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Education

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The U.S. Department of Education has denied Michigan's request to waive the federal requirement of year-end statewide assessments, known as state summative tests, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

That means Michigan students are going to have to take the M-STEP and several other tests this spring.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

In high school English classes, students are often tasked with trudging through the classics. At West Bloomfield High School, in Jennifer Tianen’s class, they’re getting a different view of one author in the literary canon.

These students have been transcribing the letters of Marjorie Bump, a Petoskey woman who was friends with Ernest Hemingway when he lived at his boyhood summer home of Windemere. She was also a character in his Nick Adams stories, particularly The End of Something, where Hemingway’s self insert character, Adams, ends up with a broken heart.

Oakland University Campus
Oakland University

Any Oakland University student living in on-campus housing this fall will need to be get the COVID-19 vaccine before fall move-in in August. Students can get an exception for a religious or medical reason.

Bob Murphy is the chief policy officer at the Michigan Association of State Universities. He says although Oakland may be the first state university to have some sort of vaccine mandate, it won't be the last.

The Old Main building at Wayne State University
Wikimedia Commons

Wayne State University is putting classes and sports on hold, as COVID-19 rates surge in Detroit and across the state.

The 10-day pause will begin Wednesday. Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson said it’s necessary because average weekly COVID-19 positivity rates in Detroit have soared above 15%, the university’s trigger metric for in-person learning.

Beenish Ahmed / Michigan Radio

Two of Michigan’s biggest school districts are taking a post-spring break break from in-person learning.

It’s a precautionary measure that Dearborn Public Schools and the Detroit Public Schools Community District will hope stem the spread of COVID-19, as cases spike again in Michigan. Both districts will temporarily return to virtual learning this week.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The rise in COVID-19 cases has forced Grand Rapids Public Schools to change plans for in person instruction.

GRPS has offered a hybrid option, with two days of in-person learning per week, since January.

The district was planning to expand that to four days a week after spring break, starting on April 12th.

Now those plans are changing.

black and white photo of ron weiser
University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Board of Regents has called a special meeting on Friday, April 2, at 9:30 a.m. "to address recent events."

Sources say the Board will consider whether to censure fellow Regent and Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser.

The meeting comes after controversial remarks he made last week at a Republican Party gathering.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, we dive into a Republican effort to tighten up election laws in Michigan. Plus, the Michigan classrooms where teachers come, teachers go, and students miss out. And we check in with a grocer about what it’s been like for him and the store during the pandemic.

Teacher at a chalkboard
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

From August of 2020 to February of 2021, 749 Michigan teachers retired. That's a 44% increase from the 519 teachers who retired in the same time period during the 2019-2020 school year.

Those who work in education say the COVID-19 pandemic has likely played a role in retirement numbers increasing, but teachers leaving the profession is an issue the state has struggled with for years.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The jury is still out on whether Michigan students will have to take the M-STEP test this year. But whatever tests students do take won’t be used for school accountability measures.

The Michigan Department of Education requested a waiver on accountability measures that tests are typically used for. That includes things like public school rankings, and measuring progress toward long-term goals.

teacher kneeling at desk, showing students papers
twinsterphoto / Adobe Stock

The remainder of the school year could be in doubt if Michigan communities don’t take steps to stop the spread of COVID-19. That’s the message from some school superintendents in Wayne County.

The superintendents say that currently, they’re committed to continuing in-person learning and school-related activities. They say they’re being vigilant about precautions—and they’re confident that classroom transmission is relatively rare.

But cases in the community inevitably mean cases in schools. And that’s led to disruptive mass student quarantines in many districts.

Michigan History Center

While teaching has long been considered a “feminine” job, with 76% of teachers being female in 2019, it hasn’t always been open to women of color. Not until the mid-1800s when Detroiter Fannie Richards changed education in Michigan forever.

Richards was born around 1840 in Fredericksburg, VA, and moved to Detroit after her father died in 1850. Around that time, Black Detroiters were primarily settled in the area that is now Lafayette Park and were staunchly middle class, Michigan History Center’s Rachel Clark described.

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Don’t get us wrong — COVID-19 has generally made being a teacher or a student or a parent in the K-12 system way harder. But when schools first shut their doors last spring, some educators were also hopeful that the sudden pivot might be a chance to reimagine what school could look like post-pandemic. So, has that happened?

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

As Flint public schools resume in-person classes for Kindergarten through third graders this week, mask wearing, sneeze guards and social distancing are on the curriculum along with Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.

It starts when students walk through the school door.

Every student and visitor to Flint schools will have to check in at a video kiosk or with hand held device to have their temperature checked.     

College graduates
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A growing number of Michigan's public universities are offering free tuition programs for lower-income undergraduates.

Saginaw Valley State University announced on Tuesday that it is joining the group.

SVSU President Donald Bachand said in a written statement, "We have maintained the lowest tuition in the state for many years, but the sticker price still causes many families to think an SVSU degree is out of reach."

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

After a delay, Flint Community Schools will return to in-person learning next week.

