Contents of this issue:

  • Tenure, seniority reforms pass House
  • DPS downsizes conversion plan
  • Lansing area districts consider sharing transportation
  • U-M launches charter school study
  • Center studies school bus fatality data

Tenure, Seniority Reforms Pass House

LANSING, Mich. — Tenure and seniority would no longer shield ineffective teachers if legislation that passed the Michigan House on Thursday becomes law, supporters of the reform measures said, according to The Detroit News.

The package of four bills would allow administrators to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom more quickly and give school districts greater leeway in teacher layoffs, The News reported.

Among the changes, according to The News: Tenure would be granted after five years instead of four. A teacher with three consecutive “highly effective” evaluations could receive tenure earlier, while one with poor evaluations could be demoted to probationary status. Teacher evaluations would have to be based partly on student achievement data, and districts could lay off teachers based on their effectiveness, though seniority could be taken into account as well.

It is uncertain when the Senate will take up the bills, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, told The News.

Critics said the bills would allow arbitrary evaluations and layoffs of veteran teachers as a way to save money, The News reported. Supporters said the tenure process has long been too cumbersome.

The Detroit News, “House targets teacher tenure,” June 10, 2011

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Union Claims New Tenure Rules Will Lead to Discrimination against Sexual Orientation and Pregnancy,” May 27, 2011

DPS Downsizes Charter Conversion Plan

DETROIT, Mich. — Only five schools in Detroit Public Schools will be converted to charter public schools this fall, though dozens more may be converted in subsequent years, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Roy Roberts, the district’s emergency financial manager, said that an earlier plan to convert 50 schools was “too aggressive,” the Free Press reported. Of the 19 charter school companies that submitted bids to take over schools, three local operators have been chosen to convert five schools, according to the Free Press.

They are: New Paradigm for Education, a nonprofit company incorporated in 2010, Ann Arbor-based Global Education Excellence, and Warren-based Education Management & Networks, the Free Press reported.

New Paradigm will operate two elementary schools, according to the Free Press. Its CEO, Ralph Bland, also heads the Edison Public School Academy in Detroit. Global Education operates eight schools in Michigan, and Education Management operates Oakland International Academy.

Each converted school will have its own board, appointed by DPS.

Detroit Free Press, “Detroit Public Schools scales back its plan for charter conversions,” June 10, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “It Shouldn’t Take a Hurricane to Revitalize Detroit Public Schools,” April 4, 2011

Lansing Area Districts Consider Sharing Transportation

(Editor's note: This item was updated June 15, 2011, to correct the amount of projected savings from shared services among Ingham County ISD member districts.)

INGHAM COUNTY, Mich. — The incentive of $100 more in per-pupil state funding has a number of Ingham County public school districts looking for ways to consolidate or privatize transportation, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Eight of 12 conventional public school districts are working with the Ingham Intermediate School District on a joint busing plan, the Journal reported. An earlier study showed that the districts could save $9.3 million to $13.9 million by sharing such noninstructional services as transportation, business office, food and custodial services, the Journal reported.

Under the recently passed school aid budget, districts that implement four of five “best practices” will receive an extra $100 per pupil, according to the Journal. One practice is to share services among districts and another is to competitively bid out support services.

Superintendent Stan Kogut said that Ingham Intermediate already has requested proposals from private vendors for bus service, the Journal reported. By coordinating school day schedules and having a single bus transport students to different districts, time and miles on the road could be reduced, Kogut told the Journal.

The Lansing School District has not joined the plan, but is considering independently privatizing its bus service at a projected annual savings of $500,000, the Journal reported.

Lansing State Journal, “School districts in Ingham County look to share, privatize,” June 13, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan School Privatization Survey 2010

U-M Launches Charter School Study

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — University of Michigan researchers will become the latest group to study Michigan charter public schools, saying they want to learn how effective the schools are compared to conventional schools, and what makes them effective, according to Michigan Public Radio.

Brian Jacob, a U-M professor and one of the lead researchers, said the study will track student performance over time, including standardized test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment rates, MPR reported.

The report noted that past research on charters has been called “apples to oranges,” because charter school enrollment is voluntary, a factor that may make the charter school population different from the traditional classroom population. Jacob told MPR that the U-M study will address that issue by comparing students who applied to a charter and “won” a seat through the school lottery with students who applied but did not win a seat.

A similar research approach has been used in Boston and Chicago, MPR reported.

Researchers also will study length of school day and year, curriculum, instructional practices and other policies and programs, MPR reported.

The Michigan Charter School Research Project will last two years, with data collection expected to begin this summer, according to MPR.

Michigan Public Radio, “U of M to study effectiveness of Michigan’s charter schools,” June 8, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “Charter schools begin to specialize,” Sept. 1, 2010

Center Studies School Bus Fatality Data

TORRANCE, Calif. — New research on fatal crashes involving school buses shows that about half of the collisions occurred between 6 and 9 a.m. and that about half involved another vehicle striking the bus, according to a report in School Transportation News.

The research was carried out by the Center for National Truck and Bus Statistics at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the report said, and is based on 2008 crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

School buses accounted for 39 percent of all buses in the data pool, and school bus crashes accounted for 40 percent of the bus-related fatalities nationwide that year, the Transportation News reported. Other types of buses studied include intercity, transit and charter buses.

Most school bus crashes involved standard buses, but some were mini-buses or vehicles with wheelchair lifts, according to the Transportation News.

Of the 120 fatal crashes involving school buses in 2008, 88 involved public school district buses and 27 involved school buses owned or operated by private school bus contractors, the Transportation News reported. (“School buses” owned by non-school organizations, such as churches, also are included in the school bus category.) The Transportation News did not report how many total school buses are in each category.

School Transportation News, “University Research Compares School Bus Safety with Other Modes,” June 7, 2011

University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, “Buses Involved in Fatal Accidents Factbook 2008,” April 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Michigan Schools Contract Out More Than Ever,” Sept. 10, 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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