Contents of this issue:
  • Contractor says DPS owes almost $600,000
  • State implements new graduation rate calculation
  • GRPS University Prep Academy has more applications than seats
  • Huron County teachers win DTE Energy grants
  • Grosse Pointe school board to vote on adding Chinese classes
  • Comment and win an iPod
  • New issue of Michigan Education Report released

DETROIT — A company hired by the Detroit Public Schools to clear the 33 schools it closed last year says the district owes it almost $600,000, according to The Detroit News.

DPS Facilities Chief Nate Taylor has stated publicly that Aramark Education failed to comply with the contract; however, the company says it was locked out of the schools it was supposed to clear and wasn't provided with boxes, according to The News. Aramark also said DPS didn't pay vendors, which lead to movers walking off the job at least twice at certain locations, The News reported.

Aramark's Midwest technical director, Salvatore Filardi, wrote a letter to DPS Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Allman stating the district owed the company $595,559. Filardi attached documents proving the company did its job, but had trouble working with DPS. In November, Filardi sent a letter to the district's contract administrator outlining problems the company faced in clearing out buildings, including a lack of lists of items needing to be transported to other schools. Aramark eventually spoke with building principals, who then provided the information, according to The News.

"Move managers and moving crews were regularly hampered by limited or no access to school buildings," Filardi said, according to The News. "The moving teams spent a significant amount of unproductive time waiting to access entire buildings and individual rooms."

The Detroit News, "DPS botched move, firm says," March 7, 2008
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080307/SCHOOLS/ 803070398/1026

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Legislators: Listen to Detroit Parents," Feb. 5, 2007

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Michigan public schools are making plans for the implementation of a new formula to calculate high school graduation rates, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

The new computation is a requirement under the No Child Left Behind Act and is expected to lower most schools' graduation rates by an average of 10 percent. As opposed to counting the number of high school seniors who graduate, schools will now count the number of freshmen who graduate in four years. Officials agree that this is a better indication of the actual dropout rate and will help better direct schools towards programs that could help, The Chronicle reported.

"I think overall there's a shared belief that this methodology of looking at the long-term will give us a more accurate picture of what's happening in our high schools," Leslee Fritz, spokeswoman for the state's Center for Educational Performance and Information, told The Chronicle. "That will help us design strategies to make sure every student who starts high school finishes high school."

The new calculation was used with last year's graduating class and the results will be made available this summer, close to or concurrently with the release of school report cards. A school with less than an 80 percent graduation rate will not make Adequate Yearly Progress. Schools that repeatedly fail AYP can receive certain sanctions under the NCLB, but only if the school receives funds for having a large percentage of its student body qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. However, other schools will still have to battle public perception of the quality of their schools, according to The Chronicle.

"We are expecting both the statewide rate and the graduation rate for a number of districts will likely go down," Fritz told The Chronicle. "It will appear publicly that schools are headed in the wrong direction."

Many principals are concerned about the effect new graduation requirements will have on the number of students who drop out of high school.

"There's a concern all principals would have that the graduation rate might have a down-spike early on because of these (course) requirements," Reeths-Puffer High School Principal Dan Beckeman told The Chronicle. "The schools are working hard to realign their curriculum to meet the needs of their students. They all come in with different intellectual abilities."

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Formula aims to pinpoint dropout rate," March 6, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Graduation Rates an Imperfect Measure of School Excellence," Jan. 7, 2002

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Public Schools received almost 100 more applications for the new University Prep Academy than available seats, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The district received more than 220 applications for the 128 spots for the school. GRPS officials hope they will be able to fill spots in other specialized academies, developed through Superintendent Bernard Taylor's public-private partnership, The Press reported.

"Clearly, these are people who are interested in some of our theme schools, and now our job is to educate them about some of the other programs around the district that they might be attracted to," district spokesman John Helmholdt told The Press.

The school is backed by local business leaders and is modeled on a school in Detroit that has a 95 percent graduation rate and where 90 percent of students go on to college. University Prep Academy will feature small class sizes, individual learning plans and an emphasis on parental involvement. The school is operated by GRPS, but because the school is a pilot program, it can be flexible with the school calendar and hiring, according to The Press.

The district is also accepting applications for its other new theme school, the Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology, The Press reported.

The Grand Rapids Press, "University Prep Academy applications surpass school's available openings," March 6, 2008

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Dearborn: A Traditional Public School District Accepts the Charter School Challenge," in "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 24, 2000

BAD AXE, Mich. — The DTE Energy Foundation has awarded eight mini-grants to Huron County teachers to fund projects that help promote and develop an interest in math, science and the environment, according to The Huron Daily Tribune.

Huron County teachers received a total of $3,250 for class projects. A small reception was held for the eight teachers at the Huron County ISD building. Tim Kerry, production manager at the DTE plant in Harbor Beach, attended the event and thanked the winners for helping to guarantee an educated workforce, The Daily Tribune reported.

"We established this (mini-grant) program and the year-old Math Enrichment Grant Program to partner with educators like you to promote math, science, energy and environmental studies that can excite students," Kerry said, according to the Daily Tribune. "Your work in fostering interest and excitement in math and science is essential in ensuring we have the workforce we'll need in the future."

The DTE Energy Foundation's mini-grant program was established in 1990 and has awarded more than $750,000 to public and private school teachers within the company's service area, The Daily Tribune reported.

The Huron Daily Tribune, "Huron County Teachers," March 6, 2008
http://www.michigansthumb.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19366053&BRD=2292& PAG=461&dept_id=476228&rfi=6

Michigan Education Report, "Schools take a second look at nonprofit foundations as revenue sources," Aug. 15, 2007

GROSSE POINTE, Mich. — Grosse Pointe Public Schools is considering following the trend of districts throughout metro Detroit by proposing the addition of Chinese language classes to the curriculum, according to the Detroit Free Press.

If it is approved at a board meeting at the end of March, Mandarin Chinese classes will be available for middle and high school students starting in the fall. The district has been examining the possibility for some time, and after four months of surveys and parent meetings, the feasibility committee decided it would be a worth addition, the Free Press reported. Chinese is "starting to crop up in a variety of places. And I think in our world's economy, it's a viable language to be offering," Normayne Day, a Grosse Pointe mother who served on the feasibility committee, told the Free Press.

About 140 students have requested it for the fall. If it's approved, there would probably be two classes at Grosse Pointe South High School, one at Grosse Pointe North High School and one each at two of the district's middle schools. The district has already received resumes and applications for the teaching position, and state universities are working to produce teachers who are qualified to teach the Chinese courses sprouting up throughout the state, according to the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press, "Chinese classes just need the OK," March 2, 2008
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080302/NEWS02/803020569/1004/ news02

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Undereducated Today, Outsourced Tomorrow," Nov. 16, 2004

MIDLAND, Mich. — Go to http://forum.educationreport.org and post a comment for a chance to win one of three iPods.

MIDLAND, Mich. — A number of intermediate school districts in Michigan spend thousands to provide a vehicle or vehicle allowance for top administrators, according to state-required financial reports. Michigan Education Report lists those districts and the dollar value of the personal use of the vehicles in an article in the spring 2008 edition, now available online at www.educationreport.org.

The new edition also features articles about the lack of data available to school districts trying to seek competitive bids for health insurance, increased income and spending reported by the Michigan Education Association, efforts to change special education laws, and opposing viewpoints on the question of linking students' standardized test scores to individual teachers.

Michigan Education Report is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Readers are invited to comment on articles in this issue, and about Michigan education in general, at the Report's forum site, http://forum.educationreport.org. The names of all individuals posting comments will be entered in a summer drawing for an iPod.

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

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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