Contents of this issue:

  • Warning: Low test scores ahead
  • No kindergarten before age 5?
  • Poll shows strong support for education choice
  • Fact finder calls CMU offer reasonable
  • Officials trade barbs on anti-bullying bill
  • Party endorsement a new feature in school election

Warning: Low Test Scores Ahead

LANSING, Mich. — In a preview of things to come, the Michigan Department of Education has released examples of how well — or poorly — students would have fared on state standardized tests if today’s tougher standards had been in place a year ago, according to an Associated Press report published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Only 35 percent of third-graders would have scored “proficient” in math last year if “cut scores” that the state adopted in September had been in place, instead of the 95 percent who passed muster under the previous, lower standards, AP reported.

The new standards require students to get about 65 percent of the answers correct in order to be considered “proficient,” compared to the previous 39 percent, according to AP.  That means that a number of schools are likely to see dramatic declines in student proficiency levels when this year’s results are reported.

State Superintendent Michael Flanagan said in a statement that the state needs to be honest about how well it is preparing students for a global economy, The Press reported.

States are supposed to demonstrate that all children are proficient in reading and math by 2014, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but Michigan has asked for a waiver partly because of its new scoring criteria, according to AP.


Associated Press, “State preps for falling test scores,” Nov. 4, 2011


Michigan Education Digest, “State board raises the bar on MEAP, MME,” Sept. 15, 2011

No Kindergarten Before Age 5?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Children would have to be 5 years of age by Sept. 1 — rather than Dec. 1 — in the year they begin kindergarten under a bill Michigan lawmakers are considering, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Supporters of the idea say that it will ensure that children are developmentally ready for kindergarten, while others say that parents and educators, not legislators, are the best people to make that decision, The Press reported. The measure would allow parents to seek a waiver from their school district.

State Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, said studies show that 4-year-olds are not ready for kindergarten, according to The Press, while Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Shibler said that his district already works with parents on kindergarten readiness, including putting students through a screening program.

The Senate Fiscal Agency had estimated that up to 20,000 children would have to wait an extra year before entering kindergarten under the terms of the bill, reducing state aid to schools that year by about $154 million. The Press said that Franz has offered to phase in the age requirements.

“It is a very subjective decision,” Shawn Aulbach, a Rockford mother of five children, told The Press.


The Grand Rapids Press, “Should state determine when children are ready for kindergarten?” Nov. 1, 2011

Senate Fiscal Agency, “Senate Bill 315, Senate Bill 316


MichiganVotes, “House Bill 4514: Require kindergarteners to be 5 on Sept. 1

State Poll Shows Strong Support for Education Choice

DETROIT — A recent poll showed strong support for allowing parents of children who attend failing schools to send them to better schools in other districts, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The Michigan Catholic Conference commissioned the poll, a survey of 600 likely voters conducted in early October, the Free Press reported.

Eighty-two percent of those polled said that parents should have the right to move their children into better-performing schools, and 62 percent said that private school students should be able to dual enroll in college without having to first enroll in a public school and pass a qualifying test, according to the Free Press.

The state Legislature currently is considering a package of education bills that would broaden dual enrollment options for public and private students, allow parents to vote to convert a failing public school to a charter school and lift the cap on the number of charter schools that universities can authorize, among other reforms, the Free Press reported.

In a news release, Paul A. Long, president and CEO of the Michigan Catholic Conference, said, “Michigan families have grown lethargic of the status quo and want the ability to choose where and how their children receive the best education possible,” the Free Press reported.

The poll had a margin of error of 4 percentage points, according to the Free Press.


Detroit Free Press, “Poll: Michiganders support expanding education options,” Oct. 31, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Time to Take School Choice in Michigan to the Next Level,” Aug. 8, 2011

Fact Finder Calls CMU Offer Reasonable

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — Central Michigan University should not “eat its seed corn” by spending too much on faculty pay and benefits, a state fact finder said in a recent report, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Barry Goldman of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission said that the university has made a reasonable offer to Faculty Association members during current contract negotiations of no pay raises this year, followed by 2.25 percent and 2.5 percent increases in the next two years, respectively, the Free Press reported.

The association wants 2.2 percent this year, followed by 3.7 and 3.9 percent in subsequent years, according to the Free Press. The union pointed to the $228 million that CMU has in unrestricted reserves as evidence of its ability to pay, but Goldman said, “Circumstances are bad and getting worse. It would be extremely unwise for CMU to eat its seed corn,” the Free Press reported.

Goldman also supported the university’s proposal to offer faculty the same health plan as other employees, with the option of retaining their existing MESSA plan as long as faculty pay any difference in costs, the Free Press reported.

Goldman’s report is nonbinding, but both sides were waiting to receive it before resuming negotiations, according to the Free Press. The union is expected to meet during the first week of December, according to the Free Press.


Detroit Free Press, “Fact finder sides with CMU in faculty union contract dispute,” Nov. 2, 2011


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “CMU Strike: Standing Firm is not Bad Faith,” Aug. 22, 2011

Party Endorsement a New Feature in School Election

PLYMOUTH, Mich. — In an unusual move, a Republican party committee endorsed a slate of candidates in this year’s Plymouth-Canton Community Schools board race, according to the Detroit Free Press.

School board elections generally are seen as nonpartisan, but now that more districts are holding elections in November as part of the general election, it may become more common to see party endorsements, Don Wotruba, deputy director of the Michigan Association of School Boards, told the Free Press.

The Wayne 11th Congressional District Republican Committee endorsed four candidates in the Plymouth-Canton race and also campaigned with signs and flyers, the Free Press reported. One of the main issues in the race has been the district’s projected budget deficit for 2012-2013, first pegged at more than $20 million, but more recently projected to be between $4 million and $10 million, according to the Free Press.

Ken Fistler, president of the Plymouth-Canton Education Association, the teachers union, said that partisan campaigns make it harder for individuals who aren’t affiliated with a party to run for election, the Free Press reported.

But Mark Hutchins, communications director for the Republican committee, pointed out that the Michigan Education Association, the parent union of Fistler’s group, routinely endorses and supports selected candidates in school board races. Fistler disagreed, saying that the MEA recommends candidates but doesn’t endorse them, the Free Press reported.


Detroit Free Press, “Plymouth-Canton district, union dispute GOP group's claims in school board race,” Nov. 3, 2011


Michigan Education Report, “Tracking union money in school board elections,” Nov. 14, 2007

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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