By Ian Perrotta
Educationally speaking, 2010 will be a “Race to the Top.”
On Monday (Jan. 4) Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed five bills that will greatly overhaul the state’s school system. The package of bills, which complies with the federal “Race to the Top” program, is intended to give Michigan an edge over other states as it competes for a portion of the billions of dollars set aside for education under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The “Race to the Top” program is a discretionary/competitive grant program created to reform education. There are four specific areas targeted for improvement. The first deals with ensuring students are adequately prepared for life after high school. This will be done by adopting standards and assessments that can prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace, as well as allowing them to compete in the global economy.
The second section of the program seeks to quantify the results from the first. This will be accomplished by building data systems that can measure student growth and success as well as inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction.
The program’s third target area is geared toward ensuring students receive the highest quality of education by recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals – especially where they are needed most. The final objective of the program is to turn around the lowest-achieving schools.
In total, the state could qualify for up to $400 million in federal education grants. Of that money, Hamtramck stands to receive about $1.7 million. That figure is calculated by taking the amount of cash the school gets from Title I legislation – about $3.5 million – and dividing it in half. The other half would go to the state’s Department of Education for use in statewide programs.
One key piece to the legislation, which is bound to be highly controversial, ties teachers to their students’ performance. Teachers could face a salary reduction or even termination if their students perform poorly or fail.
When asked for a reaction to the new legislature, Hamtramck Public Schools Superintendent Tom Niczay said it was too early to tell exactly how it would affect Hamtramck.
“We won’t know what will happen until September, but we should have a better idea in the spring, after the MMEs (Michigan Merit Exams) and AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) report,” he said.
Under the new laws, between 100 and 200 schools could come under state control, with the possibility that a school or two in Hamtramck could be one of them. Niczay said this would be unfortunate, but he stressed that that the district would abide by the state’s decision.
“It’s passed, it’s the law, and we will adhere to it,” he said.
What exactly are the laws that got passed? A press release from the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) outlines the changes being made:
House Bill 4787 – Failing School Reform
HB 4787 will help identify perennially failing schools and allow for a method to turn around these buildings. In addition to the reform component, HB 4787 allows for earlier modification to the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC), a broader personal curriculum (PC) and alters the drop out age from 16 to 18.
House Bill 4788 – Public Employment Relations Act (PERA)
Because HB 4787 has so many implications with collective bargaining agreements, it was necessary to alter the PERA law to give the appropriate authority to the state RRO and individual CEOs. This legislation allows for these exemptions. Additionally, HB 4788 requires that a school district receive a bid for non‐instructional support staff service from the current collective bargaining unit before privatizing that service.
Senate Bill 926 – Teacher Data System/Basic Instruction Supplies
SB 926 requires the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) to work with the
Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to create and implement a teacher identification system with the ability to match an individual teacher to the individual pupils that teacher has taught. The legislation also requires that teachers and principals have access to basic instructional supplies (the definition of basic instructional supplies will be published by MDE via the Web).
House Bill 5596 – Alternative Teacher Certification
HB 5596 requires the state superintendent to develop rules, guidelines and a procedure for pathways to alternative certification of teachers. The process must align with requirements from NCLB. It’s important to note that no district will be required to hire alternatively certified teachers and no district will be required to hire a traditionally certified teacher over a teacher certified through alternative pathways.
Senate Bill 981 – Schools of Excellence
SB 981 provides for schools of excellence, cyber schools, administrator certification, teacher/administrator evaluations, merit pay, modification to algebra II requirements, charter school provisions and modifications to tenure. SB 981 creates a new section of charters, 6E (Schools of Excellence). A school of excellence may be authorized by the traditional authorizers of charter schools: ISDs, LEAs, universities or community colleges. The legislation allows for the authorization of 10 new schools of excellence.