Monday, August 22, 2011

"Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace!" (Digital Learning Model)

Schools of Choice bill coming

Legislature likely to get proposal this week as foes from Detroit, suburbs gear for fight

   An education reform package that includes mandatory Schools of Choice and cyber schools could be introduced in the state Legislature as early as Wednesday, the chairman of the state Senate Education Committee said.
   “It’s a good possibility on Wednesday, the 24th, we’ll have part of the package ready for introduction,” said state Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township.
   The education package also addresses charter school caps and school aid. The package is 
part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace” public school learning model.
   Education Committee hearings on the package will begin Sept. 7, Pavlov said.
   Mandatory Schools of Choice is emerging as the most controversial part of the education package.
   Opposition is strong in the heavily Republican Grosse Pointes. In heavily Democratic Detroit, three legislators have said they are opposed to state-mandated Schools of Choice because, they said, it will negatively 
impact Detroit Public Schools.
   “I don’t want the state to help usher children from one community to another at the expense of the community where they are,” said state Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, whose district includes the Grosse Pointes and part of Detroit.
   State Sen. Coleman A. Young II, D-Detroit, said every proposal out of Lansing that was supposed to help DPS has hurt it. He cited the 1999 state takeover that was supposed to improve the district academically.
   At the time, the district had 180,000 students, a $93-million fund balance and a $1.5-billion 
bond project. Under state control, DPS wound up with a $200-million deficit, he said.
   “I don’t think the state should be imposing another mandate on the city or any other city,” Young said.
   State Rep. Lisa Howze, D-Detroit, said mandatory Schools of Choice “would further impact DPS’s ability to stabilize.”
   Last week, the Grosse Pointe Woods City Council passed a resolution against mandated Schools of Choice.
   The Grosse Pointe Woods-based Michigan Communities For Local Control has set up a Web site at   and is contacting other school districts to build opposition.
   Peter Spadafore, assistant director of government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said the MASB has been talking with the Snyder administration and legislators about the bill.
   Based on the ongoing discussion, the bill likely will include “universal choice K-12 up to capacity. The problem is how to define capacity,” he said.
   Spadafore said the MASB is opposed to mandatory Schools of Choice. “We feel that decision should be made by the local school district,” he said. “By mandating Schools of Choice, it’s just a solution looking for a problem.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Models our Practice (Real-World Learning by Doing!)

Sunday: August 14, 2011 12:00PM to 2:00PM (Channel #4 MSNBC A Stronger America: "Making the Grade")

Friday, June 3, 2011

Student-Centric, Entrepreneurial, Innovative Empowerment (That's WHAT We're Talking About)

Snyder builds DPS a new model and hope

   Gov. Rick Snyder had an answer Thursday to the simple but daunting question posed in a Free Press story earlier this week.
   It was yes. And no.
   And despite the inherent tension in that reply, I think Snyder — who just appointed a second emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools — might be pushing the city toward its best possible hope for having sustainable, high-performing options in public education.
   Yes, DPS is dead in the sense that the current system is insolvent and unsustainable. The system is still hemorrhaging students and, as a result, millions of dollars. And no one could effect the kind of dramatic cuts to match falling revenues without destroying the district’s ability to deliver fundamental services to children .
   But no, Snyder also said, public education is not dead in Detroit. Far from it.
   What he hopes former GM executive Roy Roberts will do as EFM is redefine and, as a result, revitalize it outside the restrictive framework of the old-style school district.
   Encouraging innovation
   In Snyder’s ideal, all schools in Detroit would be created around sets of individual principles and ideas, by committed groups of educators, parents, community groups and whoever else wants to get involved. They’d all be “charter schools,” in the sense of being constituted around the models they chose.
   Some might be existing public schools. Some could be charters.
   They’d have remarkable freedom to implement their models, try new things, pursue innovation. But the key is that they’d be held accountable for student performance — either locally under a new school governance structure 
or by the state, if that’s where they were chartered.
   Snyder says the education reform plans that he announced last month will be tough on schools that operate under the state’s charter law, and if they don’t deliver, “they can lose their charters.”
   Focus on results
   This is what Snyder means when he talks about creating a “system of schools” to replace Detroit’s school system. He’s describing something that’s focused much more on results than on governance. It’s a system that would not look much like what the city has now.
   There are already some promising examples — the schools that were taken over by the United Way in 2008; the new public charters announced by DPS last week. But growing such models to serve all the city’s children is more than a difference of scale; it’s also a question of substance.
   There is still very little market incentive for anyone to take on responsibility for educating the city’s poorest and most isolated children.
   This plan also depends heavily on Snyder being successful in changing how the state evaluates, rewards and metes out consequences for schools. Michigan does an awful job of that right now.
   If he can work through the kinks, Snyder’s vision could offer real hope for public education in Detroit.
   And at this point, it’s the only hope I see on the horizon.

