Contents of this issue:
  • Detroit school district reaches short-term agreement

  • Lakeview Public Schools drops MESSA

  • New MEAP procedure will begin this fall

  • State report cards for schools released

  • National study highlights funding disparity for charter schools

  • Mackinac Center to award four $1,000 scholarships

Detroit — The Detroit Federation of Teachers and the Detroit Public Schools came to a one-year contract agreement last Wednesday in what one Detroit Free Press article said would only "delay the pain" of future cuts as the district seeks to close a $200 million budget deficit.

The contract, which calls for teachers to loan the school district five days salary and five days sick leave, increases co-pays for prescriptions, and freezes scheduled pay raises, was unofficially approved at Cobo Center by DFT members last week, according to The Detroit News. The agreement means an on-time start of the school year.

The Free Press reported that William F. Coleman III, interim chief executive officer of DPS, characterized the agreement as "an effort to ensure that school would start as planned." He also suggested the agreement would decrease "the chances that parents would enroll their children in charter schools rather than wait out a strike." The News reported that DPS is facing the possibility of losing 10,000 students this school year, but also that parents of DPS students are happy that school will start on time.

The DPS CEO also told The News that the new contract would satisfy a state-mandated deficit reduction plan because it would lead to $63 million in savings for the district.

David Plank, co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University said of the one-year contract, "It is simply a strategy for postponing the day of reckoning."

The union will officially ratify a new contract through a vote by mail on Sept. 6.

Detroit Free Press, "Deal with teachers in Detroit defers pain," Aug. 25, 2005

The Detroit News, "Short-term fixes avert strike," Aug. 25, 2005,

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Playing Monopoly with Detroit's Kids," July 15, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Government Encouragement," Feb. 23, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "When will conventional public schools be as accountable as charters?" July 7, 2004

Macomb County, Mich. — A new contract for teachers and para-professionals at Lakeview Public Schools in Macomb County replaced insurance offered by the Michigan Education Special Services Association with premium Blue Cross/Blue Shield preferred provider organization coverage, The Macomb Daily reported. MESSA was established by the Michigan Education Association, the largest teachers union in Michigan.

According to The Macomb Daily, contract negotiations between the district and teachers stalled some months ago. In a press release issued on Aug. 11, Superintendent Sandra Feeley-Myrand wrote that, "Over the past year, the sticking point in negotiations both at Lakeview and around the state has been MESSA insurance. With the teachers' union ... demanding that MESSA be continued, and boards seeking other more competitively priced insurance products, conflicts have been inevitable."

The district projects that changing from MESSA-administered health insurance could save the schools $500,000. According to The Daily, the district was faced with imposing a contract after union officials refused to accept the change in insurance administrators. The district's labor attorney, Craig Lange, told the newspaper, "We are not going to be held hostage by MESSA," and school board Trustee Michael Werner added, "Something has to happen for us to stay in business for the next couple of years."

In her press release, Superintendent Feeley-Myrand said, "In this time of tight budgets, when we can provide raises and the absolute best PPO insurance from Blue Cross/Blue Shield at no cost to the employees, the Board is demonstrating that they value the teachers and staff. ... This plan is better than what most people around the country have today."

The Macomb Daily, "Lakeview imposes teacher contract," Aug. 11, 2005,

Lakeview Public Schools, "Lakeview School Board takes action on contracts," Aug. 11, 2005
http://www.lakeview.misd.net/Board/Press%20Release%20-%20School%20Brd%20Takes%20Action%20on%20Contracts.pdf (PDF file)

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan Education Special Services Association: The MEA's Money Machine," Nov. 1, 1993

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Why school districts can't save on health care," Jan. 6, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "4M: The real structural problem," Feb. 16, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "MESSA: Keeping school districts from saving money on health care," Summer 2004

Lansing, Mich. — The start of this school year marks the beginning of changes to the administration of the Michigan Education Assessment Program. The changes were approved by the state's Board of Education in June 2004 to speed the availability of results, according to Booth Newspapers.

The article highlighted four major modifications to the MEAP: middle and elementary MEAP tests will be administered in the fall so scores can be reported by January; students in grades three through eight will be tested every year in math and English to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act; social studies MEAP tests will be moved from fifth and eighth grade to sixth and ninth grade; and all student answers will be counted and released with general scores so that teachers will be able to tell how individual students performed on particular questions.

Not everyone is satisfied with the changes. Ray Telman, executive director of Middle Cities Education Association, told the newspaper that his group is wary of the change because, "Studies have shown that kids in lower socio-economic families tend to lose more of their knowledge over the summer, and need time to recoup."

