Michigan schools

SCHOOL BEAT — February 10, 2011

February 10, 2011 // 0 Comments

Michigan schools lying? by RANDALL C. SELLHORN Trustee, Board of Education On Thursday, Jan. 12, the Grand Rapids Press front page headline which read “Michigan schools-lying to parents? Report blasts state for hiding behind standards lower than nationally accepted” was a bit of a shock to me and, I am certain, to others. Lying? The Press reported that a “long established and well respected” Washington, D.C. education advocacy group had released a report that indicates the standard used to determine proficiency on the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) for fourth-grade and eighth-grade students was below the standard used in the National Assessment of Education Progress 2009 (NAEP). The report also accuses the Michigan Education Department of having lowered the standards for proficiency on the MEAP. If you missed it, you could probably find it on MLive. This may shock you, but I really don’t care about the Michigan Education Department having lowered the MEAP cut score for proficiency or using a different standard for proficiency than the NAEP. Surprised? Read on. I will try in this short space to explain to you why you shouldn’t be concerned either. The Press article and subsequently the Education Trust–Midwest’s report doesn’t make any statement about the Michigan Merit Curriculum learning objectives for students. The Michigan Merit Curriculum is the learning objectives for high school graduation. They only take issue with the achievement levels required for a student to be rated “proficient.” First we all have to make the assumption that the learning objectives for the MEAP and the NAEP are similar if not the same. Don’t know that, but to accept the report’s premise you need to. That fourth- and eighth-grades cut score for proficiency is being questioned and not for any other grade is puzzling. One could assume all other grades’ MEAP cut scores are adequate and similar to the NAEP cut scores? I have friends at my work that are actuaries skilled in statistical measure that will say, “Are you using statistics like a drunk uses a lamp post? Are you leaning on statistical evidence for support or are you using statistics for illumination?” It is our work jargon for saying, “Have you selected one item of statistical evidence to support your position and ignoring the […]

School funds must be kept separate

April 15, 2009 // 0 Comments

by MICHAEL S. SHIBLER, Ph.D. Superintendent of Schools   As we all know, the state of Michigan’s economy is in crisis mode. Unemployment is over 11 percent, and sales from a variety of businesses are down. Both of these factors have resulted in a serious decline in revenues used to fund the state’s public schools. In late February, Governor Granholm declared that Michigan schools would receive $59 less per student in 2009-10 than they received in 2008-09. Then, in early March, the Governor announced that because of potential revenues from the Federal Stimulus Package, it is possible that the best case scenario for school funding might be a freeze rather than a reduction. Although a funding freeze is our best case scenario, our costs continue to rise, just as in your home or business, despite active efforts to contain them. In anticipation of a freeze in state funding, we project we will need to reduce our costs by $2.5 million in order to balance the 2009-10 budget. This number would be higher in the event of a funding reduction. We are committed to doing our very best to keep most of these reductions away from the classroom, but with 85 percent of our budget delegated to staffing, that will be difficult. For the past several months, we have been giving presentations to staff and parent organizations regarding Michigan’s serious economic crisis and its impact on all public schools. We have also reported to these groups that, prior to July 1, it will be necessary for the Board of Education and administration to reduce our costs by $2.5 million. We are currently identifying where those reductions will occur, and I will notify you through our webpage www.rockfordschools.org and the district newsletter The Rampage once the Board of Education has approved them. A frequently asked question during our public budget presentations involved using the revenues from the $45 million bond issue passed by voters last May to ease the funding shortfall from the state of Michigan. There is only one answer to this question:  IT IS ILLEGAL TO CO-MINGLE FUNDS, such as revenues from the bond issue and general day-to-day operating funds. So, it is important to understand when you see new classrooms added to six of […]