Snyder: DPS may need to split

Empower schools, he says

   MACKINAC ISLAND — Detroit Public Schools might be better off as “a system of schools” rather than a single, large entity run by top-down management, Gov. Rick Snyder told the Free Press on Thursday.
   Snyder, who appointed retired GM executive Roy Roberts as the emergency manager for DPS, said the district needs a radical overhaul — but, he said, it’s up to Roberts to enact changes.
   “The nature of the district needs to change,” Snyder said. “Structurally, it’s a failing format.”
   Snyder spoke to Free Press 
reporters and editors during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference. His comments were among several at the conference that focused on how to better educate Michigan students.
   Snyder said a new format would not necessarily convert Detroit schools to charter schools, but rather have them be managed like charter schools, with more autonomy. He said the school board could focus on measuring academic results instead of dictating curriculums and school-by-school management.
   “You need to empower the schools more, rather than having a command-and-control structure of the district,” he 
said. “How do you give the administrator in that school and the teachers a team? You make it more entrepreneurial and innovative.
   “It’s like they’re a business unit, and they’re there to help their kids grow. Give them the resources to succeed, and then, how do you hold them accountable?”
   Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, spoke at the conference and said public schools’ success rests solely with teachers, who should be fired if their students don’t go on to college.
   “If you get paid to educate a child and you cannot do it, then you should probably go into a different business,” he said.
   Harlem Children’s Zone takes a holistic approach to education, helping families in a 100-block area of Harlem so 
that children are prepared to succeed in school. More communities, like Detroit, need to adopt the model, Canada said.
   Canada said business owners should have a vested interest in helping produce better schools because eventually, they’re going to have to pick from the talent pool educated in public schools.
   In another forum Thursday, the Excellent Schools Detroit group talked about creating excellent schools and recruiting great employees. Their goal for 2020 is to graduate 90% of their students, with 90% of those students enrolling in college without remedial 
   The Michigan Future Schools Accelerator soon will open three high schools in Detroit: the Carson School of Science and Medicine, which is affiliated with the Detroit Medical Center; Detroit College Preparatory, and the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy.
   The schools, funded with $800,000 each in foundation and grant dollars, will operate with no more than 500 students per school. Teachers will be hired from an open pool, instead of from a seniority list, and each school must have a counselor and a college coach who can help students after they graduate.
   “And if the kids are off-track, it’s the educators who will have to change,” said Lou Glazer, president of the program.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Aligns to OUR Purpose (By Design)

Bold ideas: Online study, payouts

Snyder‘s education plan has innovative reforms to reward schools’ success

   Gov. Rick Snyder will propose Wednesday financial rewards to individual schools that show exceptional academic progress.
   The money could be divided among the teachers or used in other ways they choose, according to a source familiar with the plan.
   It’s among reforms in a special message on education Snyder will deliver at 10 a.m. at the United Way for Southeastern Michigan in Detroit.
   Snyder also wants to allow students to choose online classes they can complete at home or other sites, rather than comply with state rules that they be in a classroom at least 1,098 hours a year.
   “There are some kids who learn better reading and looking at words than they do listening to a lecture,” said Bill Rustem, Snyder’s director of strategy.
   Rustem said it would be up to school districts to set guidelines for online programs, which education experts say can work well for both advanced students and those who perform poorly in traditional classes.
   Snyder also will call for changes in teacher tenure laws and charter schools in his education message. He delivered a similar address on local government reforms in March.

