Schools face growing number of immigrant children

Capital News Service
LANSING— The number of English language learners in Michigan’s elementary and secondary schools has increased 15,784 since 2011, according to the Department of Education (DOE). And with more immigrants settling in Michigan, more actions need to be done to help immigrant students with their English, according to the department. Michigan has 99,500 immigrant students this school year, a significant increase from the previous year, according to the DOE. Troy, Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Farmington and Warren Consolidated Schools have a larger number of newly arrived immigrant students than other districts. Dearborn and Detroit Public Schools have the largest proportion of English learners, DOE statistics show.

More schools move to private bus services

Capital News Service
LANSING — The number of Michigan school districts contracting out at least a part of their transportation services increased 150 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to a think tank survey. The survey by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland recorded 78 school districts opting for some privatized transportation services during that time, in addition to 53 already contracting out. There are about 540 districts in the state, according to the Department of Education. And while some districts are contracting out only a portion of the service, such as employment, most are privatizing their whole bus operation, said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the center. Michigan School Business Officials Associate Executive Director Scott Little said the switch to privatized transportation services took off shortly after the Great Recession began in late 2007, largely as an effort to recoup money lost from declining student populations and state funding.

New evaluation system overlooks school counselors

Capital News Service
LANSING — A new law creating a statewide teacher evaluation system was a win for many educators because it limits the effect of standardized tests, but it left out a group of important players — school counselors. Although counselors have expanded their role in schools, many find it difficult to receive an appropriate progress report, which is essential to continued improvement, according to the Michigan School Counselor Association (MSCA). Shawn Bultsma, MSCA director of headquarters in Grand Rapids, said he worked as a school counselor for 10 years and administration assessed him with ill-fitting teacher evaluations. It started in 1995 when he was in New Jersey. “I was evaluated with a teacher’s evaluation that took, probably, 50 percent of ‘the variables do not apply,’” Bultsma said.

Three school districts to cooperate in anti-bullying effort

Capital News Service
LANSING – The departments of Education and Civil Rights launched a joint initiative to implement effective anti-bullying high school pilot programs in three districts. Detroit, Vandercook Lake and Allendale Public Schools were selected from nine applicants to participate, based on size and student population. Allendale Superintendent Daniel Jonker said, “We’re very excited to be part of the pilot project. We’re looking forward to the collaboration so we can learn from our colleagues and the Department of Civil Rights.”

Jonker said, “We have a bullying-prevention committee. We have trained all our staff on bullying prevention.

Tablet computers springing up in more classrooms

Capital News Service
LANSING – How do you keep students interested? Novelty. As the burgeoning tablet market reaches into the under-tapped field of education, iPads and other tablets are finding a happy home in tech-starved schools across the state. And some teachers say they may have the sought-after solution to the problem of student engagement as their districts appropriate millions of dollars for new technology. Dozens of schools in Michigan have already purchased iPads for students, and many more are considering the same, according to the Department of Education.

Support grows for more preschool education

Capital News Service
LANSING – A $130 million initiative for pre-kindergarten education is in the early stages of development, according to the Department of Education. The initiative calls for more funding for the Great Start Readiness Program, which provides state aid to public school districts and charter schools for pre-K programs.
Through Great Start Readiness, intermediate school districts receive grants to provide preschool education for 4-year-old children from low-income families. Making early childhood education more of a priority is absolutely crucial, according to Michael Flanagan, the state superintendent of public instruction. “This is the most important thing we’re working on right now, planning this budget extension for 4-year-olds,” Flanagan said. “We need to get kids on the right track as early as possible.