Contents of this issue:
  • Michigan students win robotics competition

  • Student shot at a Detroit high school

  • Montague teachers approve MESSA changes

  • Hamilton looking at trimesters

  • MEA opposes governor on parent notification bill

  • Legislature discusses single-gender schools

UTICA, Mich. — A group of students from Utica recently won an international robotics competition in Atlanta, according to The Detroit News.

The students competed against 340 other teams from the U.S., Europe, South America and the Middle East at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition.

The team of 34 students was assisted by teachers from the Utica Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology, as well as a group of engineering professionals. The same parts were given to each team, which then had six weeks to design and build a remote-control robot. The robots then had to meet a series of tests, including navigations by video camera.

"We try to have the students do as much of the work as possible and just learn from us," Ed Debler, a retired Ford engineer and team mentor, told The News.

The Detroit News, "Student robot captures world championship," June 8, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Freedom to Learn: Rebooted," April 4, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Michigan science scores on NAEP above national average," June 6, 2006

DETROIT — A student was shot three times from a vehicle containing four men outside of Pershing High School in Detroit June 15, according to The Detroit News.

The student, 16, was about to enter the school for night classes. The suspects are not students in the Detroit Public Schools, a spokesman told The News.

"But still we are troubled that a DPS student was shot," Lekan Oguntoyinbo told The News.

The student was taken to Children's Hospital and listed in critical condition, according to The News.

There were more than 1,330 assaults against students in Detroit Public Schools between July 1, 2005 and March 1, 2006, The News reported.

The Detroit News, "Pershing student shot three times in the back," June 16, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit school janitor shot," Feb. 28, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS still seeking solutions to school violence," Jan. 24, 2006

MONTAGUE, Mich. — Teachers in Montague Public Schools will pay more if they want to keep a costly version of union health insurance, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

The teachers will pay almost $1,200 out of pocket to keep Super Care 1 offered through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, The Chronicle reported. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association union. Teachers have the option of switching to Choices II, also offered through MESSA. Those who keep Super Care 1 also will pay half of any cost increases during the four-year contract.

The district, which is facing a $454,000 budget deficit, expects to save about $80,000 with the insurance change, according to The Chronicle. Teachers will receive 1 percent raises each year during the contract.

"We thought it was a fair and reasonable settlement in regard to the times and financial aspects of the district," teacher Van Lawrence, lead negotiator for the union, told The Chronicle. "We're concerned about the long-term financial health of the district as well."

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Teachers get pay raise, accept insurance change," June 14, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MESSA Reference Page," March 10, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Require MESSA data-sharing to let districts shop around," Dec. 15, 2005

HOLLAND, Mich. — Hamilton High School could move to a trimester schedule by the fall of 2007, according to the Holland Sentinel.

The schedule change would allow students to take 60 classes in four years of high school, including electives, while also meeting new state-mandated course requirements, the Sentinel reported.

"I don't think I'm speaking out of turn if I say that we have reservations and there are still questions," school board President JoAnn DeJonge said, according to the Sentinel. "But the reality is with the new state standards, we'll never go back to the way things are done now."

The district will study the issue, including learning retention and failure rates, and could vote on the proposal in October, the Sentinel reported.

Holland Sentinel, "School officials look at trimesters," June 13, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Trimesters gaining popularity," April 18, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Graduation requirements in place," May 25, 2006

Lansing, Mich. — The Michigan Education Association union and Gov. Jennifer Granholm are at odds over legislation that would require teachers to notify parents when their children are struggling academically, according to The Detroit News.

House Bill 6151 would require teachers to notify parents by phone or e-mail, The News reported. The notification also would include an invitation to meet with the parents, according to

"If I had a child struggling in class, I would want to be notified," Granholm said in support of the bill, The News reported. "This empowers parents to make sure their children are successful."

The largest teachers union in the state, however, said Granholm's office did not tell them the legislation was going to be introduced.

"Most educators are already engaged in this," Margaret Trimer-Hartley, spokeswoman for the union, told The News. "This bill seems counterproductive."

The Detroit News, "Proposal: Tell parents about struggling kids," June 9, 2006, "2006 House Bill 6151 (Require schools to tell parent of struggling student)

Michigan Education Report, "Alternative learning centers help struggling students," Nov. 1, 2000

Michigan Education Report, "Superintendent provides hope for struggling students," Jan. 10, 2001

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate last week voted 33-5 to allow single-gender public schools, according to Booth Newspapers.

The House is expected to vote on the measure soon, and Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said she supports the idea under the right circumstances, Booth reported.

"We can't ignore the differences in preferences and aptitude," Sen. Samuel Thomas, D-Detroit, told Booth.

Senate Bill 1296 would allow districts to create single-gender schools or classes, or programs within existing schools, as long as comparable offerings are available to boys and girls, according to

Opponents say creating separate programs is unconstitutional.

"Shouldn't we be focusing public resources on helping all kids in all schools?" asked Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor, according to Booth.

Detroit attorney George Butler told Booth that federal law allows single-gender programs if there are options for all-male, all-female and co-ed classes.

"You can't impose it, you can't require it and you can't do anything less than offer all three options," Butler told Booth.

Supporters also see the issue as one of giving parents more choices in how to best educate their children.

"I don't view this as discrimination," Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, told Booth. "I view this as a choice parents are making in the best interests of their sons or daughters."

Booth Newspapers, "State moves closer to single-gender classes," June 16, 2006, "2006 Senate Bill 1296 (Allow single-sex schools)"

Michigan Education Digest, "GRPS to look at single-gender classes," May 23, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Saginaw school offers single-gender classrooms," Aug. 31, 2006

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of nearly 150,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Ted O'Neil at

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