Best way to track results is measuring, Snyder says

Educators need more incentives, training

   EAST LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder told several hundred educators Monday to get used to the idea of measuring students’ performance.
   He’ll talk a lot about that Wednesday, he said, when he delivers his special message on education in Detroit.
   “We have to put much 
more emphasis on proficiency, on growth, on measurements and results than we have had in the past,” Snyder told the Governor’s Education Summit, an annual gathering of mostly teachers and school officials. “It’s about really delivering results for these kids, to show the whole system needs to be geared to say each child gets a good year’s education each and every year.”
   He said teachers and administrators must be given more incentives and training to improve the schools.
   “The way to approach it is not to get down on people, it’s not to approach it with blame,” he said. “It’s not (to) be negative with one another. It’s about how we look to the future and be positive and build on that as an opportunity to succeed together.”
   That means more autonomy for individual schools and teachers, and a system to financially reward outstanding
teachers who can mentor others, he said.
   State schools Superintendent Michael Flanagan called for a deregulation of schools, such as eliminating minimum numbers of hours or days students must attend each year. Instead, schools would set their own guidelines for students
to meet state academic goals.
   “My goal is to take away as many regulations as we can but hold people accountable for academic growth,” Flanagan said.
   A person familiar with Snyder’s plan said the governor won’t call for eliminating the minimum hours requirement, but will ask to give districts options, such as online learning programs for some students.
   Snyder’s speech is much anticipated, as the Legislature wrestles with how much to cut from state aid to 
school districts. Snyder has called for $300 per pupil less than the current year for all districts, but the Republican-controlled House and Senate are considering slightly different cuts.
   Snyder has often spoken of moving to an education culture that depends more on measured outcomes than on debates over money.
   He also will talk about an 
education system that begins with prenatal care programs.
   “I hope he will set some big audacious academic goals for us to accomplish in Michigan like they have done in other Midwestern states like Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois,” said Carol Goss, president and CEO of the 
Skillman Foundation, in a response to the Free Press. She has met with Snyder to discuss education ideas.
   She said she hopes Snyder will propose more public-private partnerships, more accountability, and giving students more career alternatives than going to college, which does not suit some.
   In his remarks Monday, Snyder pointed to the United Way’s early childhood programs as an example of how the state could join with private ventures.
   Snyder also has met twice with philanthropist Eli Broad, a Michigan native and head of the Broad Foundation 
, which has aggressively funded some education initiatives.
   “They talked about using their expertise in education to help supplement what we’re doing to get a handle on not only the Detroit school system, but other public school districts, and what kind of innovative 
practices are out there,” said Snyder’s chief of staff Dennis Muchmore.
   Democrats, who’ve sharply criticized Snyder for his proposed cuts to schools and universities, were wary about his Wednesday speech.
   “I’m ready to work with the governor if he’s serious about giving our children a quality education, but his actions are speaking louder than his words,” said Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, minority vice chair of the House Education Committee.

Skillman Foundation CEO Carol Goss

State Superintendent Michael Flanagan

File photo by PATRICIA BECK/Detroit Free Press
   “The way to approach it is not to get down on people, it’s not to approach it with blame,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday of measuring student performance. He spoke at the Governor’s Education Summit in East Lansing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In the World of Sometimes Things Aren't WHAT They Seem!

New metrics reveal schools’ real woes

 Standards are everything in education. And for years, Michigan has played games with educational standards that have made them less meaningful, and even outright deceptive.
   When the state Board of Education lowered the “cut” scores — the minimum marks required to achieve proficiency on statewide assessment tests — it may have made some students, teachers and administrators feel better about how schools were performing. Suddenly, a lot more Michigan kids were doing proficient work.
   But the progress wasn’t real. When you compared scores on state tests to how Michigan kids did on national exams, the difference was stunning. More than three-quarters of the state’s students did adequate work on MEAP , but only 30% did so on NAEP.
   So it was an important step back toward reality last week when the state board reraised cut scores on the MEAP to more closely reflect the standards that children are meeting in other states.
   But it was just one step. Michigan’s slide backward in educational achievement has been going on for a decade or more, and has touched a lot of different areas that now need attention.
   Funding is one of them. As the state’s economy went sour, so did its appetite for educational investment. The state has actually been cutting educational funding while other states boost it, and the parallel drop in scores and rankings reflects the cost of that stinginess.
   Michigan also lags badly in efforts to rescue failing schools. It was just last year that the state announced it would form a recovery district for bad schools and begin to work to make them better. Now lawmakers need to ensure that high standards are enforced in the new district.
   Other problem areas include Michigan’s antiquated teacher tenure laws, which give school districts too little leverage to get rid of underperforming instructors, and union leaders who have been slow to embrace performance-based metrics.
   The lower cut scores did a good job of masking how much work there is to do in Michigan’s schools. Now it will be harder to hide the state’s educational deficits.
   Lawmakers and education officials will have to start doing the hard work of getting Michigan schools to hit the highest marks, according to the most rigorous standards.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

