Feature

Whiston chosen as new State Superintendent

The State Board of Education has picked Brian Whiston, Dearborn Public Schools Superintendent, to replace current State Superintendent Mike Flanagan who retires at the end of June.

Before becoming Dearborn’s superintendent, Whiston spent 11 years as a lobbyist for Oakland Schools. He was also a school board member for Waterford Schools and taught at Wayne State University.

During his interview, Whiston expressed concern that teachers are being targeted and that needs to change. “We do need to celebrate the great things our teachers are doing. We have to celebrate the career, the field of education.”

Whiston said his first priorities will involve proposing a plan to improve student achievement and a plan to change how schools are funded.

Whiston was selected over Vicki Markavitch, Oakland Schools Superintendent, and Scott Menzel, Washtenaw Intermediate School Superintendent, for the position.

Flanagan: 'Poverty is a tough nut to crack.' Tell MEA how you're doing it!

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State Superintendent Mike Flanagan told the audience gathered at the Governor's Education and Economic Summit last week that, "Poverty is a tough nut to crack," and challenged them to help underprivileged children learn.

The recent Kids Count report from the Michigan League for Public Policy  revealed that more Michigan children are living in poverty. The number of children in poverty increased by 35 percent with one in four children living in poverty and one in three qualifying for food assistance because their families' incomes are $23,600 or less a year.

The statistics on childhood hunger are equally as disheartening. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 16 million students are victims of childhood hunger.

While he acknowledged that teachers and staff see firsthand every day the impact poverty and hunger has on their students and their ability to learn, he said, "It's our collective job together."

To raise the awareness of poverty and hunger in our schools, Flanagan encouraged the audience to tell their stories. 

Tell us your story of how poverty is impacting your classroom and you on our MEA Facebook page. How are you dealing with it?

2015 MEA ESP Conference – March 13-14

You still have a chance to register for this great event with sessions designed for ESP and the chance to earn credits toward an ESP Certificate. The program includes a keynote and guest speaker and the announcement of the Leon A. Brunner winners. Limited financial help is available if you want to go. Go to www.mea.org/esp-conference to register.

Nominate an innovative program for MASB’s Education Excellence award

Friday, March 13 is the deadline for administrators to nominate teachers and their programs within your school district for an EDEX 21—21st annual Education Excellence Award. Since 1994, the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) has recognized local and intermediate public school district programs that positively reflect the innovation spirit in today’s schools and measurably improve student achievement with these awards.

Each year the Education Excellence Award recognizes 20 teachers and their programs, and this year, an overall winner will be named based on a total score. Winners receive a cash award and statewide recognition at a luncheon in their honor. They also are invited to present their program at MASB’s annual fall leadership conference.

Watch the video promotion and then download the application and encourage your school district to recognize the outstanding work going on every day. 

Happy Read Across America Day!

However you’re celebrating reading today, you’re joining more than 45 million other readers across the country who are honoring Dr. Seuss and appreciating the joy and fun of reading.

This is NEA’s 18th year of promoting reading with a special one-day celebration that also kicks off March as Reading Month. This year’s featured book is the Dr. Seuss classic, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”

And today is also the start of a nationwide search for students 5 to 18 years of age who excel in STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts and math. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of the book, Dr. Seuss Enterprises and NEA will offer a $10,000 STEAM scholarship through its “Kid, You’ll Move Mountains” promotion. Go to www.nea.org/grants to learn more.

And finally, let us know what you’re doing in your school to promote reading today, this month and all year. Share your ideas on MEA Facebook or send them to rcarey@mea.org

ESEA waiver request could impact school accountability, evaluation timelines

Michigan is hoping to win another approval of an Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s (ESEA) waiver request which must be submitted by March 31. The state’s first waiver request was granted in July 2012.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation established one-size- fits-all requirements regarding student achievement, along with a strict timeline to meet those requirements.  ESEA waivers give states a chance to develop their own systems for ranking the academic performance of schools, what assessments to use to gather student data, and how to evaluate teachers and administrators. Since Michigan’s initial waiver expires at the end of this school year, the state is looking to again customize its approach to meeting NCLB requirements.

