Contents of this issue:


  • GR: 'H' plan didn't turn around grades
  • Groups disagree on charter performance
  • Southfield layoffs likely
  • MSU home-schoolers: Many admitted, few enroll
  • High school reopener clause in Flint

GR: 'H' PLAN DIDN'T TURN AROUND GRADES


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Only about 16 percent of the failing grades reported in five Grand Rapids high schools were converted to passing marks through the district's "H" grading plan, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

The plan gave students an "H" - for "held" - on their report cards rather than a failing grade if they flunked a core class, according to The Press. Those students were then given the next trimester to make up work, retake the class or otherwise show mastery.

A district report showed that of the 2,866 "H" grades issued during the first and second trimesters, 472 were converted, The Press reported. In 68 percent of the cases, students made no effort to convert the grade, while 15 percent of retakes ended in a second failure, according to the article.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor told the school board he is frustrated by the lack of student initiative, but also plans to take failure rates into consideration on future teacher evaluations, The Press reported.  He said he will consider failure rates before assigning teachers to coaching jobs or other extra-pay duties, the article said.

"If a teacher can't help his students pass, then he doesn't have time to be a coach," Taylor said after the meeting, according to The Press.

Teacher union president Paul Helder told The Press that administrators should consider why students are failing, including reasons of attendance and discipline.

"It can't all be teachers," he said. "There are a lot of reasons students fail."

Taylor said that drastic action is needed because of proposed legislation that would allow state education leaders to take over failing schools, The Press reported.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Grand Rapids Public Schools staff under more scrutiny as administrators try to boost student performance,"
April 20, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Daily Digest, "School reform bills introduced,"
April 7, 2009


GROUPS DISAGREE ON CHARTER PERFORMANCE


LANSING, Mich. - The state board of education approved a favorable charter school report last week, but will respond next year to arguments that its method of evaluating charter schools is misleading, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The 2008 report concludes that students in charter public schools generally outperform students in the state's "host districts" on Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests. To reach that conclusion, the state compared aggregate MEAP scores from all 232 charter schools with aggregate MEAP scores from the 20 traditional school districts where most charter schools are located. Those 20 districts are called host districts.

A Western Michigan University professor, the Michigan Education Association and the Free Press questioned that methodology, the Free Press reported.

In its own analysis, the Free Press did head-to-head comparisons between each charter school and the single public school district where it is located. Using that methodology on math scores from 2007, the Free Press concluded that nearly three of five charter schools performed worse than their local district.

But in a separate report, the Michigan Association of Public School Academies compared performance by conventional public schools in Flint, Detroit and Grand Rapids with the charter schools in those communities. That analysis showed that charter schools reached higher proficiency levels in 2008, according to a MAPSA press release.

One problem with head-to-head comparisons is that charter schools do not draw students from just the nearest conventional district, charter leaders told the Free Press.

Central Michigan University said that 23 of the charter schools it authorizes draw more than half their population from districts beyond the one where the charter is located, according to the article.

SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Charter schools on defense,"
April 14, 2009

Detroit Free Press, "Charter school report OK'd,"
April 15, 2009

Michigan Association of Public School Academies, "MEAP results confirm strong academic performance by public charter school students,"
April 9, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Charter report favorable, state board wants more,"
Feb. 24, 2009


SOUTHFIELD LAYOFFS LIKELY


SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - Anticipating a 350-student loss and consequential drop in state funding, Southfield Public Schools likely will lay off some 150 employees before the 2009-2010 school year, C&G News reported.

The positions are across the board, including teachers, aides, secretaries and administrators, Ken Siver, deputy superintendent, told C&G News, though final decisions will not be made until later this month.

"We've found places where it was good to have this extra staff, but we can no longer afford it," he said. "When you have money, you spend it differently than when you don't."

Siver acknowledged that voters might not understand why, after passing a renewal millage in November, the district still must make cuts, according to the C&G News. The millage provides about half of district revenue, the report said.

Southfield teachers and the district have been in contract negotiations since August, according to C&G News. Patricia Haynie, executive director of the Southfield Coordinating Council of the Michigan Education Association, told C&G that there has been "very little progress."

SOURCE:
C&G News, "150 to be laid off from Southfield Public Schools,"
April 16, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Detroit not the only school district seeing red,"
June 30, 2008


MSU HOME-SCHOOLERS: MANY ADMITTED, FEW ENROLL


EAST LANSING, Mich. - About 80 percent of home-school students who apply to Michigan State University are admitted, though only 35 percent of those admitted go on to actually enroll, according to an article in The State News, MSU's campus newspaper. In each of the past five years, fewer than 10 home-school students have enrolled, the article said.

One reason might be that many home-school students choose to attend community college first, either because of the lower cost or smaller size, Michele Czupinski told The State News. She is founder of Adventurers, a home-school organization based in Ypsilanti that serves about 50 families.

MSU Director of Admissions Jim Cotter told The State News that home-schooled students are reviewed using the same criteria as students from public and private high schools, often with extra emphasis on standardized test scores. Their admission rate is slightly higher than the overall admission rate, The State News reported.

The transition to MSU was fairly smooth for home-schooler Grace Fisher of Berrien Center, she told The State News. A sophomore studying East Asian languages, Fisher said, "There are a lot of students, but you don't see 40,000 people in one day, so it didn't seem like a really big deal for me."

She told The State News she has encountered some stereotypes about home-schoolers, including that they lack social skills. David Holcomb, another home-school graduate who now is an education major, said he has brought up home-schooling for discussion in his education classes.

SOURCE:
The State News, "Getting out of the house,"
April 21, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Fifteen years later, home-school parents say legal battle was worth it,"
May 27, 2008


HIGH SCHOOL REOPENER CLAUSE IN FLINT


FLINT, Mich. - A Flint high school marked for closure next year could reopen in some format in five years under a newly proposed long-range facilities plan, The Flint Journal reported.

Superintendent Linda Thompson has recommended closing Flint Central High School as part of a plan to reduce spending by $19 million next year. But she also has recommended reopening a central high school as of 2013-2014, The Journal reported.

Whether the district would renovate the existing school or build a new facility remains up for discussion, according to the article.

While a member of the school facilities committee said it would be less expensive to build a new school, a representative from a school alumni association advocated renovating the existing structure, The Journal reported.

Meanwhile, some board members and a parent expressed concern that a plan to close five schools next school year and two more in 2010 will not be sufficient, according to The Journal. A facilities report shows the district has capacity for 35,000 students, but enrollment of 13,500, the article said.

SOURCE:
The Flint Journal, "Flint schools consider rebuilding Central high school,"
April 16, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Schools for sale,"
Aug. 15, 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
mailto:med@educationreport.org

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