EDUCATION 101: RACE to the TOP (In It, to Win It!)

State of the Union mystery: What do Obama's Race to the Top plans mean?

Obama called education key to 'winning the future' and wants to replace No Child Left Behind with a plan based on his Race to the Top initiative. But that left some experts scratching their heads.
Temp Headline Image
President Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 25. In his speech, he challenged Congress to invest in new research and education to meet 'our generation's Sputnik moment.' He proposed replacing No Child Left Behind, which is due for an overhaul, with a plan modeled after his Race to the Top program.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
By Amanda Paulson, Staff writer
posted January 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm EST
Education held a prominent place in President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, as he called for a re-commitment to "investing in better research and education" to meet “our generation’s Sputnik moment.”
Obama declared, "To win the future ... we also have to win the race to educate our kids." His words deliberately echoed his administration's Race to the Top program, even as he sounded some familiar themes, including the responsibility of parents and communities, the need for higher expectations in schools, and the importance of excellent teachers.
And he also put forth a few more specific proposals:
  • Prepare 100,000 more science, technology, engineering, and math teachers by the end of the decade.
  • Make permanent the tuition tax credit – worth $10,000 for four years of college – and expand the Pell Grant program.
  • Replace No Child Left Behind with a new, more flexible law, that he said should be modeled after his competitive Race to the Top grant program.
That last point had a few education experts scratching their heads, since Race to the Top is a totally different animal from the broader Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the formal name for No Child Left Behind. The ESEA is the means by which the federal government delivers most of its money to schools and states – more than $100 billion, mostly determined by certain formulas, compared with the $4 billion of competitive grants that made up Race to the Top.
“He’s putting his chips on something that has limited usefulness, but it’s not a broad usefulness, and we don’t even know yet how well states will spend the money from Race to the Top,” says Jack Jennings, executive director of the Center on Education Policy in Washington, who otherwise liked the education themes Obama sounded in his speech. “With No Child Left Behind, he should have talked about [the need for] broader reforms and improvements and raising standards, rather than making the theme of competitiveness the main thing.”
Race to the Top was widely seen as spurring big legislative changes in states, particularly around more accountability for teachers, as they vied for the pools of money. But it was also criticized by many who felt the priorities it emphasized were wrong, were disappointed in the selection of winners, or felt that a competition – that by definition left many states and districts out of the grants – was the wrong way to go.
“I think he’s trying to say Race to the Top … is the way to get consensus between Republicans and Democrats for the reauthorization of the ESEA, and I don’t think it will play out that way,” says Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center of Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.
Mr. Whitehurst also says he would have liked to have seen a more coherent, comprehensive education agenda laid out rather than a few pet proposals, and wonders what the federal role will be in goals like increasing the numbers of math and science teachers.
“The devil will be in the details here, and we’ll need to see them in the budget proposal,” he says.
Still, many education reformers were gratified to see education accorded such a prominent place in the speech and in Obama’s agenda, particularly at a time of economic hardship.
“The themes were clichéd, but they were good clichés,” says Frederick Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, who says he’s happy that Obama continued to emphasize the role of parents, the need for better teachers, and the need for funding to be attached to school performance.
“If we take these steps – if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they’re born until the last job they take – we will reach the goal I set two years ago: by the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world,” Obama said.
“These were strongly phrased sentiments, and something that would have been startling to hear a national Democrat say even four or five years ago,” says Mr. Hess. “Even as we’ve been wrestling with foreign challenges and economic difficulties, to his credit, he and his administration have continually tried to put education forward."