The district’s planned return to the classroom was postponed three weeks ago because there were not enough sneeze guards for all the student desks. District officials insist they have enough now.

School Board President Carol MacIntosh insists they want students to learn and go home healthy.

“I would like to be able to look any parent or community member in the face and say ‘Look we went the extra mile because we are serious about our students’ safety,” says MacIntosh.

DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti
Detroit Public Schools Community District

Around 20,000 students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District are expected back in classrooms on Monday.

DPSCD suspended in-person learning when COVID-19 cases spiked in November. Now that community positivity rates have dropped well below 5%, the district decided it was time to re-open its doors, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said.

a person holds a vaccine vial
Adobe Stock

Today on Stateside, Wayne State University has a low COVID-19 infection rate among Michigan’s major universities. We talk with the school’s president about how the institution has been keeping case numbers down. Also, an activist discusses the ongoing effort to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to people with disabilities in Michigan. Plus, the co-founder of one homegrown restaurant chain talks reopening at a limited capacity.

Wayne State University
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Many college campuses have been sources of community spread of COVID-19 over the past year. Big schools like the University of Michigan and Michigan State University have at times struggled to curb spread and socialization among the student body. University of Michigan recently struggled with the first cases of the U.K. variant spreading through the state, and the school community currently represents about two-thirds of the total infections in Washtenaw County.

U of M has had more than 5,000 cases to date, with MSU not far behind that number.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s largest public school district will be re-opening to in-person instruction next week.

Officials with Detroit Public Schools Community District say face-to-face instruction will resume next Monday, March 8. The district suspended in-person classes in November, as COVID-19 case rates in the city climbed in November.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says with infection rates in the city down and teachers having access to coronavirus vaccines, the district can again provide an in-person learning option. 

empty classroom
Adobe Stock

Many Michigan students will take some type of standardized test this school year, despite the pandemic. But there’s a lot that’s still unclear.

Michigan's third-through-eighth graders usually take a statewide assessment, the M-STEP, every year. M-STEP was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this school year has been anything but typical, and Michigan and some other states again sought standardized testing waivers from the federal government.

ann arbor public schools district office building
Caroline Llanes / Michigan Radio

After weeks of deliberation and discussion, Ann Arbor Public Schools has set dates for a return to in-person learning, the first of which is March 25. The plan is a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning, and families still have an entirely virtual option if that is what they prefer.

During the school board meeting, which took place at noon on Wednesday, the board voted 6-0 to approve the plan. Trustee Ernesto Querijero abstained, due to concerns about the time change for the meeting being in violation of the board's bylaws.

A sign of the University of Michigan Central Campus
Anna Schlutt / Michigan Radio

During the past year, many universities have seen high rates of COVID-19 on or around their campuses. Academic institutions in Michigan and throughout the U.S. have faced challenging questions and criticism with regard to their decision-making in an unprecedented public health crisis. And often, university students and their behaviors — like attending social gatherings or even simply living in group housing — have played a role in spreading the virus at their schools.

A classroom.
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Governor Gretchen Whitmer has set a goal of March 1 for every district in the state to offer an in-person learning option. Ann Arbor Public Schools hasn't yet set a date for when it'll offer an in-person learning option.

Superintendent Jeanice Swift expressed that she and the school board were concerned about a number of factors: the new B.1.1.7 variant found in Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor, community transmission rates, and a lack of vaccines available to AAPS staff were among them.

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A new survey shows Michigan teachers are ready and willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 22,000 educators responded to a recent survey from the Michigan Education Association.

The survey found that nearly 90 percent of teachers want to get the vaccine.

It's been 11 months since schools first shut down across the country and around the world.

And most students in the U.S. are still experiencing disruptions to their learning — going into the classroom only a few days a week or not at all.

To respond to this disruption, education leaders are calling for a reinvention of public education on the order of the Marshall Plan, the massive U.S. initiative to rebuild Western Europe after the devastations of World War II.

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Kalamazoo Public Schools has been doing remote virtual learning since September, when the school year began. As the district enters its third trimester, the school board will decide on Thursday, February 11 on whether to stay fully remote, or offer a hybrid option.

The hybrid plan put forth by KPS would have students in classrooms two days a week, some synchronous learning on Wednesdays, and two days of asynchronous, independent learning. 

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Today on Stateside, Grand Rapids public schools are back in the classroom. The district’s superintendent discusses the return to in-person learning. Also, writer Rochelle Riley tells us about her new book, which features children dressed up as iconic and influential Black Americans. Plus, a look at the history of Black sailors on the Great Lakes.

3D rendering of coronavirus
donfiore / Adobe Stock

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has rolled out a voluntary COVID-19 rapid antigen testing program that will provide free weekly tests to K-12 educators who opt in.

MDHHS is providing testing supplies at no cost to any interested public or private school. The tests will be administered on site at the school.

State health officials say the testing program will help achieve Governor Gretchen Whitmer's goal of an in-person instruction option in all Michigan schools by March 1.

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