Contents of this issue:

  • Reading 'proficiency' varies by test
  • Lead poisoning a factor in DPS scores?
  • Contracting for drivers may save money
  • Linden reopener depends on MEA
  • Utica teachers agree to one-year freeze


LANSING, Mich. - While Michigan's own standardized testing program showed that reading scores were up in 2009, a national report says that Michigan trails other states in teaching its children to read well by fourth grade, according to media reports.

In March, the Michigan Department of Education announced that 90 percent of the state's third-graders and 84 percent of fourth- graders scored well enough on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests to be considered "proficient" readers.

But a news release about the recent Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count report put Michigan's fourth-grade reading proficiency at 30 percent. The Kids Count results are based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, according to the foundation.

The report ranked Michigan 34th nationally on fourth-grade reading proficiency, the Lansing State Journal reported, with white children and those in high-income families scoring higher than minority or low-income children. Reading well by the end of third grade is considered an important indicator of future success in school, the Journal reported.

Responding to the report, the Michigan Department of Education plans a new pre-kindergarten to adult literacy initiative, based on programs in Kentucky and Massachusetts, according to an Associated Press report posted at mlive.com.

Mlive.com, "Michigan plans pre-K to adult literacy campaign," May 18, 2010

Lansing State Journal, "Michigan third-graders struggle to keep up in reading," May 18, 2010

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, "Kids Count Data Center," May 18, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "MEAP reading scores up," March 16, 2010


DETROIT - Health and education officials say there is a link between a history of lead poisoning and low scores on standardized tests among Detroit students, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Data shows that about 60 percent of DPS students who performed below grade level on 2008 standardized tests also had a history of elevated lead levels, the Free Press reported. Lead poisoning can affect brain function for life, according to the Free Press.

Higher lead levels correlated with lower test scores, though other factors might also have played a role, the Free Press reported. Children who receive special education services were found to be more likely to have a history of lead poisoning, according to the Free Press.

The overall number of lead poisoning cases continues to fall in Detroit, but past episodes have long-term effects, the Free Press reported.

"We haven't seen this connection with lead before," Brenda Gelman-Berkowitz, a school social worker, told the Free Press. "But I see evidence of it everywhere."

Detroit Free Press, "High lead levels hurt learning for DPS kids," May 16, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit test scores worst in nation," Dec. 8, 2009


MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. - Eight Muskegon area school districts are considering hiring Michigan Education Transportation Services to provide bus drivers, a move that could save districts anywhere from 5 percent to 61 percent of current transportation costs, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

METS, based in Portland, was the only company that responded to a request for proposals put out by the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District on behalf of local districts, The Chronicle reported.

The company offered schools a variety of wage-and-benefit scenarios, ranging from duplicating current wages and providing METS benefits to reduced wages and no benefits, according to The Chronicle.

The proposal stipulated that the districts will retain ownership of their buses and will manage their own transportation, but that the drivers would be provided through METS, The Chronicle reported. The lowest METS wage would be $13 per hour; average district pay ranges from about $14 to $16 per hour, according to the report.

Marios Demetriou, MAISD associate superintendent, declined to tell The Chronicle which scenario the districts are pursuing.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Many Muskegon County school districts pursuing plans to privatize bus drivers," May 14, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "Beyond brooms, burgers and buses," Nov. 21, 2006


FENTON, Mich. - Support staff employees in Linden Community Schools are willing to consider concessions as a way to protect jobs, but must consult with the Michigan Education Association on whether the local can reopen its contract, according to the (Fenton) Tri-County Times.

The district may lay off support staff due largely to a 13 percent increase in health insurance premiums and anticipated retirement contributions, the Times reported.

Anticipated spending in 2010-2011 is $2.3 million more than anticipated revenue when insurance, retirement, contractual pay increases, enrollment and a potential cut in per-pupil funding are factored in, according to the Times.

The Times article did not name the district's insurance provider, but the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's School Health Insurance database lists it as the Michigan Education Special Services Association. MESSA is a third-party insurance administrator affiliated with the MEA; it sells Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance packages to a majority of Michigan public school districts.

Lynn Brothers, president of the Linden Education Support Personnel, told the Times that the union would consider such concessions as reduced health care benefits and a one-year pay freeze in order to avoid the potential layoff of 16 of the union's 71 members.

Tri-County Times, "Linden schools — pink slips and more," May 12, 2010

Michigan Capitol Confidential, "Analysis: Michigan Senate GOP Fumble May Create $25.9 Billion Taxpayer Liability to Satisfy MEA," May 10, 2010


UTICA, Mich. - Utica Community Schools teachers will forego raises for one year and pay part of their own health insurance premiums under a contract extension approved by the district and the Utica Education Association, The Macomb Daily reported.

The district needs to reduce anticipated spending by approximately $33 million to bring it in line with anticipated revenue in 2010-2011, according to The Daily. The contract extension will bring down spending by about $6 million, the report said.

Base salaries will not increase, and teachers will not receive "step" increases in 2010-2011 for added years of experience or for completing advanced degrees, according to The Daily. Current salaries range from about $39,000 to more than $100,000. Union officials told The Daily that the teacher share of insurance costs will be about $1,200 a year for family coverage.

"This will not solve the problem ... but it moves us in the direction of solving the problem," Utica Superintendent Christine Johns said of the contract, according to The Daily.

David Kenewell, president of the teachers' union, said teachers agreed to the extension "in order to protect the educational programs for our children," The Daily reported.

The Macomb Daily, "UCS teachers take pay freeze," May 11, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Utica Teacher Contract: Detailed Analysis," April 29, 2010 (Contract in effect July 1, 2008 through June 30, 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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