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Bridges4Kids LogoThe Many Ways to Flunk AYP under NCLB: Different Approaches, Different Results
MIRS, February 3, 2004
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Michigan Department of Education officials said today it shouldn't come as a surprise that some of the state's best schools were labeled as not making "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) under the new federal guidelines, noting that a school has some 50 ways it can trip up.

As reported in MIRS (Jan. 30-31), the 896 Michigan schools dubbed as not making AYP included 20 Golden Apple winners in 2002, three-time Governor's Cup winner Ann Arbor Pioneer High and the state's "most improved" school of 2002. Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM's oldest daughter goes to a school that didn't make AYP.

Also, nearly 70 percent of the 112 schools that didn't make AYP for five years in a row (a designation that the feds say should result in a state takeover or a wholesale administrative facelift) earned "B" or "C" grades from the state.

What's the reason for the apparent disconnect? Under the state's new "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) Act, a school can be dubbed as not making AYP if it doesn't give at least 95 percent of its students the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP). A school also doesn't make the grade if it doesn't have a least an 85 percent attendance rate or an 80 percent graduation rate.

Of course, if a school doesn't improve its MEAP scores from the year before in a particular subject, that precludes it from making AYP, as well.

To make matters more complicated, the federal government broke down the population of every school into particular subgroups Hispanic students, special needs students, etc.

So if a school's Asian students, for example, don't, as a group, show up to school 85 percent of the time, the school doesn't make AYP. If the school's economically disadvantaged children don't score better in math than the class before, the school doesn't make AYP.

"This is fair and healthy because it will focus attention on a particular problem a school might have," said Board of Education member John AUSTIN. "You need to focus on all populations in that school and make progress. We want every school to worry about every kid and every group so a school doesn't rest on its laurels."

So what about the 112 schools that haven't made AYP for five years in a row? Under the law, the state must force these schools to fire their key staff, become a charter school, be taken over by the state or turned over to a private company. If the state doesn't take that initiative, the federal government quits giving education money.

The state isn't taking over 112 schools this year. Austin said the state would be working to improve leadership at these schools through the new Principal's Academy and other training workshops. He mentioned the governor's strategy of bringing Department of Human Services (FIA) offices into some schools and other services to help schools with apparently chronic situations.

"We need to make our best effort to make these schools better," Austin said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education is putting out another fire regarding the state-issued report cards released last Friday, the same time as the AYP report.

The Detroit News reported today that many of 112 schools that didn't make AYP for the last five years avoided flunking the state's report card by giving themselves an "A" on the self-evaluation portion of the report card grading system.

The state's Education YES! system grades schools under a three-part system. One-third of the grade depends on MEAP. Another third rides on improved MEAP scores and the final third is a self-evaluation grade based on 11 factors how the schools reach out to parents, building's condition, how well they prepare their teachers, etc.

So schools like Brewer Elementary School in Detroit flunked the MEAP test, showed no improvement in MEAP scores, but earned an overall grade of a C because the school gave itself an A.

"We went with the assumption that schools would be honest and they'd give themselves an honest assessment," said Martin Ackley, Department of Education spokesman.

Nine schools out of 3,472 schools grade got a failing "unaccredited" grade. Four percent (94 schools) received a D. Bs were given to 42 percent and 43 percent were given Cs.

Ackley said that the state does not oversee the self-evaluation portion of the test. As a way "to put the public back into public education," the only oversight on the self-evaluation is coming from the local community. If it doesn't feel the grade is fair, the local parents can make that known.

This nuance of the state's new Education YES! grading system will be revisited as the Department holds its focus groups and receives feedback from parents, administrators and other interested parties.

"We've always said this is a work in progress," Ackley said.
     

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Federal Budget Could Boost Michigan Deficit
Gongwer News Service, February 3, 2004

President George W. Bush's proposed 2004-05 federal budget could spell big problems for Michigan's appropriations plan, officials said Tuesday. In fact, Governor Jennifer Granholm said the proposed budget could drive Michigan's expected general fund deficit from $1 billion to $1.3 billion.

The shortfall will come largely if a Medicaid funding program used by Michigan and other states is eliminated as proposed by Mr. Bush. But state officials also worry about other proposals in the president's proposed budget, such as proposed transportation funding that over six years would be $100 billion less than that proposed by Congressional Republicans.

The potential fiscal bombshell was dropped with little more than a week to go before Ms. Granholm must present her proposed 2004-05 budget to the Legislature.

"It is of great concern to us," she told reporters in discussing problems the Medicaid program already faces due to growing caseloads and other issues. "We have a $550 million hole and to add another $300 million to that will add insult to injury."

Like the state budget, Mr. Bush's proposed budget is just that, a proposal that will be argued over the next several months. John Burchett, Ms. Granholm's lobbyist in Washington, D.C., said officials from all the states have been furiously going over the proposed budget to determine how programs could affect their individual states.

