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
"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
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
"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
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
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.