Monday, February 25, 2008

I dissagree with your oppion. If students dont have there electives we will have no reason to come to school.

Well here’s an interesting trio of articles to place side by side:

Detroit News: Michigan schools show progress (02/21/08)

Oakland Press: Michigan needs to do better than a C+ (02/18/08)

KOAT: Errors Plague Letters From APS Students (02/20/08)

The Detroit News piece calls attention to the fact that Michigan has made progress on tightening K-12 standards. It’s based on a report called “Closing the Expectations Gap” (found by clicking here) from Achieve, Inc -- “a nonprofit established by the nation's governors”. I seem to recall that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been a financial – and philosophical – supporter of the effort.

The success is attributed to the fact that Michigan, “began requiring that all juniors take the ACT-based Michigan Merit Exam in 2007, and implemented new graduation requirements this year

I think this is a welcome piece of news, and is a great start.

But knowledgeable education activist Marcie Lipsitt notes in her Oakland Press piece that, “The C+ earned by Michigan in Education Week’s 2008 Quality Counts report is devastating, and further proof of the inferior education provided to our 1.8 million students.”. She also points out that, “Michigan earned a D+ in teacher preparation and D in student achievement.

It ties in nicely to the Detroit News piece when Marcie notes, “An A- earned in standards artificially raised the state’s average grade to that whopping C+.

In other words, the Detroit News headline was a bit misleading. It’s not “Michigan Schools” that are showing progress, it’s the “Michigan Department of Education” that is showing progress. And as Marcie notes, they need to keep pressing.

But even if they keep pressing, they are likely to face resistance at the local level. In addition to the typical complaints about funding, schools were quite vocal in their resistance to the new graduation requirements. In fact, there are a few articles on this blog which addressed that opposition. One huge concern was that the requirement for more mandatory academic classes was going to get in the way of electives. I viewed those as well intentioned, but misguided concerns.

It was that memory that surfaced when I read the KOAT article from Alburquerque. It seems that there is some talk in New Mexico that students who do poorly on state tests should be forced to take remedial classes rather than electives.

I’ve posted it because it’s really an intriguing idea that merits discussion.

And, it includes some painfully evident examples of why this makes sense.

My blog headline was taken from student letters written in opposition to the plan.

I’ve pasted all three articles below in case the links don’t work.

==> Mike.

Errors Plague Letters From APS Students

POSTED: 7:01 pm MST February 20, 2008
UPDATED: 10:42 am MST February 21, 2008

The controversy over electives in the Albuquerque Public Schools curriculum heats up.

Should students who do poorly on state tests be forced to take remedial classes and not allowed to take electives?

Wednesday, students themselves responded in the Albuquerque Journal newspaper -- but may not have proved the point they intended.

The Journal said the letters are from students at Jefferson Middle School.

Of eight letters published, seven of them are full of grammar and spelling mistakes:

"I know I wont wont my eletive tooken away. wht about the sped kibs? Hae you thought about that!"

The students are responding to the possibility of APS taking electives away from students who fail state tests for math and reading.

Another student writes, "I dissagree with your oppion. If students dont have there electives we will have no reason to come to school. And if kids start not coming to school it will be your fault."

Melissa Armijo has a child at Jefferson. She agrees with the statement, but said the mistakes in the letter are scary.

I think that they should have a medium of being able to still give a child an elective and also having that child learn how to read and write correctly,"Armijo said.

The Albuquerque Journal is a partner with KOAT.

The Journal said the letters that were published were representative of the letters they received.

Many of the letters came from an e-mail sent by their teacher and then a few from the students themselves.

The Journal said they confirmed every letter that ran in the paper but chose not to run the students' names.

There were several letters the Journal did not run that had even more serious grammatical and spelling errors.

Jefferson students did well on last year's math and reading tests but the school did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP.

More than half the APS high school students tested last year did not pass the math or reading sections of the standard tests.

APS said those students may soon have to replace electives with remedial classes in those subjects.

The district is waiting for guidelines from the state before implementing any new policy.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Michigan schools show progress

Karen Bouffard / The Detroit News

Michigan has made more progress on tightening its K-12 academic standards than most states, according to a national study released Wednesday by a Washington, D.C.-based education reform group.

The study by Achieve, Inc., a nonprofit established by the nation's governors, found there is a large gap nationwide between what schools expect students to learn by the time they graduate and the needs of colleges and the work force.

"This report, thanks to the governor, the State Board of Education and legislative leadership, now shows Michigan is a leader in preparing students for college and work," said State Schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan.

The study, now in its third year, looked at five key areas: academic standards; graduation requirements; student assessments; data collection; and accountability. Michigan, which began requiring that all juniors take the ACT-based Michigan Merit Exam in 2007, and implemented new graduation requirements this year -- met benchmarks in three of the five areas.

Only Louisiana, New York and Texas had more policies in place than Michigan, with four. No state had all five policies in place.

Dearborn schools Superintendent John Artis said he supports the reforms, but Michigan needs to do more. He's not yet certain if the policies will bear fruit in students' performance.

"It's really nice to rank all of those things, but it would be a whole lot better if they were funded," Artis said, echoing a common compliant by Michigan school officials. "We've seen no increases in funding, and that continues to be one of the major problems we face.

"I'm generally supportive of the changes, but if you don't fund that, we are placed in a bind that's almost impossible for us to escape from. You've got to have reading coaches at the high school level, and other support for students. Without funding, how do you make that happen?"

