This Week & Next (Oct 21, 2016)

NAACP passes controversial charter moratorium
A controversial Oct. 15 resolution passed by the national board of the NAACP calling for a nationwide moratorium on public charter public schools has led many lawmakers and school-choice advocates to question whether the NAACP is more beholden to powerful lobbies supporting traditional public schools than to the African-American families the organization claims to represent. Response was strong and vocal from across the political spectrum and across the country. It’s not just here in Michigan, folks, but isn’t it frustrating that adult politics continues to get in the way of providing better opportunities for students?


Michigan cities leads nation in charter school enrollment – AGAIN!!
The number of students attending charter schools continues to grow nationally, and now enrollment in charters has reached at least 30 percent in 14 school districts, according to a report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Of these top cities, Michigan is the only state with 3 cities in this list, with Detroit (2nd at 53%), Flint (3rd at 47%) and Grand Rapids (9th at 31%) reaching this milestone. This is the 10th annual report from NAPCS that looks at cities with large numbers of charter school students—both in terms of percentage and raw numbers. Ten years ago, only New Orleans—which continues to have the largest market share

Should we change the M-STEP?
For those keeping track, Michigan used the MEAP test for over 40 years, which was replaced in 2015 by the M-STEP. New state Superintendent Brian Whiston is leading a vibrant discussion with key education stakeholders about possible changes or modifications to the state-required student assessment. Some interest groups have been calling for no changes to the M-STEP test, arguing that continuity and accountability are enhanced by staying the course. From GLEP’s perspective, if we can design a testing regimen that results in less testing time for our students while providing better data to both implement accountability measures (without delay) while improving teaching and learning in the classroom, we should be discussing it. Stay tuned!

A prescription to fix Detroit schools
Kevin Chavous, national education reform leader, published a guest editorial viewpoint in The Detroit News this week, asserting it is time to build a national obsession around learning in America, and he makes specific recommendations about fixing schools in Detroit. Chavous argues that if we can make education work in Detroit, with its history of challenges, toxic politics, the intransigence of the education establishment, and ongoing tension between state and local leaders, it can work everywhere.  Chavous’ initial recommendation is that Detroit needs an identifiable, home-grown education leader and change agent to embody a new mindset and a new energy for Detroit – someone to champion children’s learning ahead of any and all adult-related interests and someone strong enough to take on the status quo with tough love. He makes other great points as well, like the need significant community and civic attention must be devoted to changing how Detroit citizens view education and the expansion of school choice in the city.  It’s worth your time to read his full editorial.

State spending on private K-12 students up to $100 million
The respected Citizens Research Council (CRC) published an updated report this week confirming the state has spent nearly $100 million in public funds to teach 60,000 private school K-12 students last year across the state. According to the Associated Press story, this is a dramatic increase over the $51 million spent on “shared time” services just a few years ago. So much for the ironclad separation of church and state, right? This funding is in addition to the $65 million going to private Pre-K providers and the $34 million in taxpayer funds paying for tuition grants so students can attend private colleges each year. In total, the state invests $200 million in public funds to support private education. Isn’t it about time we ended the charade and ended the Blaine Amendment in Michigan? We think so. Click here for Gary Naeyaert’s interview earlier this week with Frank Beckman on WJR 760 AM on this issue.

Governor’s 21st Century Education Commission Hitting the Road
Members of Governor Snyder’s 21st Century Education Commission are interested in hearing from Michiganders about how we can work together to improve our state’s education systems. To gather input, the Commission has organized three listening tour stops, the first of which will take place in West Michigan at 3:45 pm on Thursday, November 3rd in Grand Rapids. These stops are designed to gather direct input from Michigan’s residents on the current state of Michigan’s education, the education systems citizens envision, and how we can work together to close the gap between the two. This input will help shape the Commission’s final report and set of recommendations, which are scheduled for release on February 28, 2017. Click here to RSVP for the November 3rd event in Grand Rapids.

Voucher proposal to be voted on in Atlantic City
Atlantic City Councilman Jesse Kurtz proposed a school voucher referendum, which the city council approved unanimously. Now Atlantic City voters will decide on the future of K-12 education in their city on November 8th. If they approve the referendum, students in Atlantic City will receive a $10,000 scholarship to attend the private school of their parents’ choice. Since Atlantic City currently spends $27,000 per student in K-12 education, students using vouchers will be receiving a better education that meets their needs while reducing the burden on city taxpayers. We call that a “win-win”, folks!!

When school closure can help students
Over the past several decades, the pressure to improve U.S. public schools has grown stronger than ever. Federal requirements to turn around low-performing schools have led school system leaders to expand professional development practices, hire school turnaround specialists, and replace school principals. Even when the effects of turnarounds have been positive, the degree of improvement has seemed small. As a result, some school reformers (like GLEP) argue that more aggressive steps are necessary. The most extreme steps are to close low-performing schools entirely or to convert them into charter schools. While these more aggressive steps are rarely taken in the U.S. (and NEVER in Michigan) advocates claim that they lead to better student outcomes, as students move to better schools and failing schools are turned over to more effective groups of educators. Starting over with new school leaders and educators might facilitate larger and more fundamental change. Moreover, the threat of being taken over may create incentives for other schools to improve and avoid such upheaval. According to a new study from the Education Research Alliance at Tulane University, closing poor performing schools has had a positive impact on students in New Orleans. We should try it here in Michigan!

MDE seeking parent feedback for ESSA implementation
One key feature of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal education law, is a requirement to engage a broad range of stakeholders in developing state plans. Parents of children in PreK-12 schools are one population especially targeted for such feedback. While parents are invited to respond to any feedback request, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has now released an ESSA-related survey designed for parents. The survey asks questions specifically related to items relevant to Michigan’s ESSA plan and includes topics such as student assessment, school accountability measures, teacher and leader quality, and supports for struggling schools. Any Michigan parent or guardian with a child in grades PreK-12 qualifies to participate, and the survey will remain available through November 18, 2016. Parent organizations and school leaders are also encouraged to invite parents in their networks to participate. Please share the link and engage as many parent voices as possible in planning ESSA implementation for Michigan.

Deadline Approaching for NCSI Art Contest
The National Institute for Charter Schools is hosting the 2016 Charter Schools Art Contest, and this year they’re asking students in to illustrate what they’d like to be when they grow up. A scientist? A musician? An athlete? A doctor? President of the United States? Students are asked to create a picture of what they want to do when they’re older and send it to the NCSI for a chance to win $250! The contest is open to students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Students can use crayons, pencils, paint, chalk—whatever material they want—to show where they see themselves in the future. Entries are being accepted until October 31 and winners will be announced the week of December 12. Prizes will be awarded for the first, second, and third place winners. A special prize will also be given to the whole classroom with the most and best entries. Click here for all of the contest details.

Education Reform News Clips

Next Week (no legislative session)

Monday, October 24

Tuesday, October 25

  • ESSA Stakeholders Meeting

Wednesday, October 26

Thursday, October 27

Friday, October 28

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

Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director