This Week & Next (Dec 4, 2015)

U.S. House passes ESSA to replace ESEA/NCLB
On Monday this week the U.S. House of Representatives passed, on an overwhelming bi-partisan vote of 359-64, S. 1777, the “Every Student Achieves Act” (ESSA), a bill to replace the long-expired ESEA/NCLB. When’s the last time you saw 85% of politicians agree on anything? The new law reduces the role of the federal government in K-12 education, returning flexibility and discretion to the states. For the first time, states may choose to use computer adaptive testing for school accountability (watch for a big debate in Michigan on this, folks!); states will still need to intervene in the bottom performing 5% of schools, yet these schools need only be identified every three years (but still can/should be identified annually); the maligned “School Improvement Program” grants have been eliminated, as has “Annual Yearly Progress.” Click here for a concise overview of the bill, and click here to download the entire 1,110 page bill (only recommended for eduwonks, of course). The U.S. Senate is set to approve the bill next week, and the President is expected to sign it into law by the end of the year.

More talk, but still no bills on DPS
Another legislative week has gone by without any bills being introduced to address education reform in Detroit, and legislators will only be in town for the next two weeks before the Christmas break.  But that hasn’t stopped the chatter, by any means! Kathy Hoekstra calls for vouchers for all Detroit students this week; a number of teachers staged a “sickout” on Monday that led to the closure of 3 schools in Detroit, called a“dereliction of duty” by The Detroit News; a small number of parents are staging a nine day march to Lansing to protest Governor Snyder’s education proposal; HouseDemocrats had a tizzy when they learned the EAA had distributed an RFP from potential charter operators and school turnaround experts, citing a secret plan to convert dozens of schools to charters in the city. [NOTE: Secret plan, eh? GLEP has been endorsing this all year!].  Again, GLEP continues to work with key legislators to ensure that education reforms in Detroit will preserve school choice, keep parents in charge of their children’s education, and increase accountability over poor performing schools.

Hundreds of charter advocates rally in Lansing
As legislators debate how to reform DPS, and whether to dismantle charter schools (as recommended by House Democrats), nearly 500 charter school parents and other supporters from all corners of Michigan came to Lansing yesterday to deliver a message to lawmakers: Charter schools make a difference. They came to the Capitol for Charter School Advocacy Day, which was organized by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA), the state charter school association. “The problem is that they aren’t looking at our children as the future; they’re looking at our children as dollars and cents,” said Roosevelt Bell of Detroit, a parent from the Detroit Service Learning Academy who attended the event. “I don’t want my child to be a line item in the budget. The people in Lansing needed to hear from parents. These decisions they’re making aren’t affecting them. They’re affecting us. That’s why I came to Lansing.”

Only 13% of failing schools have improved under state supervision
Natasha Baker, State Reform Officer, and Karen McPhee, Governor Snyder’s Education Advisor, made a presentation yesterday to the Senate Education Committee, Chaired by Senator Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair), on the issue of chronically-failing schools in Michigan. You may recall Governor Snyder transferred the State Reform Office from MDE to DTMB earlier this year so he could have direct control over their activities. According to Ms. Baker’s presentation, 311 schools have been identified as “Priority” schools since the State Reform Office/District was created in 2010, as these were the lowest-performing 5% of all schools in the state. Schools included in the State Reform Office determine their own improvement plan, which is approved and monitored by the state. To date, only 44 schools have improved enough to be released from the State Reform Office; 73 schools have been closed (although none were closed by the MDE or SRO due to academic failure), which leaves 211 schools currently in the State Reform Office. And even though 51 of these schools have been in the bottom 5% for five consecutive years, NOT A SINGLE SCHOOL has been referred to the State Reform District, which would require more intensive intervention by the state. How would you rate a program with a 13% success rate?!?! We’d call it FAILURE. GLEP believes that schools that continue to fail for 5 years under state supervision should be closed. Period.  It was interesting that Chairman Pavlov had Ms. McPhee confirm that our federal ESEA/NCLB waiver does not change existing state law requiring MDE/SRO to publish an annual list of the lowest performing 5% of schools, despite the fact no such list was released by the September 1, 2015 deadl
ine. Next Wednesday, the committee will hear from Veronica Conforme, Chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), and Cindy Schumacher, Executive Director of The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University; both on their efforts to address academically failing schools. This committee meeting is scheduled for 8:30 am on Wednesday, December 9 in Room 110 of the Farnum Building.

Mixed messages on school financial status
State Superintendent Brian Whiston appeared before a Joint Senate-House Appropriations Subcommittees on School Aid yesterday, making his quarterly report on deficit districts. During his presentation, Whiston confirmed there are 41 school districts in deficit this year, which is the first decline since 2003. This is good news! At the same time, The Detroit News reported that 47 districts have just had their credit ratings loweredby Moody’s, citing competition from charter public schools as the culprit.

Education News Clips

Next Week

Monday, December 7

Tuesday, December 8

Wednesday, December 9

  • 1:1 meetings with key Senators re: DPS and HB 4822
  • Senate Education Committee w/EAA & CMU CSO
  • GLEP Holiday Open House (invitation only)

Thursday, December 10

  • 1:1 meetings with key Senators re: DPS and HB 4822
  • House Education Committee

Friday, December 11

Do you support what GLEP is doing to improve education in Michigan? Please considermaking a donation to help us continue our efforts, and all contributions are very much appreciated!!


Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director