Archives for category: Michigan

NPR has a good news story from the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. Brimley Elementary School that serves many low-income students, and it is thriving. More than half the students are Native American.

What’s the secret of their success? Federal aid of an extra $1 million. And it makes a difference.

The principal explains what he does with the extra money:

“So that does help, big time. That really gives us an extra pot of money,” says Routhier. He adds that the school uses that pot for things like hiring more staff and early interventions for struggling students. There’s a resource teacher for special education and a speech and language pathologist.

“First-graders who are having a tough time with reading and writing get one-on-one time with a specialist. There’s an intervention teacher for kids in fourth, fifth and sixth grades — they mostly focus on math. There are teachers’ aids to help out in all the kindergarten, first- and second-grade classrooms. And class sizes are small, averaging 22 kids.”

Teachers regularly give diagnostic assessments to see what the students need and how they are progressing.

There is no miracle ingredient, no silver bullet. It makes south sense that you wonder how it became a news story. But in these crazy times, when everyone has a plan to change everything, common sense seems shocking.

The Leona Group, a for-profit charter corporation that runs the schools of Highland Park, Michigan, will not offer high school classes next year. It will also end its contract one year early. And enrollment in the schools has dropped by 40% since the for-profit takeover. It is just not that profitable to offer high school.

 

Leona is closing the only high school in the district, and students were stunned.

 

Hannah, a rising junior, said the students were shocked and upset. “A lot of us couldn’t believe that they’d close the only high school in Highland Park,” she told the World Socialist Web Site. “We thought they couldn’t do that, because where would we go? But the superintendent called us all down to a meeting in the lunchroom and said she had done everything humanly possible to try to keep the school open.

 
“It’s really crazy. I am going to miss this school.”

 
A community meeting has been scheduled for Monday, June 8, for parents and students scrambling to find new schools. They will be assigned to the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) system and reportedly will be offered enrollment at DPS schools, a range of other charter operations, as well as slots in the so-called “failing school district” run by the state’s Education Achievement Authority.

 
Displaced students, facing the hardship of much longer commutes, will be given bus passes. This hardly compensates for the potentially drastic increase in commute times. For a student to take a bus from the current high school, Highland Park Renaissance, to the closest DPS high school, Pershing, would require three buses. Wait times in the city are beyond onerous in the former “Motor City” where buses can be hours late. A single bus ride could take students to Cass Tech High School; however, that school has a very selective application process.

 
Hannah said she would be spending her senior year at the Detroit Public Service Academy. DPSA is another Leona Group-run charter school, whose students are called “cadets” and specialize in police, military and emergency responder skills.

 
“It’s not that I want to do that kind of work,” she explained, “I want to do culinary arts, but they’ll have other subjects too. The DPSA will provide buses right at the CVS to get you to the school. If your parents can’t take you to a further school, you need to do what you have to, to get an education.”

 

It’s all about the kids. The state of Michigan has washed its hands of responsibility or accountability for public education.

Paul Pastorek, former state superintendent of schools in Louisiana, has been advising Michigan Governor Rick Snyder since June 2014, less than a year. Pastorek’s claim to fame was his “success” in eliminating public education in Néw Orleans. A liberal advocacy group filed a Freedom of Information request for all emails between Pastorek and certain state agencies. It received a bill of $52,000 +. Information, it seems, is very costly, costly enough to bankrupt anyone who asks for it.

“Progress Michigan, a liberal think tank based out of Lansing, requested all communications between Paul Pastorek, one of Snyder’s education advisers, and employees of the Michigan Department of Education, Education Achievement Authority and Michigan Department of Treasury.

“The Department of Education and EAA both turned over emails between Pastorek and their employees for free, but the Department of Treasury sent Progress Michigan an estimated cost of $52,108.72 for the same bill.

“According to the letter to Progress Michigan, obtained by MLive, the department estimated each of its 1,286 employees would need to spend two hours searching their emails for communications with Pastorek. Each of those hours would cost the state $20.26 per hour, according to the letter.”

This is very odd. It takes me about four seconds to search my emails for a name. Why would every single employee of the state Department of Treasury require two hours to locate correspondence? Surely 90% or more had none.

Why the Department of Treasury?

“Some in the field already question the Department of Treasury’s role in education. It appoints emergency managers that control five Michigan school districts and so-called early warning legislation in the Michigan Legislature could give the Treasury more power over oversight of schools in bad financial shape.”

