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Education

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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
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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.

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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.

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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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The state of Michigan is accepting applications for a new tuition-free assistance program.  

“Michigan Reconnect” will help residents earn an associate's degree or post-secondary certificate at their local community college or a private training school.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the program will help the state meet a growing demand for high skilled-college educated workers.

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The Michigan Department of Education again has asked the U.S. Department of Education to waive standardized testing for the 2020-2021 school year so Michigan teachers can focus on making sure students are caught up in their education.

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U.S. Department of Education

Former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was an advocate for education issues that are popular with many conservatives while she was at the helm in Washington D.C. But DeVos' tenure in the Trump Administration came to an abrupt end last week when she resigned in protest after thousands of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

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The state of Michigan wants students to have a chance to come back to their classrooms in less than two months. The state's largest teachers union supports the plan, but wants some assurances.

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Michigan.gov

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is strongly encouraging all K-12 schools in Michigan to reopen for some in-person instruction by March 1. The move comes as the state is set to offer the coronavirus vaccine to teachers starting next week.

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Do you sometimes have trouble finding just the right word?

Wayne State University is out with its annual list of long forgotten words worthy of a second chance.

So if you find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning, you can simply say you have Dysania [di-SANE-nee-ah]. 

Michigan Supreme Court
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A deadlock on the state Supreme Court could allow taxpayer funds to go to religious and other non-public schools. The money would partially reimburse the schools for the costs of complying with health and safety mandates.

The court deadlocked 3-3 and one justice abstained. That left standing a lower court ruling that non-public schools can be reimbursed for some expenses. That’s despite a 1970 voter-approved amendment that says public funds cannot support non-public schools. 

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The application deadline for the state's Futures for Frontliners program is December 31, 2020. 

According to state officials, 100,000 essential workers have applied since the program was kicked off in early September. But officials hope even more will apply before the upcoming deadline.

The program offers free tuition towards an associate degree or industry-recognized certificate at community college. It also provides tuition to complete the requirements for a high school diploma.

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The initial unaudited 2020 fall enrollment count is down by roughly 53,000 students from last fall's count for Michigan's K-12 school districts and public school academies.

State Superintendent Michael Rice announced the 3.7% decline Wednesday. 

In a written statement, Rice estimated that about three quarters of the decline is due, in roughly equal shares, to fewer kindergartners, more homeschool kids, and an estimated public school population decrease based on an average annual decrease of 13,000 students over the last ten years.

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A recent order from Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services requires remote learning to continue for public high school and college students amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And while some districts offer face-to-face teaching for younger students, a number of larger districts—like in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor—have opted for virtual school at all grade levels. But now a group of physicians is urging the Ann Arbor local school board to open up in-person instruction for elementary and special education students.

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Today on Stateside, a group of Ann Arbor physicians is calling for in-person schooling for the district’s younger students. We speak with a doctor about why he thinks the benefits outweigh the risks. Plus, as holiday traditions are put on hold, a performance of the Nutcracker moves online. And, Christmas tree sales are booming as people look for a slice of normal in 2020. 

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A group of Christian high schools claims Michigan’s COVID-19 restrictions violate religious freedom rights.

The schools have filed a federal lawsuit in West Michigan to block the continuation of the restrictions.
That’s after the state Department of Health and Human Services extended its COVID restrictions through December 20.

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Michigan’s public schools have moved online, following orders from the state Department of Health and Human Services. Nobody wanted to conduct a school year like this, least of all Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD). Since fall, the school district offered a hybrid model of instruction including online and in-person. Making that decision was difficult.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan is paying more than nine million dollars to settle complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct by a former top official with the university.

Eight women, former or current university staff and students, accused former Provost Martin Philbert of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Flint Community Schools

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is granting $1,051,000 to Flint Community Schools with the intent of increasing access to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

FCS has been conducting remote learning for its students since August. This grant is a supplement to a $163,000 grant given to FCS in April, towards the beginning of the pandemic.

Ridgway White is the president and CEO of the C.S. Mott Foundation. He says the money will be used to purchase over 600 iPads and 1200 Chromebooks.

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A state senator from the Upper Peninsula wants to change state law to require more “geographic diversity” on the state Board of Education.

Senator Ed McBroom’s bill would require political parties to nominate candidates for the board from different regions of the state.  The candidates would still run in a statewide election.

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The state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on a challenge to Michigan’s ban on taxpayer funds to support private and parochial schools.

The fight is over a $2.5 million appropriation tucked into the $55 billion 2016 state budget.

The money was earmarked to reimburse non-public schools for the costs of complying with health and safety mandates. But its real purpose was to set the stage for a legal fight over the parameters of a 1970, voter-approved amendment. It says taxpayer funds cannot support non-public schools – including religious schools.

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Today on Stateside, Homeland Security officers arrested a former University of Michigan professor yesterday in Ann Arbor, on charges of bringing a minor across state lines for sex. A reporter talks us through what we know so far—and how we know it. Also, the president of the state’s largest teacher’s union on the need for masks in schools. Plus, a man whose job takes him to Michigan’s most haunted places.

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced this week that teachers and support staff who worked through the pandemic will be eligible for state grants.

The state’s budget set aside $53 million for teachers and $20 million for support staff to receive payments recognizing their work in the spring.

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