Feature

MEA members earn NEA Foundation grants

Educators and MEA members from New Haven, Swartz Creek, Redford and Saginaw Valley State University received $2,000 and $5,000 grants from the NEA Foundation. The grants support proposals that have the potential for enhancing student achievement and for delivering high-quality educational professional development activities.

Tod Wolfgram, a New Haven High School social studies teacher received a $2,000 Learning and Leadership grant to attend the National Council for Social Studies Annual Conference. There he will learn more about the college, career, and civic life framework for social studies state standards. He will bring back information to his social studies colleagues and share ways to promote civil instruction in the modern classroom.

Kayla Trundle, a special education teacher from Swartz Creek Middle School, received a $2,000 Student Achievement Grant to improve community-based instruction opportunities for students with cognitive impairments. With help from the grant, their students will learn functional skills that apply to the Common Core Essential Elements through trips to a grocery store, post office, bank, restaurant, library, nature center and pet adoption center.

Kara Clayton, a Thurston High School language arts educator in Redford, earned a $2,000 Learning and Leadership Grant to learn more about the use of digital tools to improve students’ literacy skills. She will use the grant to attend seminars at the University of Rhode Island’s Institute in Digital Literacy. Clayton will attend seminars on assisting students to choose reliable and credible sources, reading comprehension, and using digital tools to conduct research. At the end of the Institute, Kara will create a collaborative lesson to be shared with other attendees and colleagues in Redford.

Dr. Marlena Bravender, an assistant professor at Saginaw Valley State University, received a $5,000 Learning and Leadership Grant to research effective ways to integrate virtual language simulations into middle school Spanish lessons. Using the lessons, students will understand authentic situations involving food, clothing, culture, common phrases and study lessons. The grant will also allow Bravender to track the impact of the virtual simulations.

The NEA Foundation awards its grants to educators three times a year. In this round, 42 educators across 22 states received $168,000 in grants to support efforts to improve teaching and learning. The next education grant deadline is Feb. 1, 2015. Go to www.neafoundation.org for more information. 

NEA President talks to Detroit Economic Club about educating the whole child

Tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 16, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia will be telling the Detroit Economic Club why we must invest in the education of students for work and society in the 21st Century. She will be promoting an approach that favors policies that nurture creative thinking and meet the needs of the whole child.

Prior to her luncheon policy speech, she will be meeting with 80 local area high school students, including students from Gibraltar's Carlson High School, Grosse Pointe North, and Harper Woods. The students will hear a preview of Lily's speech and be able to ask questions on any topics they choose. They will also be guests at the luncheon program.

Lily's speech will be live-streamed at www.neatoday.org and you can tune in from 12:35 to 1:15 p.m. to watch and follow @NEAToday and @NEAmedia. If you can't tune in live, the speech will be archived at www.neatoday.org to watch later. Lily will also be a guest on Paul W. Smith's WJR Radio show from 5:30 to 9 a.m. You can listen at http://p.cmlsdet.com/player/?feed=49&id=12869

Michigan’s ranks low on its record of charter school oversight

Michigan may lead the nation in the number of charter schools it authorizes, but it ranks at the bottom among states when it comes to oversight of those authorizers. That finding in a report by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) supports efforts by some lawmakers and the state school Superintendent Mike Flanagan to strengthen the oversight and accountability of the state’s charter school operators.

Currently, Michigan has 136,850 students attending 297 charter schools with 39 authorizers. The number of charter schools, along with student enrollment, has grown rapidly since the authorizing of charter schools 20 years ago this year. 

The report, “On the Road to Better Accountability: an Analysis of State Charter Schools,” specifically faults the state for not automatically closing academically failing charters; for not setting quality standards for authorizers; for not requiring annual reports on academic performance; and for not having an evaluation process in place for authorizers. 

NACSA recommends a revamping of the state’s charter school laws that includes the ability to revoke the authority of a charter school authorizer to open any new schools; enforce oversight standards of current charter schools; and strengthen requirements for charter renewals. 

Flanagan threatened to suspend the ability of authorizers to open new charter schools unless they met similar standards. And a package of House bills—HB 5852HB 5915HB 5918—would keep authorizers from giving a contract to charter schools that have been closed for academic performance, and prohibit authorizers from giving contracts to new charter schools if the authorizer is not doing enough oversight on current charter schools.

It’s American Education Week—Thank you for all you do!

Nov. 16-21 is set aside to celebrate public education and honor the school employees like you who make a difference in the lives of children every day. You’re committed to making sure every child receives a quality education. You believe in public education. And for that you deserve our gratitude and admiration. Follow MEA on Facebook for special messages all week. 

NEA has been a sponsor of American Education Week for the past 93 years and this year, the week’s theme is, “Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility.”  NEA is sponsoring various events to recognize the hard work of students, the professionalism and commitment of educators, and to show appreciation for parents and community members who all contribute to great public schools. 

State extends deadline to opt out of electronic MEAP

In an effort to meet the Legislature’s requirement to revamp the MEAP test in time for next spring, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) continues to make changes to the MEAP. The latest change requires administering the test online and school districts have until Nov. 14 to file an online waiver request with MDE to offer a paper and pencil test option.

This last requirement has left districts scrambling to prepare teachers to give the test, to ensure that students are prepared to take the tests using an online format, and to have the necessary working technology. Many districts feel they don’t have the time to make the changes required by the new test and are choosing to file a waiver request. 

