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Last Updated: 10/31/2017
 

 Article of Interest - Michigan's Schools

Granholm Announces United Front Against School Failure
Gongwer News Service, April 14, 2003
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Governor Jennifer Granholm announced Monday that 216 elementary and middle schools in the state had not met federal adequate yearly progress standards, and she announced that nearly every state department, as well as private entities, would be enlisted to help those schools improve next year.

"This is an unprecedented partnership," Ms. Granholm said. "Every aspect of our lives top to bottom is going to be brought to bear to make sure all our schools make adequate yearly progress. ...I think it will create a revolutionary look at the way we do education."

School officials vowed to work with the administration to improve the schools. "We are not afraid," said Lansing Public Schools Superintendent Sharon Banks of the district's having schools on the list. "Everyone's going to join hands for the first time and serve as a support net for schools."

Mr. Watkins said the results show the quality of the state's schools. "Today we're here to make the point that the glass is not half full. In fact, it's 90 percent full," he said.

Though Ms. Granholm still has some concerns about the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires the adequate yearly progress standard and provides sanctions for not meeting that standard, she said her proposal is based on the requirements in the act.

"No Child Left Behind has some flaws in it, but we're not going to blame No Child Left Behind," she said.

For instance, the act requires all schools not meeting adequate yearly progress to develop a school improvement plan to allow them to meet the standard the following year. Principals from the 216 schools on the list will be attending a weekend seminar on developing improvement plans and another seminar over the summer on leadership.

The Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Federation of Teachers and School Related Personnel also have agreed to provide additional professional development programs for the teachers in those schools.

"Now it going to be a matter or sitting down and figuring out with those schools what do you need," said Louise Somalski with the teachers federation. "A lot of times professional development gets to be a one size fits all: the administration gets a speaker and everyone goes to see that speaker. This is gong to be more targeted professional development."

"It's a partnership that we need to be looking at," said Tom Stahr, a uniserve director for the MEA.

Ms. Granholm said she also would not be surprised to see some changes in personnel in some of the schools over the summer under the provisions of the act that allow for reorganization of the school for four consecutive years of missing adequate yearly progress.

In announcing the list of schools that had not met progress goals and the programs being put in place to help them, Ms. Granholm also attempted to demonstrate that those standards could be met by making the announcement from schools that had done so. The press conferences to announce the lists were conducted at Crary Elementary School in Detroit and Fairview Elementary School in Lansing, both of which met progress goals for 2001-02 after not having met goals at least two prior years.

"So these schools are proof that it can be done. Both had principals who could say, 'This is what we did,' " said Granholm communications director Genna Beaudoin Gent. "We have every intention of going to those schools that didn't make progress. That's where we'll spend most of our time."

By "we," Ms. Gent, and earlier Ms. Granholm, meant not only Department of Education officials. While the goal of the program is the same as all school improvement programs-improving the performance of students-Ms. Granholm's Children's Action Network changes the focus away from the schools and onto the families and communities they serve. The program, which includes most of the Cabinet, is chaired by Department of Human Services Director Nannette Bowler rather than Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins.

"Nannette's department feeds into these schools that are struggling because her department serves the families in these schools that are struggling," Ms. Granholm said.

Said Mr. Watkins: "Often times the schools and students most in need of assistance are surrounded by families and communities in need of assistance."

Ms. Bowler said the FIA is looking at what are some of the resources the schools need.

Among the proposals is to place an FIA caseworker in as many of the 216 schools as practical to make the school a service center for neighborhood families. Ms. Bowler said the program would allow "one stop shopping" for state services in those areas, as those FIA workers would also be able to help people with services from other departments if needed.

She said the program would also help to bring parents into the schools and to see them as places of help rather than places of fear as some may now. "We have to be better at engaging," she said.

The proposal also would not mean additional costs to the state. "We have workers in the community," she said. "It would be simply housing some of those workers there (at the schools)."

The Department of Community Health also is expected to be a major player in the effort ("Healthy Children obviously learn better," Ms. Granholm said.), as is the Department of Consumer and Industry Services. Among the latter's roles will be changing its licensing for child care programs to require that they involve parents in education programs and that they provide certain minimum reading times for children each day.

But Ms. Granholm said the Department of Corrections also is expected to play a major role in the program, as most of the inmates in its system in some way failed their trip through the public school system. "Every one of the 50,000 inmates in our prison system was once a child," she said. "We need to focus on prevention."

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority will be working with the schools to identify families with housing problems and aid them in resolving those. "Many of the families that feed into these schools are transient," Ms. Granholm said. "They don't have stable housing."

In addition to the activity by the schools and the state, Ms. Granholm also called on the business community to have each business adopt at least one of the schools on the list to provide volunteers, mentors and other resources.
 

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