Contents of this issue:
  • Students perform poorly on Michigan Merit Exam
  • Marshall school board unanimously supports custodial contract
  • Howell schools save after competitively contracting
  • Marquette schools push for health insurance contribution
  • Northville hires energy consultant; plans to save $3.5 million
  • Comment and win an iPod

DETROIT — Sixty-five percent of high school juniors did not perform well enough on the state's new Michigan Merit Exam to receive the $4,000 scholarship promised to students who pass the test, according to The Detroit News.

Only 47 percent of juniors passed the math portion of the MME, while 60 percent were proficient in reading and 40 percent met or exceeded standards for writing. Students performed best on the social studies test, with 83 percent meeting or exceeding state standards, The News reported.

District and state officials alike were disappointed in the results.

"I am very, very disappointed in the test results," Southfield High School Principal Michael Horn told The News. "All of us are at fault. We must acknowledge that. We failed our kids."

Juniors in Southfield struggled with the math and writing portion of the test; 19 percent passed math and 27 percent passed the writing test, according to The News.

State officials agree the results were not ideal, but Kathleen N. Straus, president of the State Board of Education, expected these results because the test reflects the state's new high school graduation requirements. These requirements will apply to this year's freshmen. Straus questions the idea of testing students on a curriculum they may not have taken, The News reported.

"It was kind of backwards. The test is ahead of the curriculum, and that's a problem. It's not fair to anybody to do it this way," Straus told The News.

In order to receive the state's $4,000 Michigan Promise Scholarship, a student must pass the math, reading, science and writing portions of the exam. Students who did not pass one or more of these tests can try again during two testing windows in their senior year. If they are still unable to pass the exam, they will be eligible for a $4,000 reimbursement after completing two years of college or a vocational program, according to The News.

"Under the new rules, you simply have to take the test," Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd told The News. "We didn't think how you scored on a test should make you ineligible for funds for your education. Some students may not test well, or they might just be having a bad day."

Another aspect of the new MME is the inclusion of the ACT.

Michigan high school juniors averaged a composite score of 19 on the college entrance exam. Students in the class of 2007 averaged two points higher, but only college-bound students took the test. ACT spokesman Ed Colby said that a sudden drop in the average ACT is expected and a similar experience occurred in Colorado and Illinois, the only other states to require that all students take the ACT. The scores in those two states have improved over time, The News reported.

The Detroit News, "Merit test scores fall short," Aug. 16, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Better writing: High-scoring schools say it's not easy," Aug. 15, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "State: juniors must take ACT," Sept. 6, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Hope in state graduation standards misplaced," March 7, 2006

MARSHALL, Mich. — Marshall Public Schools will save between $775,000 and $1.1 million over the next three years after unanimously voting to competitively contract for custodial services, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.

The district contracted with Grand Rapids Building Services, which plans to hire 20 local employees. The Marshall schools currently employ 21 custodians. Both the company and district administration say preference will be given to current district employees. Marshall custodians currently make between $10.19 and $12.21. Grand Rapids Building Services will pay between $9.25 and $11.50 for custodial positions and offer a health insurance plan for $10 a week, according to the Enquirer.

"This is not a brand new idea," board Treasurer Dan Stulberg told the Enquirer. "It's been tested in dozens of schools in dozens of states. It's growing each year because it works."

Battle Creek Enquirer, "District outsources custodial services," Aug. 14, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Survey 2007: More Growth in School Support Service Privatization," Aug. 16, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Jackson schools extend contract with cleaning service," March 27, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Competitive contracting popular in Port Huron area," March 20, 2007

HOWELL, Mich. — Howell Public Schools will save $400,000 in its first year after competitively contracting for custodial services, according to The Detroit News.

The district signed a three-year contract with Grand Rapids Building Services, a company that contracts with 17 other districts in the state. The last day for current district custodians will be Aug. 29, but they will continue to receive two months of health benefits from the district, The News reported.

"This is one of the most difficult decisions," board member Mary Jo Dymond told The News. "We've been thinking about this for three years because we knew about the economic conditions."

The Detroit News, "Howell school board lays off 38 custodians," Aug. 14, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Survey 2007: More Growth in School Support Service Privatization," Aug. 16, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Howell looks to cut $2.1 million after signing teacher contract," June 26, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Profit has a role in public schools," Feb. 23, 2007

MARQUETTE, Mich. — Marquette Public Schools and the Marquette Area Education Association are at an impasse over contract negotiations, with the sticking point being health benefits, according to The Mining Journal.

Because of the impasse, teachers are likely to start the school year being paid under their old contract. The district has offered the union two contract options. The first would pay teachers on the same salary schedule as last year, but would allow teachers to keep health benefits through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, according to The Journal. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association school employees' union.

The second contract option would include a 2 percent pay increase each year, for two years, and would require teachers to contribute to the cost of their own health insurance, according to The Journal.

The Mining Journal, "Teachers still hope for contract before start of school," Aug. 16, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Health care holds up contract negotiations in Grand Blanc," July 10, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Flint area schools battle over health insurance," May 22, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Royal Oak teachers protest at board meeting, want to keep MESSA," May 1, 2007

NORTHVILLE, Mich. — Northville Public Schools signed a contract with a private energy management consultant and is expecting to save $3.5 million over seven years, according to the Northville Record.

Energy Education, a Dallas-based company, will provide the district with specific direction for reducing electric, gas and water usage. Under the contract, Northville will pay the company about $15,000 per month for four years and will also hire a part-time energy manager. If the district does not save as much money as Energy Education estimates, the company will return the difference, the Record reported.

The consulting company has contracts with a number of other Michigan districts, including Novi and Walled Lake. Both districts have seen large savings through working with Energy Education. Northville administrators worked to create a two-year energy saving plan, but failed to meet its goal, according to the Record.

"It's been our goal for the last three years to make improvements with our energy costs," Dave Bolitho, Northville assistant superintendent of administrative services told the Record. "We've tried to do it ourselves, and we were close, but we never fully realized our savings. I think we can expect a significant savings with a partnership with (Energy Education, Inc.)."

Northville Record, "School board approves energy-saving measure," Aug. 16, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Districts could save money with private energy consultant," Dec. 12, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Merrill schools move to alternative fuel," Nov. 7, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Private firm helps Battle Creek schools cut energy costs," July 19, 2006

MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to and post a comment for a chance to win one of three iPods.

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

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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