools custodial and maintenance workers agreed to lower wages, less vacation time and higher health insurance payments in their most recent contract agreement with the district, which now will retain the 164 workers and their seven supervisors rather than outsource the work, according to The Ann Arbor Chronicle.

In all, the agreement will save the district $1.8 million, which was short of the original target of $2.5 million in the district's budget reduction plan, David Comsa, assistant superintendent for human resources and legal services, told the school board, according to The Chronicle.

The workers are represented by Local 1182 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the report said. All employees will receive an 8 percent decrease in wages, with higher-paid workers accepting an additional decrease of 46 cents an hour, The Chronicle reported.

The district and union will renegotiate wages and benefits in the 2011-2012 school year depending on the district's fund equity and enrollment, the report said.

The (Ann Arbor) Chronicle, "AAPS Custodial, Maintenance Kept Public," May 11, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Privatization Survey 2009," Dec. 7, 2009


EDMORE, Mich. - Teachers in Montabella Community Schools agreed to higher deductibles and co-pays as a way to bring down health insurance costs, only to learn that their insurance administrator will raise premium rates by about 15 percent in the coming year, according to The (Greenville) Daily News.

While the district had estimated it would save about $133,000, the increase charged by the Michigan Education Special Services Association will take up about $92,000 of that amount, Superintendent Ron Farrell said, according to The News. The district did not learn about the increase until after it signed the new labor agreement, The News reported.

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

In addition to the new health care plan, the contract also calls for teachers to receive a 1 percent salary increase, but no "step" increases in 2010-2011, The News reported. If the district's fund equity exceeds predictions by at least $100,000, MEA members will receive an additional 0.5 percent salary increase, according to The News.

The (Greenville) Daily News, "Montabella teachers, district reach agreement," May 7, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "More Money for MESSA," April 24, 2010


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A Colorado school district this year became one of only a handful in the nation to adopt a "pay for performance" system of compensating teachers, according to The (Colorado Springs) Gazette.

The 11,000-student Harrison School District 2 has moved away from salaries based on a teacher's education and years in the profession and adopted a system in which teachers will be evaluated annually on their performance and student achievement, The Gazette reported.

The performance evaluation will be based on up to 16 "spot" observations of teachers in the classroom as well as several longer observations, plus several measures of student academic progress, including standardized tests and interim assessments, according to a report in Education Week magazine.

A results-based pay plan for principals is expected to begin the following year, according to Education Week.

The new system includes nine compensation levels with new teachers getting about $35,000 and master teachers $90,000, The Gazette reported. Top level teachers must demonstrate student achievement gains, community leadership, participate in lifelong learning, contribute widely to the profession and mentor colleagues, according to The Gazette.

Reaction has been mixed, both reports said. Superintendent Mike Miles told The Gazette, "We are seeing everyone's worst fears and their best hopes."

The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, "Harrison on leading edge of teacher pay reform, experts say," Jan. 16, 2010

Education Week, "Colo. District Boots Traditional Salary Schedule," May 10, 2010 (Subscription required)

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Average Teacher Salaries Continue to Rise," May 10, 2010

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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