Already, he said, he had a list some two pages long of potential cuts to Michigan in the federal budget. The Medicaid situation is one of two elephants in the room, he said.

The Medicaid program Mr. Bush proposes to eliminate is called the upper payment limit, Mr. Burchett said, and was actually developed between the federal government and Michigan under the administration of former Governor John Engler.

The program now totals $1.6 billion, of which Michigan is one of the largest recipients at $300 million.

Ms. Granholm said the state's safety net is growing thin for pregnant women, senior citizens and others who rely on Medicaid for health coverage, noting she had just been in a budget meeting discussing whether to cap certain populations who could receive services. "We really have to make some very, very difficult decisions," she said.

Budget Director Mary Lannoye will present the governor's budget at a joint meeting of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees at noon Thursday, February 12.

Later, Ms. Granholm told the Michigan Society of Association Executives that Michigan may already be considered somewhat frugal, noting it ranks 29th among the states in per capita tax burden and has cut employees to the lowest level since 1974.

Part of the answer to continuing to provide high quality services, she said, may lie in expanded partnerships, such as between the state and universities, the state and foundations, other public-public links and public-private ventures.

"I want to be able to achieve great things for our citizens even though the budget situation is very challenging," Ms. Granholm said.

Gary Olson, director of the Senate Fiscal Agency, which is beginning to review the federal budget implications, said Medicaid and several other factors pose additional trouble both for the current year and the 2004-05 year.

The issue for the Granholm administration, he added, is whether to present a budget assuming current law or account for proposed changes by the president. The federal government had already moved to phase out the fee-based transfers that Michigan and other states used to boost their match of federal Medicaid funds, but Mr. Olson said the new proposals would hasten that move and double the impact on the 2004-05 budget to about $260 million.

"This will put the governor and the Legislature in a bind," Mr. Olson said.

Mr. Olson said the Medicaid budget also has three significant issues facing it before the current year closes September 30: $18.9 million through a yet-to-be-implemented Medicare pharmacy prescription program; about $20 million in disputed nursing home fees that a circuit court ruled invalid (legislation has been introduced to address the issue); and about $48 million as a result of federal officials not approving part of an adult home waiver proposal for indigent persons.

Mr. Burchett said new estimates that the recently-signed Medicare prescription plan could cost $100 billion more than originally anticipated have raised many worries on the part of states.

Though not immediately a big problem, Mr. Burchett said the president's proposal on transportation could be a huge issue to the state. The budget for 2004-05 proposes to spend $300 million less on transportation, he said. But over the next six years the budget proposes to spend $256 billion on transportation, more than $100 billion less than a transportation proposal already made by U.S. House Republicans.

That proposal also comes as the state is trying to boost the percentage of funding it gets from the federal government for roads, bridges and other transportation projects.

Additionally, Mr. Olson said the current-year budget will likely have to deal with restoring aid to universities and community colleges accepting the governor's demand to keep tuition increases at inflationary levels. The institutions were cut 5 percent as part of the budget-balancing agreement last year, but will get 3 percent back if tuition increases are capped.

Michigan State has agreed; Wayne State is poised to do so on Wednesday and Mr. Olson expects all universities will eventually follow suit at an additional cost of $40 million to the state.
     

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Michigan School Groups Call For More Funding
Gongwer News Service, February 3, 2004

As the Legislature and the governor begin to discuss the 2004-05 budget, they need to find ways to put more money into it for schools, community colleges and universities or some of those institutions are going to begin failing, a group called the K-16 Coalition for Michigan's Future said at a press conference Tuesday.

"We're here to send the message to the Legislature that we'd like them to keep the promise of properly funding K-16 education," said Tom White, chair of the coalition and executive director of the Michigan Association of School Business Officials. "We are an early warning system."

Mr. White said schools had lost $490 million because of budget reductions since 2002 and had lost more because of changes to the state's tax system that reduced revenue for schools.

And college and university officials said their institutions were facing similar binds on programs.

In a survey of school districts by the coalition, 91 percent said they would maintain vacancies or lay off employees if funding is not increased for the next fiscal year, and 73 percent said they would cut educational programs.

Mr. White said the reductions are particularly hitting districts experiencing declining enrollment. "If you're losing students, you're losing funding, but you still have a building to maintain, you still have staff to pay," he said.

Felix Chow, superintendent of Flint Public Schools, said his district is projecting a deficit despite having closed 10 schools in the past two years and making other cuts. "We either have to increase funding or we may have to cut services," he said.

Among the services considered for the chopping block is the length of the school year. Mr. Chow said the district potentially could close schools as early as April to avoid running out of money.