Join the ESEA Week of Action, Feb. 16-20; tell Congress a new bill must mean more opportunities and learning for students

Since its adoption more than 12 years ago, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has made no significant progress in closing achievement and opportunity gaps for students. It hasn't leveled the playing field for students in poverty, students with disabilities or English-language learners so they can have an equal opportunity for a quality education. NCLB has only made it more impossible for educators to help students be successful. 

Right now, Congress is moving fast on a rewrite of NCLB-also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). And from the looks of it, the reauthorization is no better than the original bill. It's focusing on more testing, labeling, and punishing schools for their test results, instead of concentrating on student learning and closing those achievement gaps.

We have a chance during NEA's ESEA Week of Action (Feb. 16-20) to influence Congress and tell them to pass a new ESEA bill that gets it right this time. That means a reauthorized ESEA must:

  • Create more opportunities for all students to receive a quality education by eliminating the one-size-fits-all and top-down approach to education reform.
  • Reduce the amount of time spent on testing so there's time for students to learn and more time for teachers to teach.
  • Ensure every student has qualified educators who have the authority to do their job and lead on behalf of their students.

MEA’s 2015 Bargaining, Public Policy and Professional Development Conference

 

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Along with added sessions, this year’s attendees will enjoy many new Conference features. The theme is new—“Preserving Public Education for the Future.” The look is new—MEA members are super heroes keeping public education safe from those individuals and groups who want to destroy it. And the opportunities for interaction are new and fun—from MEA Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, stickers and buttons, and a photo booth.

What hasn’t changed are the member benefits this Conference provides. MEA members will still get the valuable knowledge, skills and strategies needed to make sure public education will be strong in the future. Some sessions qualify for State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECHs) and Michigan ESP Center of Professional Learning (MECPL) credits. And there are opportunities to network and hear from colleagues at lunchtime activities and at the PAC reception.

There’s still time to register at a reduced fee so don’t miss out! We believe in public education and this Conference will help us defend our beliefs. Go to www.mea.org/bpa to download the Conference announcement.

Supreme Court dismisses school districts’ suit claiming state underfunding

Last month, the Michigan Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit alleging that school districts were underfunded for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. More than 450 local school districts brought the suit.

Using the Headlee Amendment, the districts claimed that the state of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Education, state budget director, state treasurer and state superintendent of public instruction didn’t provide enough compensation to school districts for the new and increased costs of reporting information to the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI). Under the Headlee Amendment, the Michigan Constitution prohibits the state from requiring new or expanded activities by local governments and school districts without full state funding.

The Supreme Court dismissed the cases on the grounds that the districts didn’t attempt to prove a specific amount of underfunding. The Court’s ruling agreed with the decision of a special master appointed by the Michigan Court of Appeals to review the case before it went to the Supreme Court.

In its opinion, the Court said, “A plaintiff claiming that the Legislature’s appropriation failed to fully fund the cost of a new or increased service or activity must allege and prove the specific amount of the shortfall. Plaintiffs failed to offer any proofs that could entitle them to relief.”

2011 guidelines in place since evaluation bills die in lame duck

HB 5223 and HB 5224, which would have established a statewide evaluation system for teachers and administrators, did not survive the Legislature's lame duck session. While the bills may be reintroduced next year, the evaluation guidelines from 2011 will be in place.
 
The bills, sponsored by Rep. Margaret O'Brien (R-Portage) and Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor), passed the House and had strong bipartisan support. MEA lobbyists were instrumental in fashioning the legislation that created an evaluation system that supported rather than punished teachers. 

However, the bills could not get out of the Senate Education Committee. Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Shores), Committee chair, called the bills flawed because they did not give local school districts enough flexibility.

MEA also supported legislation that would have instituted much needed charter school reforms. Unfortunately, those bills also did not make it through lame duck.

However, bills that MEA opposed that would have held back third graders who weren't reading at grade level, assigned letter grades to failing schools, expanded the Education Achievement Authority, and established an early financial warning system for school districts died in lame duck. 

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