Sunday, June 7, 2015

Things I'm Reading about the State of Our State's Education

The Best Piece of the Week goes to Lindsey Smith at Michigan Radio.

Reporter’s Notebook: State needs to be more transparent about the schools it’s running is breathtaking, and at the same time damning.

Here is just a snippet:
The Emergency Loan Board is a public body. It should act like one 
Here's the thing about the Emergency Loan Board (ELB).
It has incredible power to keep schools and municipalities out of bankruptcy court. It can lend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars – repeatedly – to schools that are going broke. It even has subpoena power.
Yet there’s very little transparency.
Its three members all head state departments. Each handpicked by the governor.

ELB members (L-R) Department of Technology, Management and Budget Director David Behen; Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Mike Zimmer; and state Treasurer Nick Khouri.
 ELB members (L-R) Department of Technology, Management and Budget Director David Behen; Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Mike Zimmer; and state Treasurer Nick Khouri. CREDIT STATE OF MICHIGAN
The board has no webpage. Its meetings in Lansing are open to the public, but there is no schedule. Meetings are sporadic.
Meeting minutes aren’t available online, a common practice for public bodies. So you can’t just go somewhere to see what the board has been up to lately.
Meeting notices are sent via email. But there are no agenda or documents attached. If Michigan’s Department of Treasury doesn’t want you to find out ahead of time what it's going to approve, you won’t know.
Any decision the board makes must be unanimous, according to state law. Is that why it functions mostly as a rubber-stamp board?
The decisions the board makes are “vetted” and reviewed by Treasury staff, according to Treasury Department spokesman Terry Stanton.
Read the rest here.

Runner Up: Eclectablog's piece on some state legislators' agenda for schools.

An excellent post at Eclectablog calling out the agenda of some Republicans in our state legislature, for example Rep. Tim Kelly of Saginaw Township, who believes in "publicly-funded education," just not "publicly delivered."

Third Place: A New York Times Article, 'Opt Out' Becomes Potent Political Force.

You might not have seen this article because it is a New York Region article (and I found it courtesy of Diane Ravitch).

Key information:

At least 165,000 children, or one of every six eligible students, sat out at least one of the two standardized tests this year, more than double and possibly triple the number who did so in 2014, according to an analysis by The New York Times.As the vanguard of an anti-testing fervor that has spread across the country, New York’s opt-out movement has become a political force. Just two months ago, lawmakers from both parties, at the behest of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, increased the role of test scores in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions. Those legislators are now tripping over one another to introduce bills that guarantee the right to refuse to take tests.
The maps are really interesting to look at, they show the opt-out movement's growth over time.

Honorable Mention: From the Washington Post, Will Schools Lose Federal Funds if Kids Don't Take Mandated Tests? 

Here's how the article starts:
I’ve recently published a number of posts on the growth and impact of the standardized testing opt-out movement. As more parents choose against allowing their children to sit down for new mandated tests, the pushback from administrators is increasing in many places, with some of them threatening consequences to students who refuse to take the assessments.
Here’s a look at what is true and not true about the consequences attached to opting out from standardized testings. It was written by Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as  FairTest, a nonprofit organization that works to end the misuses of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, educators and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally sound.

And I'm re-reading: 

I've gone back to an excellent series of articles by the Detroit Free Press, on how charter schools are not held accountable.

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