Contents of this issue:

  • State: Test scores show many graduates not college-ready
  • Snyder says Michigan won’t follow Wisconsin
  • Union says book deal violated contract
  • Emergency manager bill draws union fire
  • DPS parent resource centers busy

State: Test Scores Show Many Graduates Not College-Ready

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Tens of thousands of Michigan students are taking the Michigan Merit Exam this week in the wake of recently released data showing that graduating from high school in Michigan doesn’t necessarily equate to being ready for college or a career, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

The Michigan Department of Education released data comparing graduation rates with student performance on the MME and ACT tests, according to The Press. The results show that even districts with relatively high graduation rates are not always turning out prepared students, said Jan Ellis, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Education, according to The Press.

At Grand Rapids Central High School, for example, the 2010 graduation rate was 85.2 percent, but only 13 percent of the students were proficient in math on the MME and 34.8 percent in reading as of 2009, The Press reported.

Some school officials challenged the comparison, pointing out that since graduation is not contingent on MME scores, some students may not turn in their best performance on the tests, a separate report in The Detroit News said.

The Michigan Department of Education has posted the district-by-district data at its website.

The Grand Rapids Press, “Website measures how well Michigan schools are preparing students for college,” Feb. 26, 2011

The Detroit News, “Mich. high school grad rates up; many not ready for jobs, college,” Feb. 22, 2011

Michigan Department of Education, “MDE Grad Rate, CCR, Accreditation Comparison”

Michigan Education Digest, “Saginaw debates use of MME scores,” Sept. 2, 2009

Snyder Says Michigan Won’t Follow Wisconsin

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder will seek concessions from public employee unions through the collective bargaining process rather than propose changing the process itself, as his counterparts in other states are doing, the Associated Press reported Sunday. 

In the state Legislature, however, several bills already on the table have drawn union fire, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Snyder told AP that he intends to work with public-sector unions to achieve concessions needed to balance the state budget. Other governors, among them Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, have said that the current bargaining process has led to outsized benefits for government workers, including educators, and that public-sector bargaining privileges should be reduced in scope.

The Journal estimated that about 2,000 union members and supporters gathered in Lansing Saturday to protest legislation they view as anti-union, including bills proposing right-to-work, an end to binding arbitration for police officers and firefighters, and allowing state-appointed fiscal managers to alter collective bargaining agreements during financial emergencies in cities and school districts, the Journal reported.

The Oakland Press, “Snyder steers clear of Wisconsin budget fight,” Feb. 28, 2011

Lansing State Journal, “Rally to Save the American Dream draws 2,000 to downtown Lansing,” Feb. 26, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Time to Repeal Public Act 312,” Feb. 25, 2011

Union Says Book Deal Violated Contract

HASTINGS, Mich. — The Hastings School District and its teachers union are close to settling a dispute over whether the district was right to purchase two textbooks written by a now-retired union president, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The Hastings Education Association said the district violated its collective bargaining agreement with the union when it paid Laurence Christopher $75,000 as part of a retirement incentive that also included purchase of two textbooks he wrote for high school economics and government classes, according to The Press.

Christopher, who taught those subjects in the district for 25 years, was acting union president at the time, The Press reported. He was not available for comment, according to The Press.

The Michigan Education Association filed an unfair labor practice charge in December alleging that the district negotiated a separate retirement agreement for Christopher. His economics textbook has been in use in the district for three years, The Press reported.

The union has proposed that the district rescind its agreement with Christopher Productions, which Christopher established in 2007, The Press reported. That would eventually lead to the district ending the use of both books, according to The Press.

The Grand Rapids Press, “Hastings teachers union proposes settlement over textbook complaint,” Feb. 24, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Teachers face retirement choices,” May 14, 2010

Emergency Manager Bill Draws Union Fire

LANSING, Mich. — A proposal to grant wider powers to emergency managers assigned to fiscally troubled cities and school districts has drawn fire from the state’s largest teachers union, which stopped just short of telling a television news station that the governor is attempting to drive schools bankrupt as a way to eliminate collective bargaining privileges.

House Bill 4214 would allow emergency financial managers, appointed by the state, to modify or terminate union-negotiated contracts between school districts and their employees as a way to resolve worst-case budget deficits, television station WWMT reported. They also could close schools or put a property tax millage request before voters. The bill passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The station reported that “some wonder” about the timing of the bill, given Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to reduce per-pupil funding to schools by $470 per student.

“I would hesitate to say that Governor Snyder would be part of some coordinated plan to cause fiscal emergencies,” MEA spokesman Doug Pratt told WWMT, “but have some people connected the dots, I'm sure they have.”

“I don’t want to have a financial manager situation,” Snyder said, according to WWMT. The governor said that most school districts could avoid such a possibility by revising employee benefits to bring down expenses.

WWMT-TV, Kalamazoo, “Bill would let emergency financial managers take over public entities,” Feb. 24, 2011

MichiganVotes.org, “House Bill 4214 (Increase power of school and local emergency financial managers),” Feb. 9, 2011

DPS Parent Resource Centers Busy

DETROIT — Trying to increase parental involvement in Detroit Public Schools, the district hired the Detroit Parent Network to lead workshops on finance, educational games and other topics of interest to parents and guardians, The Detroit News reported.

More than 10,000 visits to the district’s eight resource centers have been logged since the first opened 10 months ago, according to The News.

Lee Fitzpatrick, project director, advised attendees at a recent workshop on how to check their credit report for free, The News reported. The workshop is designed not just for parents, but to give them information they can pass on to children over time, he told The News.

Research shows that children do better in school when parents are involved, Deanna Depree, executive director of the Michigan Parent Information and Resource Center, told The News.

Funding for the Detroit program is provided through federal Title I money and the Kellogg Foundation, according to The News.

The Detroit News, “Resource centers help DPS parents get more involved,” Feb. 27, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “Carrot and stick for Detroit parents,” Oct. 28, 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 med@educationreport.org

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