This reader reacted to the post about Steve Mathews, the superintendent in Novi, Michigan who is now on our honor roll for speaking up against punitive corporate reform. This reader explains with great clarity what the game is all about:

 

 

I taught in the same district as Steve Matthews when he was a Curriculum Director some years ago so I am familiar with who he is. He was well liked during his time there.
Something that is missing from Steve’s well spoken article and most of the subsequent comments is the fact that not only is the de-funding of public education deliberate and premeditated but it has a purpose in addition to demoralizing school employees. Two major factors are at play.
One is by keeping school districts cash strapped, it puts less money into the paychecks of teachers. Therefore less money will be going to Democratic candidates running for elected office. Starving the Democrats of donations by teacher union members, who are often the largest union in any particular state, makes it easier to outspend the Democrats by rich Republican donors. No less than Karl Rove, has stated that is a major goal of his political machine.
Another key ingredient of this premeditation for breaking down public schools is public schools are one of the last great untapped sources for the greatest stack of dollars in the country, taxpayer money. By making the school systems appear incompetent, even if it means actually ruining the education of millions of students, Republicans can create large inroads for privatization of school operations. That means Republican’s Corporate Masters will be getting those easy taxpayer monies with long-term contracts for “services.” Republicans/Corporate America have made big strides in taking over school transportation, food and custodial services to date, in addition to creating charter schools with shockingly little accountability for how taxpayer money is used and for actual student achievement. Legislative bills are being introduced in many states that will allow districts to hire non-certified teachers for the classrooms. Those “teachers” will be woefully underpaid and have little skills to deliver any kind of quality education.
The saying of “follow the money” is a real cue to see what those who seek to demonize public education are up to.

Michigan PTA passed a resolution asking the state to stop the online testing. The state said no. They forgot that public education is for the public, not for the bureaucracy.

MONDAY, APRIL 6, 2015
Michigan PTA Adopts M-Step Resolution

The Michigan PTA recently adopted the Clarkston PTA Council’s resolution calling on the State Legislature and the Michigan Department of Education to cease the administration of the M-Step assessment, scheduled to begin on April 13. The resolution follows:

Michigan PTA’s
M-Step
Resolution (Adopted 2015)

WHEREAS the State of Michigan
implemented a new statewide, standardized test on November 13, 2014, after the school year
had begun;

put in place required testing windows after the curriculum was set, meaning some content
included in the M-STEP may not yet be covered;

communicated changes in test requirements on January 29, 2015, resulting in potential shifts in schedules for the computer-based version;

released the test software on February 26, 2015, a month and a half prior to testing, revealing
the need for updates to the existing technology in a number of districts;

notified schools on March 12, 2015 that the management portion of eDIRECT, used to print test tickets (27,357 tickets for an 8,000-student district) and to input test accommodations and student related information, will not be released until April 3, 2015, the first day of a week-long holiday for many school districts, which necessitates the re-work of test schedules to allow for completion of above tasks on the first day of testing, April 13, 2015;

requires the presence of test proctors paid by school districts;

will discontinue the M-STEP assessment after one year to create a different tool for the school
year 2015-16 and beyond; and

WHEREAS the State, in November 2014, notified school districts that the M-STEP would utilize a computer-adaptive format, meaning that it would individualize the assessment questions for students based upon their responses; and

on February 9, 2015, notified school districts that M-STEP is not computer adaptive; and

WHEREAS the State originally notified school districts that M-STEP data would be available to schools shortly after the tests were administered so that schools could use the data to inform instruction; and as of March 24, 2015, cannot confirm when M-STEP data will be available to school districts after the test is completed; and

WHEREAS the M-STEP, due to technology limitations in a number of school districts, will disrupt schooling, render technology inaccessible for curricular needs, and interrupt the exploration of content from April to June, meaning that secondary students will miss out on classroom time and new learning in order to take the M-STEP; and

WHEREAS the State has determined that it will use M-STEP results to prescribe how districts will allocate At-Risk funding, which the State has historically targeted toward students at risk of failing in school due to adverse factors in their lives;

WHEREAS the M-STEP process, in its entirety, is largely out of the control of local school districts;

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED: That Michigan PTA

● Calls for the immediate cessation of the M-STEP assessment process and administration for the year 2014-2015;

● Calls for not utilizing M-STEP’s results to negatively impact school district funding and funding allocations.

● Supports a balanced, localized, nationally normed assessment system.

Steve Matthews, superintendent of the Novi school district, here explains how the education profession has been attacked and demonized, with premeditation.

 

He begins:

 

So you want to kill a profession.

 

It’s easy.

 

First you demonize the profession. To do this you will need a well-organized, broad-based public relations campaign that casts everyone associated with the profession as incompetent and doing harm. As an example, a well-orchestrated public relations campaign could get the front cover of a historically influential magazine to invoke an image that those associated with the profession are “rotten apples.”

 

Then you remove revenue control from the budget responsibilities of those at the local level. Then you tell the organization to run like a business which they clearly cannot do because they no longer have control of the revenue. As an example, you could create a system that places the control for revenue in the hands of the state legislature instead of with the local school board or local community.

 

Then you provide revenue that gives a local agency two choices: Give raises and go into deficit or don’t give raises so that you can maintain a fund balance but in the process demoralize employees. As an example, in Michigan there are school districts that have little to no fund balance who have continued to give raises to employees and you have school districts that have relatively healthy fund balances that have not given employees raises for several years.

 

Then have the state tell the local agency that it must tighten its belt to balance revenue and expenses. The underlying, unspoken assumption being that the employees will take up the slack and pay for needed supplies out of their own pockets.