Similarly, Teri Moblo of the National Education Association-funded Great Lakes Center on Education Research and Practice, told Booth Newspapers she questions the MEAP on more general grounds: "They can do anything they want to with that MEAP test — they can move it, they can change grades, but as long as high-stakes tests are being used as the sole indicator of student and school success, we're never going to get an accurate picture of how students are achieving."

MEAP's manager for the state Department of Education, Mike Radke, believes the changes will help schools to have information identifying which concepts students are struggling with earlier, rather than at the end, of the school year. "The bottom line is we're trying to help teachers teach and students learn. The assessment is kind of like taking the pulse once a year to see how well we're doing," Radke told Booth Newspapers.

Booth Newspapers, "MEAP changes raise worries," Aug. 22, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Which educational achievement test is best for Michigan?" Fall 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How does the MEAP measure up?" Dec. 18, 2001

Michigan Education Report, "Markets, not MEAP, best way to measure school quality," Spring 2000

Lansing, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Education issued a statement explaining that EducationYES! and Adequate Yearly Progress report cards have been released to the state's elementary, middle and high schools.

According to a statement by the Department of Education, EducationYES! is a "state accreditation system based not only upon student achievement on the Michigan Education Assessment Program tests, but also other school performance indicators, including: curriculum, teacher quality and professional development, school facilities, and family involvement." AYP is a standard of student achievement mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. In compliance with federal law, the reports are released in mid-August.

The report cards released "show that while more Michigan schools meet the requirements of the federal law, Michigan's own system of evaluating academic progress has identified more schools in need of improvement," according to the Department of Education.

Data reveal that 88 percent of 3,670 Michigan public schools made AYP for school year 2005, as did 95 percent of Michigan public school districts. However, the number of schools on EducationYES! "D-alert," the lowest letter grade given by the program, increased from 70 in 2004 to 126 in 2005.

Changes in the MEAP test mean that next year's EducationYES! and AYP assessments could provide a more accurate indication of Michigan public school performance than this year's because 910,000 students will be tested in 2005, up from 520,000 in 2004. State Superintendent Michael Flanagan said, "This year we will be testing hundreds of thousands of more children, in more grades, with entirely new tests. And we expect that may have an impact on each school's and each district's AYP status."

Michigan Department of Education, "State releases school report cards," Aug. 19, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "No Child Left Behind law demands 'adequate yearly progress' and offers school choice options for parents," Fall 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "No Cop-out left behind," Mar. 23, 2005

Lansing, Mich. — Last week, Michigan Information and Research Service reported on a press release by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies that heralded the release of a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on the disparity in funding between charter schools and conventional public schools. The study indicates that charter schools in Michigan receive an average of $1,169 less per pupil than conventional public schools do, while charter schools nationwide receive $1,800 less per student than conventional public schools.

Analyses by the Michigan Department of Education in 2005 and the state Chamber of Commerce in 2003 also demonstrated such a funding disparity.

MIRS reported that, despite receiving less funding, Michigan charter schools "outpaced state average gains in 7 of 10 grades/subjects on the 2005 MEAPs, including a gain in two instances where the state lost ground." The Detroit News reported last fall that charter high school scores were lower than statewide averages, though they were better than average in Michigan's urban districts.

Nonetheless, charter schools have also shown faster improvement rates on state report cards than conventional public schools in the state, Dan Quisenberry, president of Michigan Association of Public School Academies told MIRS. Quisenberry said that, "Michigan charter public schools continue to prove themselves as models of fiscal responsibility and student achievement. ... Parents flock to charters because they nurture and challenge every child while offering programs families have long desired from (conventional) public schools, including high levels of individualized learning."

MIRS Capitol Capsule, "MAPSA: Study affirms charter schools funding gap," Aug. 23, 2005
http://www.mirsnews.com/capsule.php?gid=313#4888 (requires subscription)

The Detroit News, "Progress outpaces public high schools: Charters gain in MEAP scores," Oct. 22, 2004

The Education Gadfly, "Making bricks without straw," Aug. 25, 2005

Thomas B. Fordham Institute, "Charter School Funding: Inequity's Next Frontier," August 2005

The Wall Street Journal, "Starving Charters," Aug. 29, 2005

(requires subscription) Michigan Education Report, "Report: Charter progress outpaces public high schools," Spring 2005

High School Teachers: Help one of your students win a $1,000 College Scholarship!* Join the Mackinac Center for Public Policy for our annual High School Debate Workshops. For further details please visit
http://www.mackinac.org/debate, or call (989) 631-0900.

*A $1,000 college scholarship will be awarded to one student from each Debate Workshop. An essay topic will be released the day of the workshop. Essays will be judged by a panel, and authors of the winning essays will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Students must attend the workshop to apply.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 140,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Ryan Olson at

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