Contents of this issue:

  • NCLB showdown heats up in Montana
  • Analysis: Detroit charter performance no better than DPS’?
  • CMU faculty paying more for MESSA
  • Atlanta test scandal erupts
  • MEA, DFT will push recalls

NCLB Showdown Heats up in Montana

HELENA, Mont. — The states of Montana, Idaho and South Dakota have informed the U.S. Department of Education that they plan to defy major parts of the No Child Left Behind Act this year, leading federal officials to tell Montana to reconsider by Aug. 15 or face the loss of Title I funds, according to Education Week.

Education officials in all three states have said they plan to freeze school proficiency targets at current levels rather than continue moving the targets upward in order to reach 100 percent proficiency by 2014, as NCLB currently requires, Education Week reported.

South Dakota said it does not have the resources to intervene in the number of schools likely to be designated as in need of improvement if the bar is raised, and Idaho said the current rating system doesn’t take into account the improvement that schools have made, Education Week reported.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said that he may grant waivers to states that cannot meet NCLB requirements, but only in exchange for certain reforms, Education Week reported.

Education Week, “Ed. Dept. Warns States It Will Enforce ‘Broken’ NCLB,” July 5, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “Like many, Michigan excused from Some NCLB provisions,” April 26, 2011

Analysis: Detroit Charter Performance No Better Than DPS’?

DETROIT — Standardized test scores show that many Detroit-area charter public high schools are not performing any better academically than Detroit Public Schools’ non-charter high schools, The Detroit News reported.

The News analyzed test data from the most recent Michigan Merit Exam and concluded that only six of the 25 charter schools it examined had higher math and science proficiency scores than DPS averages.

Charter school leaders and others interviewed by The News said that the results are only part of a larger picture. One question is whether some charter schools serve large numbers of students who otherwise would have dropped out altogether or who were behind academically when they enrolled, The News reported. Schools in both settings typically have high numbers of low-income students, education officials told The News.

In addition to its conventional high schools, Detroit Public Schools operates five charter school campuses and is planning to turn over operations of five more schools to charter operators, The News reported. A DPS spokeswoman told The News that the analysis shows the importance of choosing charter school operators with a proven record of success.

The Detroit News, “Charter high schools in Detroit not making grade,” July 7, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Measuring Charter Public School Performance,” July 8, 2011

CMU Faculty Paying More for MESSA

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — The head of the Central Michigan University faculty union says that not only can the university well afford to give all employees a raise this year, but that it has an obligation to stimulate the local economy by doing so, The Mount Pleasant Morning Sun reported.

Contract negotiations between CMU and its Faculty Association have ground to a halt; two sticking points are cost-of-living increases and health insurance, according to The Sun.

"With the financial health that CMU enjoys, to me it has an obligation to provide for the faculty and the employees wage compensations that will help stimulate and continue this local economy," union president Laura Frey said.

Frey was quoted in the article as saying that CMU has a 61 percent fund equity. The article did not include comments from university officials.

Until a new contract is signed, faculty will pay more for health insurance, Frey told The Sun. The Michigan Education Special Services Association raised the annual cost to CMU for a family plan from about $16,400 to $18,800, and under a new state law, faculty members must cover the increase until the two sides settle, according to The Sun and a report at MichiganVotes. Previously, faculty paid about 4.6 percent of their health insurance premium, The Sun reported.

MichiganVotes is the legislative tracking service of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also publishes Michigan Education Digest.

In related news, a new contract between CMU and non-tenured instructors raised their base pay from $17,000 to $24,000, The News reported.

The (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun, “CMU, faculty talks at standstill,” July 8, 2011

Michigan Votes, “2011 House Bill 4152: Limit certain automatic government union employee pay hikes

Atlanta Test Scandal Erupts

ATLANTA, Ga. — A testing scandal in Atlanta Public Schools could result in criminal charges in a public school district once lauded for its soaring scores, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Gov. Nathan Deal recently released a report alleging widespread conspiracies among teachers and administrators, including former Superintendent Beverly Hall, to secretly erase and correct wrong answers on student tests, to reward educators for meeting academic goals by any means possible, to ignore complaints, and to alter earlier investigative reports about the wrongdoing, the Journal-Constitution reported.

“APS is run like the mob,” one teacher told investigators, according to the Journal-Constitution.

More than 80 educators and principals confessed to cheating, the Journal-Constitution reported. Investigators said the district demanded that educators meet unreasonably high academic targets at the expense of ethics, the report said.

Students who failed the tests — but whose scores were altered — were cut off from the extra help they might have received otherwise, the Journal-Constitution reported.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Investigation into APS cheating finds unethical behavior across every level,” July 6, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “What MEAP Scores Mean,” March 22, 2010

MEA, DFT Will Push Recalls

LANSING, Mich. — Unable to thwart teacher tenure reform during the legislative process, the Michigan Education Association and the Detroit Federation of Teachers now will work to recall lawmakers who supported the changes, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

The DFT is offering cash and volunteers to aid recall efforts, while the MEA has not said precisely how it will become involved, according to The Press.

The changes in tenure law extend the probationary period for new educators, allow schools to lay off teachers based on job performance rather than seniority, and require teacher evaluations to be based in part on student academic growth.

The final package of four bills was approved by the Senate and House on July 1, according to a separate report in The Detroit News.

A number of school districts have said that it is too costly and cumbersome to fire a teacher under Michigan’s former tenure law; Dearborn Public Schools officials told Michigan Capitol Confidential recently that it was less expensive to pay a combined $197,000 to four teachers in a settlement deal than to follow the tenure dismissal process.

Michigan Capitol Confidential and Michigan Education Digest are published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The Grand Rapids Press, “Teachers union leaders say they’ll become active in recall campaigns against state House members,” July 5, 2011

The Detroit News, “Michigan tightens teacher tenure,” July 1, 2011

Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Breaking Bad: Dearborn Gives Four Problem Teachers $197K to Go Away,” July 7, 2011

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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