Michigan met the study's benchmark for aligning high school standards with college and workplace expectations, in part by implementing grade level expectations that are standard for all students in the state. Nineteen states met the benchmark. Michigan is among 19 states that have toughened their graduation requirements, and just nine that require tests -- like the Michigan Merit Exam taken by all juniors -- to assess how much they learn by the time they graduate.

The state failed to meet the study's benchmark for a common data collection system able to track students from the time they enter preschool through the age of 20. Eight states already have such a system, which is under development in Michigan.

State Department of Education spokeswoman Jan Ellis said Michigan this year began assigning identity codes to students, which will eventually be used to track them as they move through the educational system and on into college.

"It's going to require both the technical and financial resources and the cooperations and agreement of the higher education institutions to put something like that in place," Ellis said. "It's still very much on the drawing board."

Michigan also failed to establish an accountability system that promotes college and career readiness. Only Louisiana, New York, North Carolina and Texas met that benchmark, which would require tracking not only the graduation rate, but how many graduates require remedial classes upon entering college.

You can reach Karen Bouffard at (734) 462-2206 or


Michigan needs to do better than a C+

The Rev. Martin Luther King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Public education and Michigan children must matter. Gov. Granholm, the Legislature, policy makers and people of Michigan must make public education a top priority for 2008.

It’s decades overdue. Michiganians must take off their rose-colored public education glasses. The C+ earned by Michigan in Education Week’s 2008 Quality Counts report is devastating, and further proof of the inferior education provided to our 1.8 million students.

The C+ under the best of circumstances is not a grade worthy of accolades, but for Jan Ellis (MDE spokesperson) to reportedly say it “shows the state is doing well in areas that have been of primary focus” is outrageous.

Since when is student achievement, preparing our students for post-secondary education and the global economy and workforce not the top priority?

Michigan earned a D+ in teacher preparation and D in student achievement.

We are not teaching our teachers to teach or our students to learn.

An A- earned in standards artificially raised the state’s average grade to that whopping C+.

The Michigan Department of Education apparently has accountability standards for the children; they simply don’t educate them to compete with students across the U.S. and countries around the world.

Michigan is 49th in high school graduation rates. The only state worse is Mississippi.

And Michigan is 48th and below the national average for students that graduate with a regular diploma and the steady (or lack of) employment of our adults working full time.

Detroit has the lowest graduation rate of the nation’s 50 largest school districts.

And is among the most segregated in the country.

Michigan children now rank among the nation’s worst for their stagnant performance and lack of academic improvement.

Does anyone else see a correlation between too few attending Kindergarten compared with too few graduating high schools with diplomas and holding steady jobs?

Abuse and neglect charges could be filed against several decades of governors, legislators and policy makers for robbing millions of Michigan children of their right to an education that leads to maximally productive taxpaying adulthoods.

Many of those that have achieved grade level proficiency and gone on to college/universities, and the workforce have and will continue to flee our state for those states that offer far greater job opportunities, stability and quality of life.

Every time Michigan loses a child, we lose a future taxpayer and source of revenue and economy.

For more than 50 years, the people of Michigan have not valued public education.

Still, as Michiganians like to do, we can wear our rose-colored glasses and stand proud as the 18th best of the worst in America.

As a nation, we earned a C — which is mediocre and worse than 29 other countries. While Massachusetts is the best the U.S. has to offer, even their kids better stay away from Finland, Hong Kong and Canada.

Michigan is in a one-state depression and must redefine itself and its economy.

Our children as our future thinkers, innovators, creators, workers and leaders are critical to the recreation of a state that is drowning in its own Great Lakes.

Gov. Granholm, educate Michigan children and let them be your legacy and our state’s lifeboat and savior.

Marcie Lipsitt of Franklin is a member of the Michigan Alliance for Special Education


Bill Milligan said...


I agree with Lipsitt that there is certainly room for improvement...but there's a technicality in her thesis that I find distracting: since when is a C+ a "devastating" grade? The printed rubrics at our institution list a C as being "satisfactory."

Of course that certainly means there is room for improvement...just saying.

Anonymous said...

Just went to the high school introduction meeting for parents last week. It appears that the graduation requirements will be edging out more electives as we go forward. Sorry but I don't care about that.

My new Freshmen does NOT have a foriegn language requirement but my 5th grader does. So the older child has possibly 2 more electives. Again we are not into electives.

It doesn't matter to us since we are not interested in lots of electives in our household.

My new Freshmen will be taking advanced algebra and the double science right away. She figured out that with the four year math requirement she will be taking AP calculus as a Senior. Oops, my bad talking her into it.

She also found some AP science classes she likes the looks of. She will have the prerequisites satisfied by 10th grade but the AP listing says 11 and 12. We may need some road block help with this.

I think she will be up to it in 10th grade. She wants to take a shot a it.

She is not hip to the AP math but likes several AP science offerings.

So while some may not like the fact that requirements will push out electives we are not concerned.

Anonymous said...

Good for you anonymous!

It would be might nice now if the Rochester school district would take the state's lead & reinforce attitudes like yours so that more parents would climb onboard.

Anonymous said...

There is no acceptable reason why students aren't allowed to advance at their own pace & according to their own goals & needs.

For some that means access to honors & even AP classes in 9th grade, while others may need more time to mature into advanced coursework.

Test out & move on!

Chetly Zarko said...

Mike, the gem in the Albuquerque piece is this:

Many of the letters came from an e-mail sent by their teacher and then a few from the students themselves.

Fire the teacher. Sounds like she's using e-mail (or FOIA the teacher, or both) to lobby through the letters, but even if she is just conveying the spontaneous letters of her students, she should have helped them edit them.