Saturday, April 13, 2013

Informational Update email from April 3, 2013

What's Going On - Funding/Cuts
School districts across the state have been cutting programs and teachers as K-12 funding has been slashed. Now Lansing Public Schools have been forced into drastic cuts:
"Last week, the Lansing Board of Education approved a five-year teachers’ contract that will get the Lansing School District about $7 million closer to closing the next school year’s projected $9 million deficit. On the chopping block: 87 teaching positions, including 23 professionally certified — or “endorsed” — elementary school art, music and physical education teachers.  
These programs aren’t being eliminated, mind you — just the positions for teachers who hold specialty degrees in art, music and PE (the cut also includes 27 non-endorsed arts teachers and 37 retiring teachers whose positions won´t be refilled). According to the plan, those duties would fall to the general education elementary school teachers, some of whom have had special training in these arts. They will become responsible for teaching their students one-point perspective, beat counting and proper free throw form in addition to a regular classroom schedule." City Pulse, March 27, 2013.
The cuts were met with disapproval from the music community in Lansing.  The MSU College of Music issued a statement which said the cuts would negatively effect students.  The statement was joined by:
  • The Lansing Symphony Orchestra
  • The Wharton Center for the Performing Arts
  • The Greater Lansing Arts Council
  • Art Serve Michigan
  • The Michigan School Vocal Music Association
  • The Michigan Music Education Association.
Other coverage of the Lansing cuts:
What's Going On - Fact Checking Emergency Manager Roy Roberts
NBC hosted an education summit in Detroit. We linked to an interview with Gov. Snyder at the summit in a previous update. However there were multiple panels focused on Michigan schools.  One panel included Emergency Manager of the Detroit Public Schools Roy Roberts.  Roberts made the following claim:
"But the key is, the academic side that you talked about, this past year on the state testing MEAP test, every grade in the Detroit Public Schools increased and improved and, in 14 out of 18, did better than the state average." Education Nation, Detroit Summit (Choose the "K-12: New Choices in Changing Times," and Roberts makes this claim at 20:39)
However, the claim was completely false.  Wayne State Professor Thomas Pedroni explains:
"It turns out, according to the Michigan Department of Education, that DPS did not outshine the state in 14 of 18 MEAP categories. The actual number was somewhat lower —- zero. DPS trailed the Michigan average in proficiency in all 18 categories. And not just by a bit—by more than 10 percentage points in the two science categories, and by 20 or more in the other 16. But it was a happy moment at the summit. No one—not one panelist, not one moderator, not one preselected member of the audience—raised an eyebrow over Roberts’ innovative facts.
Perhaps Roberts had merely stumbled over his own words. Maybe he really meant to say that DPS schools were gaining ground on the Michigan averages -— that yes, DPS was still behind, but was steadfastly narrowing the achievement gap in 14 of the 18 categories.
Unfortunately, that’s not the story the MEAP numbers tell either.
Instead they show that the Detroit Public Schools have fallen even further behind the state average since gaining an Emergency Manager in 2009. The picture the numbers paint is particularly bleak when the 15 schools handed to the EAA just before the fall MEAP administration are factored in. They show that Detroit’s third through eighth graders continue to lose ground in reading and math proficiency in most categories." Detroit Data and Democracy Project, March 28, 2013.
Of course, the Detroit Public Schools face immense challenges. But the claim that state-takeover itself is a solution is simply not true.
Other coverage of Roberts's claim:
What We Are Doing
Spring Break makes a quiet week for us.  But, we're lining up visits to parent meetings next week.
Spotlight on the EAA - Ann Arbor Trustee Visits an EAA School
Ann Arbor Public Schools Trustee Christine Stead recently visited two EAA schools in Detroit.  She also blogged about it in two posts.  The first, The EAA - Up Close and In Person, recounts the visit from a first-person perspective.  The second, What is Worrisome About the EAA? What Does it Mean for AAPS?, boils down exactly what the EAA means for Ann Arbor Public Schools.  Of course, Okemos Public Schools will be effected by the EAA in the same way Ann Arbor schools are. Trustee Stead had these four takeaways:
    1. The total cost of the EAA is unknown and there is no new revenue stream to fund the EAA. ...  What this means for the AAPS:  Funds will be taken from the AAPS to fully fund the EAA.  That means even more cuts to our budget.  The state should have created a total cost of program assessment and then asked voters to fund it – creating a new revenue source for the EAA, and not further stealing from the School Aid Fund.
    2. Poor track record for EAA’s leadership and the accountability disallows the local community to be engaged in the governance process.  ...  What this means for the AAPS: This bill was designed to work in concert with the ‘super voucher bill’ and the Oxford Foundation’s rewrite of the SAA – ultimately creating a path for massive education reform and, in Richard McClellan’s words, ‘to destroy public education as we know it in Michigan’.  I think that districts like AAPS are already testing and proving innovations, which frankly show in our student achievement results.  We continue to progress, innovate and lead.  I’d hate to see all of that go away so that some lawyers and the GOP can pat themselves on the back for massive reforms.  None of them are arguing for better or higher quality; just massive reforms.
    3. The EAA is very much a work in progress.  ...  What this means for the AAPS: if the EAA and all of the other bills pass, we will have for profit charter schools running massive experiments on our children – most on the fly, with inexperienced staff, as cheaply and fast as possible.  The commitment to quality and accountability are significantly lacking in this bill and its intended companions.  The impact of an expanded, and much more expensive, EAA; along with a completely fragmented (but innovative) education model, will destroy the small learning communities, robust programs and services and extra curricular activities that we currently offer in the AAPS.
    4. Outcomes are not defined. ...   What this means for the AAPS:  While there currently are no schools in our county that would qualify to be taken over by the EAA today, if we keep defunding these schools while we lay down the red carpet for our for profit charter school competitors, we will eventually have schools that could be EAA candidates.  This bill, and its intended companion bills, set horrible precedence for education reform in Michigan. K12christinestead, March 22, 2013.
Related - EAA Comparison by Lansing State Journal
The Lansing State Journal did a story on the EAA noting that if HB4639 passed as written, Lansing Eastern High School could be taken over as soon as next fall. The story makes some comparisons between public schools and EAA takeover schools. Lansing State Journal, March 25, 2013.
Related - Disciplinary Incidents Spike in EAA
The Detroit News reports the EAA has experienced a very high level of disciplinary incidents.  We relay this information not to throw stones, but to illustrate that state takeover itself is not a solution.  Even after the EAA takes over schools, it will have to overcome the poverty among students the public schools faced. Detroit News, April 3, 2013.
Other Resources
There is a Facebook group, Save Michigan's Public Schools, which is worth joining. A lot of good information is shared.
What More Can We Do?
As always, we want to get information to you, and facilitate you in speaking together to protect Okemos Public Schools and public schools across the state. Please email us with questions about what is going on. We will respond directly and also discuss the topic in an informational update. Please let us know if you want to be involved, and how you want to be involved. If you want to help but aren't sure what you can contribute, we have ideas.

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