 

Additionally , introduce “independent” charters so that “competition” and “market-forces” will “drive” the industry. However, many of these charters, when examined, give the illusion of a better environment but when examined show no improvement in service. The charters also offer no comprehensive benefits or significantly fewer benefits for employees. So the charters offer no better quality for “customers” and no security for employees but they ravage the local environment.

 

Then create a state-mandated evaluation system in an effort to improve quality…..

 

That is how it begins.

 

For his willingness to speak out honestly and courageously, I add Steve Matthews to the blog’s honor roll as a hero of public education.

 

 

 

Oh, good! Governor Rick Snyder wants to be held directly accountable for the improvement of the bottom 5% of schools in Michigan.

 

He has taken away responsibility for them from the State Department of Education and transferred it to an agency he controls.

 

He must have forgotten the lessons of the Educational Achievement Authority.

Steven Ingersoll, charter school founder, was convicted by a federal jury for financial misdeeds.

 

Blogger Miss Fortune reports:

 

A federal jury found Bay City Academy founder Steven J. Ingersoll guilty of three of the six criminal counts he faced stemming from his rapacious tear through the finances of both the Bay City Academy and Grand Traverse Academy charter schools.

 

The jury found Ingersoll guilty of two counts of attempting to evade or defeat tax and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. The jury exonerated him of three counts of fraud by wire, radio, or television.

 

Throughout the trial, federal prosecutors argued that Ingersoll shifted money among business and personal accounts to avoid taxes.

 

Steven Ingersoll in 2010 purchased a former church at 400 N. Madison Ave. on Bay City’s East Side and later entered into a construction contract with Roy Bradley in order to convert the structure into the Bay City Academy charter school. Federal prosecutors alleged Ingersoll in January 2011 obtained a $1.8 million construction line of credit loan from Chemical Bank in Bay City for his endeavors with the church-academy, then used the money for his own purposes.

Ingersoll used $704,000 of this money to pay part of a $3.5 million-debt he owed to another charter school he founded, Grand Traverse Academy in Grand Traverse County, but first had it bandied around the bank accounts of his other entities and those of the Bradleys and his brother, prosecutors alleged.

 

 

The founder of the Grand Traverse Academy in Michigan is being tried in federal court for misappropriating $3.5 million of the school’s funds.

 

His attorney explained that it was a loan to pay off his taxes.

 

Attorney testifies Steven Ingersoll was aware in May 2013 of federal tax investigation when he told the Grand Traverse Academy board he could not pay his $3.5 million dollar Academy debt…and his taxes!

 

Meg Hackett, a Grand Rapids attorney representing the Grand Traverse Academy board, testified today in Steven Ingersoll’s federal fraud trial that during a May 20, 2013 Academy board meeting, Ingersoll asked the board to characterize his $3.5 million dollar indebtedness to the charter school as a “loan”.

 

For years, the Grand Traverse Academy had carried Ingersoll’s growing debt on its books, characterizing it variously as either a receivable, a related party receivable or a prepaid expense.

 

Is this sort of like a public school, where the principal borrows $3.5 million from the school?

Did you know that charter authorizers in many states are paid a fee for every student who enrolls in a charter they oversee? Did you know this fee removes any incentive to demand accountability?

This article shows how fraught with self-dealing, conflicts, and indifference many of these relationships between authorizers and charters are. It is a wild, wild world out there.

Consider this:

“Nestled in the woods of central Minnesota, near a large lake, is a nature sanctuary called the Audubon Center of the North Woods. The nonprofit rehabilitates birds. It hosts retreats and conferences. It’s home to a North American porcupine named Spike as well as several birds of prey, frogs, and snakes used to educate the center’s visitors.

“It’s also Minnesota’s largest regulator of charter schools, overseeing 32 of them.. ”

“Many of these gatekeepers are woefully inexperienced, under-resourced, confused about their mission or even compromised by conflicts of interest. And while some charter schools are overseen by state education agencies or school districts, others are regulated by entities for which overseeing charters is a side job, such as private colleges and nonprofits like the Audubon wildlife rehabilitation center…..”

“In 2010, an investigation by the Philadelphia Controller’s Office found lavish executive salaries, conflicts of interest and other problems at more than a dozen charter schools, and it faulted the authorizer – the School District of Philadelphia’s charter school office – for “complete and total failure” to monitor schools. In 2013, more than a dozen Ohio charter schools that had gained approval from various authorizers received state funding and then either collapsed in short order or never opened at all. [That hasn’t stopped Philadelphia from opening more charters.]

“Considerable state funds were lost and many lives impacted because of these failures,” the Ohio Department of Education wrote in a scathing letter last year to Ohio’s charter-school regulators. The agency wrote that some authorizers “lacked not only the appropriate processes, but more importantly, the commitment of mission, expertise and resources needed to be effective….

“It’s not just Trine. In the esoteric world of charter authorizing, there’s long been confusion and tension over the basic role of authorizers. Are they charter-school watchdogs, or are they there to provide support?

“In Ohio, many charter authorizers fall on the “support” end of the spectrum. Some go so far that they sell “support services” – back-office services, for instance, or even professional development – to the very schools they regulate. It’s a way for these groups to make additional revenue on top of the fees they’re allowed to charge the schools.”

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