Educators hope DeVos lets states and districts run schools

BY LAINA STEBBINS
Capital News Service
LANSING — With Betsy DeVos now at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, Michigan educators are considering the benefits of handing more decision-making power to the states – a priority DeVos has repeatedly expressed. Superintendent Rick Seebeck of Gladwin Community Schools would welcome such a shift. He attributes Michigan’s education troubles to a needless “level of federal intrusion into the local education process” over the years, which he said has hindered the ability of educators to serve their students as they see fit. “I think you can have accountability without mandating so much of what has to be done,” Seebeck said. “We have to keep the accountability, but we have to get rid of all the red tape that’s keeping us from actually meeting those accountability standards.”

The federal government has long held power over schools, Seebeck said, by providing them with the funds they need so long as they follow federal rules that not every educator has found productive.

State may ask to change school tests again

BY CAITLIN DELUCA
Capital News Service
LANSING — State officials are considering whether to recommend a more advanced standardized test for students while reducing the number of years they have to take it. The Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, M-STEP, is taken every year. Proposed changes would reduce the number of years students take it to once in elementary school and once in middle school. In grades 3 and 8, students would take M-STEP with the additions multiple times, and in other years they would take other tests. State Superintendent Brian Whiston recently announced the proposed change and said it could help meet the Michigan Department of Education’s goal of becoming a top 10  school system in the country in the next 10 years.

Legislator wants law to solve school bathroom issue

By JASON KRAFT
Capital News Service
LANSING – A state lawmaker wants transgendered students in Michigan to be required to use school bathrooms or locker rooms of the gender they were assigned at birth. Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, announced that he will introduce the bill in response to guidelines recently released for schools by the Michigan Department of Education. The guidelines are optional and say students should be allowed to use the restroom that matches their current gender identity. “All-gender or single- user restrooms (staff bathroom or nurse’s office) should be made available to students who request them, but not presented as the only option. Any student who has a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of underlying reasons, has the right to access a single-user restroom,” reads the document.

DeWitt Public Schools are doing well academically, but there is still room for improvement

By Zachary Manning
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

DEWITT — DeWitt Public Schools are above the Michigan averages in most academic categories such as graduation rate, average ACT score, and teacher effectiveness, but they have some work to do when it comes to the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress or M-STEP. “DeWitt is a good community and we have kids in general that have a desire to do well in school,” said John Deiter, superintendent of DeWitt Public Schools. “We are able to recruit some of the best teachers in the area.” Smaller cities such as DeWitt are able to be successful in academics, because of size. The schools are able to be more connected to parents, students, and everyone else in the community.

Schools see need to address LGBT issues

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service
LANSING — Over the past several years, Kim Phillips-Knope’s role in assisting Michigan high school staff address lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues has changed. Phillips-Knope, who has worked with educators and administrators through a program called “A Silent Crisis” for the past decade, said the program began with informing them about the state’s LGBT population and the risk of self-harm and then moved onto ensuring that those students are safe and thrive in public high schools. Now educators understand that the LGBT population exists and is at risk, but “What do we need to do to make sure they’re safe in our schools?” said Phillips-Knope, a Michigan Department of Education special projects consultant. According to the 2013 Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the 8.7 percent of high school students who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual were 4.6 times more likely to attempt suicide, three times more likely to be threatened or injured with a weapon on school grounds in the past 12 months and 2.7 times more likely to miss at least one day in the past 30 because of safety concerns. That shift in awareness on the part of educators is reflected in the growing number of participants in the program, along with the demand for an advanced course, she said.

Schools, communities improve students’ health

By ELIZABETH FERGUSON
Capital News Service
LANSING — Newberry Elementary School in Luce County doesn’t have a school nurse, but it has a school health team that gets tips from hospital experts on how to teach nutrition and respond to flu season. This coordinated school health team maximizes limited resources by bringing together health and physical education teachers with experts in the community, said Principal Stacy Price. “Who we call on depends on what direction we are going,” Price said. For example, a hospital dietitian attends meetings when school nutrition is being discussed. About half of Michigan’s school districts rely on coordinated health teams to meet unique needs in their areas.

Bill would expel students who threaten teachers

By JOSH THALL
Capital News Service
LANSING — Public school students above the fifth grade who threaten the lives of school employees or volunteers could be permanently expelled under a bill introduced by Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, a Lowell Republican. Hildenbrand said he introduced the bill as a response to a phone call he received from a teacher in his Grand Rapids district. He said she told him a student had threatened her, and every day when that student was in class, she felt unsafe. The teacher reported the problem to school officials, Hildenbrand said, but nothing substantial was done. Grand Rapids schools officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Shrinking number of teachers signals end of a dream career

By BROOKE KANSIER
Capital News Service
LANSING — Many children aspiring to be teachers when they grow up could end up having a change of heart. In the face of increased pressures due to standardized testing, new college entry tests, and a lack of societal respect for the profession, fewer students are pursuing teaching careers, education advocates say. “Nationally and in Michigan, there are fewer students going into education,” said Corey Drake, director of teacher preparation at Michigan State University. Enrollment in university education programs fell 10 percent nationally from 2004 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The number of initial certificates issued by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has also been declining annually, according to Leah Breen, interim director of the department’s Office of Professional Preparation Services.

Grand Ledge Teachers Reach Tentative Contract

Omar Powell
Grand Ledge Gazette Writer                                                                                                                                                                                                            In early November, Grand Ledge teachers reached a tentative agreement as part of an attempt to settle the teachers’ contract situation in Grand Ledge. Parents of the Grand Ledge community and members of other institutions and establishments weigh in on the state of education in Michigan. In October, several Grand Ledge teachers stood in front of the GLPS Board of Education fighting, pleading, and imploring the Board to reconsider removing “steps” from their contracts. Steps are  negotiated incremental pay increases  in the union contract based on teacher performance, years of experience and educational levels. The possible elimination of steps was a major stumbling block in the negotiations between the teachers and the school district.