Merit scores, Detroit poll, 200 days

Contents of this issue:

  • Merit exam scores up slightly
  • Poll: Voters split on mayoral oversight of DPS
  • Clarenceville contracts out for custodial work
  • Bill would require 200-day school year
  • Community college sets higher entry bar


LANSING, Mich. — High school student scores improved slightly on the Michigan Merit Examination in 2010, though only half the test-takers achieved "proficient" scores in math and 65 percent in reading, according to results issued by the Michigan Department of Education.

Scores showed that 65 percent of students statewide scored at the "proficient" level or higher in reading; 44 percent in writing, 50 percent in math, 58 percent in science and 79 percent in social studies. Reading showed the most improvement, up from 60 percent a year ago; social studies was the only lower score, down from 81 percent.

"Proficient" means the student has a basic understanding of the subject content, State Superintendent of Instruction Michael Flanagan said in a press release issued by the department. He said the state is beginning to see results of new high school graduation requirements that added more college preparatory coursework.

The Battle Creek Enquirer reported mixed results in Battle Creek area school districts.

After considerable improvement in 2009, Battle Creek Public Schools' scores declined in every subject area, the Enquirer reported. The district lagged behind the state average by at least 20 percentage points in every subject. The largest gap was in reading, where only 36 percent of students in the district were proficient or better.

Harper Creek Community Schools and Lakeview School District both saw double-digit increases in reading, the Enquirer reported.

The Battle Creek Enquirer, "MME scores yield mixed results," July 23, 2010

Michigan Department of Education, "Spring 2010 Michigan Merit Exam Statewide Public Results."

Michigan Education Digest, "Michigan Adopts National Standards," June 22, 2010


DETROIT — Eighty-two percent of those surveyed gave a negative rating to the quality of education in Detroit Public Schools, while 54 percent said they would favor having the mayor be accountable for the school system, and 28 percent said they would oppose mayoral oversight, according to a poll commissioned by New Detroit and reported in the Detroit Free Press.

The telephone survey of 600 likely Detroit voters was conducted by the Washington-based Mellman Group in mid-May and has a margin of error of four percentage points, according to the Free Press.

New Detroit and a community organization named Change for Better Schools want the Detroit City Council to place an advisory question on mayoral oversight on the November ballot, a move that the council so far has declined to make, according to the Free Press.

"The poll is pretty strong in saying that we do need change," Shirley Stancato, a member of Change for Better Schools and president of New Detroit, told the Free Press.

The poll is the first scientific look at what voters think of the debate, the Free Press reported. In other results, 61 percent of those surveyed gave the school board an unfavorable rating and 64 percent gave Mayor Dave Bing a favorable rating.

Tyrone Winfrey, Detroit Board of Education vice president, questioned why Detroit has been singled out among Michigan school boards, the Free Press reported.

"A sole line of authority is not the clear answer," Winfrey told the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Poll: Voters favor mayoral oversight of Detroit Public Schools," July 25, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "Detroit's Schools Are Going Bankrupt, Too," Aug. 4, 2009


LIVONIA, Mich. — Facing a projected budget that overspends revenues by $852,000 in 2010-2011, the Clarenceville School District Board of Education voted recently to outsource custodial services and save an estimated $1.2 million over three years, according to the (Livonia) Observer.

The 4-3 decision has led to a potential recall effort and an unfair labor practice charge, the Observer reported. Ten custodians will be laid off as of July 31, the report said.

D.M. Burr of Flint won the contract as the lowest of nine bidders, according to the Observer. Assistant Superintendent David Bergeron said the district now is preparing to take bids on outsourcing transportation services, while also preparing for negotiations with the union that represents the district's transportation, food service and maintenance staff, the Observer reported.

The spouse of one custodian told the Observer he plans a recall campaign, while a Michigan Education Association employee said the union has filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging that the board did not allow current custodians to bid on providing services.

Board Secretary Mark Garrison told the Observer that he voted in favor of privatization in order to keep money in the classrooms. He told the Observer that there are people in the district who support the decision.

"Some people have said 'Why did it take this long?' ... I understand both sides," Garrison told the Observer.

(Livonia) Observer, "Picketers protest privatization," July 18, 2010

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


LANSING, Mich. — A state senator has introduced legislation to require public school districts to offer instruction at least 200 days per year, according to a report at MichiganVotes.org, while other education-related bills would affect high school firefighter training and special education.

Senate Bill 1420, introduced on July 21 by Sen. Samuel B. Thomas III, D-Detroit, would increase the minimum instruction time in public schools from 1,098 hours per year to 200 days per year, MichiganVotes reported. The bill was referred to the Senate Education Committee.

In other legislative news, the state Senate passed a bill that would add various provisions to the current law allowing fire departments to provide for-credit classes in high school that qualify students as volunteer firefighters. Among other things, Senate Bill 1077 would waive the certified teacher mandate for such courses. The bill passed in a 33-0 vote and was sent to the House Education Committee.

Senate Bill 1421 would require a school psychologist to participate in drawing up the "educational development plan" of each special education student. That bill was introduced on July 21 by Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, and was referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan Votes, 2010




Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Assumptions and Realities: Longer School Year Will Not Improve Student Achievement," Oct. 12, 2009


JACKSON, Mich. — Students who want to enroll at Jackson Community College this fall must be able to read and write at least at the seventh-grade level, according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot. Applicants who fall short of that standard will be referred to alternative adult education courses, the report said.

The new policy is a change from the more typical community college practice of accepting anyone with a high school diploma or the equivalent, The Citizen Patriot reported.

JCC also will limit the courses students can take if their math skills are below seventh-grade level, as determined by college entrance examinations or placement test scores, The Citizen Patriot reported.

"We don't want it to be closing the door on someone and saying they can't be successful," Cindy Allen, JCC spokeswoman, told The Citizen Patriot. "We're trying to do it because what we have in place now isn't working. Students (with limited reading, writing and math skills) aren't being successful."

The college already offers remedial coursework, called "foundation studies"; a 2009 report showed that 69 percent of students at or below an eighth-grade reading level passed the remedial course, according to The Citizen Patriot. Allen said that some students need more help than the college can provide, The Citizen Patriot reported.

Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Jackson Community College to restrict admissions starting next fall for students who score below a seventh-grade level in reading and writing," July 6, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Strategy 1: Direct Expenditures for Remedial Education by Michigan Institutions of Higher Education and Employers,” Aug. 31, 2000

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 med@educationreport.org

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