Brian Davis, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Holland Public Schools, said his district has been forced to close neighborhood schools in exchange for grade-level buildings to cut building operations costs.

Mr. Davis said the declining-enrollment district has no way to increase revenue on its own because there is no room within the district boundaries for additional residential development, as there is in neighboring suburban districts.

"Not only can we not grow because we're landlocked, we're facing declining enrollment because people are leaving because of economic reasons," Mr. Davis said, noting recent plant closures in the city.

Community colleges are not only seeing their direct state assistance fall, but have also been hit with cuts in workforce development funds, said Rick Pappas, President of Lake Michigan Community College. "Our ability to maintain excellence is threatened," he said.

Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council State Universities of Michigan, said some universities are considering enrollment caps to help hold costs down.

Mr. Boulus said cutting down on the number of spots available at state universities would also cut into the state's economic development efforts. "The remarkable loss of manufacturing jobs underscores the need for citizenry with more than a high school education," he said. "The highest priority should be protecting education funding."

But Mr. White said the coalition was not, at least for now, going to push any particular plan for meeting schools' needs. "That's not what we're about; we're about raising awareness," he said.

Instead, the group is planning events around the state to try to explain the need for additional school funding to the general populous, which, the coalition hopes, will then push legislators for funding changes.

"The Legislature will be responsible for resolving the issue," Mr. White said. "There are a lot of different ways you can approach it."

But he said it was time for the state to revisit Proposal A of 1994 to address some of the concerns that have been raised about the school funding system in recent months.
     

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Groups Oppose Voter Elections of ISD Boards, Bond Recalls
Gongwer News Service, February 3, 2004

Some changes are warranted to intermediate school district governance, but forcing voter election of ISD boards among other changes urged by some legislators go too far, groups representing ISDs said Tuesday.

The state's 57 ISDs, which provide special education and other services to the school districts within their jurisdiction, have taken a pummeling over the past year, primarily because of a major scandal at the Oakland ISD. Audits and published reports have indicated that district misspent funds and committed a number of ethical breaches.

The House Education Committee began work Tuesday on the first three of what could be a 13-bill package designed to overhaul ISD governance. Much of the package is similar to the introduced versions of HB 4338, HB 4935 and HB 4947.

Voters would get to decide whether to elect their ISDs. Currently, 54 of the ISD boards are elected by the constituent school boards, not voters. For those districts that continued with a board chosen by school boards, those votes would have to be public.

The public also could abolish its ISD board for malfeasance and instead institute a new board similar to the school board in Detroit for five years. Voters also would be empowered to hold recall votes on bond issues and millages in some circumstances. One of the major complaints against the Oakland ISD was its scheduling of a bond vote on a new building on an untraditional election day.

The committee adopted new versions of the bill and took testimony Tuesday with further testimony planned for this month before the panel votes.

Mike Flanagan, executive director of the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, cautioned lawmakers not to punish all ISDs for the actions of a few. Mr. Flanagan has called on the Oakland board to resign.

"I'm understanding what it must feel like to be a Catholic priest right now when some of the folks haven't done the right thing, but the overwhelming number have been good and decent and honorable," Mr. Flanagan said, alluding to the sex abuse scandal involving priests. "There does need to be reform, but most of us are very proud of what we do."

Specifically, the Michigan Association of School Administrators and the Michigan Association of School Boards-both of which also represent ISD interests-say they oppose voter election of ISD boards and the ability to recall a millage or bond vote. They do support allowing the recall of ISD board members and making public the votes selecting the board.

"Most people out there say the system's okay, just don't go too far," said Don Wotruba of the school boards association of ISD board members.

Allowing voters to repeal a bond initiative would make it impossible to sell the bonds, he said. It would be a risky investment for someone to purchase a bond that may be inoperative down the road.

On the issue of electing ISD boards, Mr. Wotruba said, "it's really a question of who ISDs serve." Mr. Wotruba said they serve the constituent school districts and must retain a strong tie to them to remain aware of their needs.

Nancy Stanley of the school administrators association said her group fears a faction such as the Michigan Education Association might try to win a majority on an ISD board if voters elect the boards. "There could be a particular group that is able to control the election," she said.

Despite concerns about the legislation, officials from both groups said they will keep working with lawmakers on the bills. "How do you argue against some of the accountability they're looking for?" Ms. Stanley asked.

Leaders of the legislative package say they hope to hold a committee vote after taking testimony this month.

"While most ISDs remain true to their mission ... the conditions still clearly exist for a repeat of the scandals that many of you have been reading about," said Rep. Brian Palmer (R-Romeo), the Education Committee chair.

Governor Jennifer Granholm, who also called on the Oakland board to resign, said she would back greater accountability for ISDs, but did not say how she would accomplish that goal.

"I'd like to see what emerges from the Legislature," she said. "There is very little accountability from top to bottom."

    

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