MDE had been counting on using the Smarter Balanced assessments because they aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), but when lawmakers made it a requirement in MDE’S budget to offer the MEAP, it signaled the end to Smarter Balanced and a race to turn the MEAP into an assessment that would measure growth using CCSS. 

Last spring, when some school districts piloted the online Smarter Balanced, there were system crashes, computer screens frozen, or students needing to re-log in after they were kicked out of the system. Online testing had to be rescheduled which ultimately cost instructional time and unfairly penalized students for issues out of anyone’s control. 

These same concerns still linger with this new MEAP format.

In addition to changing the testing format of the MEAP, MDE has designated third through eighth and eleventh grade students to take the test and moved administration of the new MEAP from the fall to the spring.

 

Detroit News wrong about Dziadosz as a potential State Superintendent

MEA Executive Director Gretchen Dziadosz made it clear in a news release last week that she’s not a candidate for the position of State Superintendent despite claims made in a Detroit News editorial. Current State Superintendent Mike Flanagan will be retiring in June 2015 after 10 years in the position and the search is on for his replacement.

“Contrary to the News’ unnamed source, I am not a candidate for State Superintendent, nor have I had any conversations with anyone about a possible candidacy. I would have been happy to clarify that ahead of its appearing in the Detroit News, had I been given the opportunity. Unfortunately, I was not,” said Dziadosz.

The editorial claims that “cementing labor’s influence over the direction of education in Michigan would be a wrong turn.”  Dziadosz said, “Of course, as MEA works on behalf of the learning conditions of our students, we have a deep interest in the qualities and skills of the next superintendent. The column focused lots of attention on the perceived positon of potential candidates on charter schools. But this shouldn’t be a question of pro- or anti-charter—it should be a question of standing up for quality and transparency.” 

In addition to Dziadosz, the paper names Vicki Markavitch, superintendent of Oakland Schools; Scott Menzel, superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District; and Dan Varner, a current State Board of Education member and the CEO of Excellent Schools Detroit, part of a charter school network as possible candidates.

Want the truth about funding cuts? Ask educators!

Poll: 4 out of 5 educators have witnessed
school funding cuts in past four years
                                                                         

EAST LANSING, Mich., Oct. 15, 2014 — Roughly four out of five Michigan educators have experienced funding cuts at their school in the past four years, according to a member poll released today by the Michigan Education Association.

“If you want to know the truth about what’s really happening with education funding in our state, the people to ask are Michigan’s educators,” said MEA President Steven Cook.  “Cuts to K-12 and higher education aren’t just campaign rhetoric – they are reality experienced every day by MEA members across the state.”

In response to the question, “Thinking about the last four years, have you witnessed funding cuts to your local school district and school?", 78 percent responded that they had witnessed cuts, with 11 percent saying they had not and another 11 percent saying they were unsure. 

NEA President making Michigan a stop on her Back-to-School Tour

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia will be stopping in Flint, East Lansing, at MSU, and Plymouth. She is starting off her new term as president with visits to states to connect with members.

In Flint, Lily will be visiting Northwestern High School, once labeled a Priority School. Thanks to the efforts of the staff and students, and the partnerships with MEA, NEA and the school district, Northwestern no longer ranks in the bottom 5 percent when it comes to student achievement.  

At MSU, Lily will have the chance to meet with future educators to carry NEA’s message of “Degrees not Debt” that addresses the escalating cost of a college education. She will also meet with MEA members to discuss NEA’s role in fighting for more higher education funding.

Lily will finish her day with a meet-and-greet with Mark Schauer at the Plymouth MEA office. Members from Livonia, Plymouth and Wayne-Westland will hear from Lily and have the chance to learn more about Schauer, MEA’s recommended candidate for governor, and his plans for investing in public education.

You can follow Lily’s tour at “Lily’s blackboard”, on Twitter @lily NEA, or read her blog.

Ann Arbor teachers invite you to a rally for public schools

What does the largest class size in the world look like? Come to the Rally for Public Schools in Ann Arbor on Thursday, Aug. 28 and find out!

It's a chance to celebrate teachers, students and a new school year with Ann Arbor teachers and the Michigan Teachers and Allies for Change (M-TAC) from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in downtown Ann Arbor. There will be something for the whole family-music, dancing, face painting and ice cream.

In addition to a good time, it's a chance to let legislators know about the good things going on in schools despite cuts to funding, pay freezes and increased class sizes. Lisa Brown, Mark Schauer's running mate, Rep. Jeff Irwin, and Ann Arbor EA President Linda Carter-all strong supporters of public education-will be guest speakers.

RSVP on Facebook. Come out and show your support for public education!

One third of Priority Schools no longer ranked in the bottom 5 percent

The 2014 School Accountability Scorecard released last week by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) provided good news for the 34 percent of 2013 Priority Schools which were removed from that list of lowest-performing schools. According to the Scorecard, more than 1,000 schools met targets in all areas, such as proficiency, participation, attendance, and graduation rates. 

There are 60 new Priority Schools which by law are placed under the authority of the State School Reform Office. The schools will be required to create and implement an intervention model to improve student achievement. The federally defined intervention models include transformation, turnaround, restart and school closure.

The color-coded Scorecard gives schools, districts, parents and the public a way to identify strengths and weaknesses of a school's performance. Colors are determined by points accumulated for goals met or by demonstrating improvement. Green is the highest level, indicating that most goals were met. The next level is lime, followed by yellow and orange. Red is the lowest level, indicating that few goals were met.

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