Rise & Shine

Rise & Shine: Bill requiring letter grades for schools advances

Good morning,

While you were sleeping, Michigan lawmakers were busy passing a controversial bill to require a new accountability system in Michigan that issues letter grades to schools.

The bill, voted on shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday, was passed on the narrowest of margins: 56-53. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

You may recall from a story I wrote last week that this bill, which Gov. Rick Snyder supports, has been seen as part of a major power grab by Republicans in Lansing during the lame-duck session because it would have created a commission to develop and oversee the accountability system. But that's no longer in the legislation. However, the revised version of the bill does call for a five-member peer review panel that would have some oversight over the system developed by the state's Department of Education.

The bill would also put a halt to plans already underway to develop an A-F system for public schools in Detroit.

Meanwhile, today we're sharing a tale from our Chicago team about Javion Grayer, a high school student reading at a third-grade level.

How did this happen? The story cites these factors: Poverty. Violence. Segregation. Disinvestment. Underperforming schools. A failing special education system. A patchwork approach to literacy instruction. Trauma.

Unfortunately, Javion’s struggles mirror those faced by many children growing up in high-poverty areas. In Detroit’s school district, for instance, just 11.5 percent of the students in grades 3 to 8 were proficient on the English language arts portion of the state exam this year.

How do you fix this? In Detroit, a new venture is being launched that will pair struggling young readers with adult volunteers who will help them primarily with phonics. The district is launching a number of other efforts to teach parents how to help their children.

— Lori Higgins, senior reporter


Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox.


LETTER GRADES A little after 3 a.m. Thursday, the Michigan House of Representatives narrowly passed a controversial bill to mandate the state issue letter grades to school as part of a new accountability system. Detroit Free Press Detroit News

TUTORS NEEDED Detroit’s school district and two activist groups are recruiting adults to help children in grades K to 3 build their literacy skills. Chalkbeat Detroit

STRUGGLING TO READ Trauma and poverty are among the factors that result in thousands of children struggling with reading. Chalkbeat Chicago

PROMISING START A new program in Detroit that works to improve infants’ language skills is already showing success. Chalkbeat Detroit

TOP TEACHER: An Ann Arbor teacher is the only one in Michigan this year to earn a Milken Award, often referred to as the Oscars of teaching. WXYZ

DEVOS WATCH: A new report says morale is bad, and plunging, at the federal Education Department led by Michigan native — and wealthy backer of school choice — Betsy DeVos. Education Week

DEVOS DISCIPLINE A forthcoming report from a federal school safety commission will recommend eliminating Obama-era guidance that urged schools to curb expulsions and suspensions. Chalkbeat

CHARTER SCHOOLS The Detroit Board of Education adopted a resolution calling for the state to require institutions that authorize charter schools to have elected boards. Detroit News

SCHOOL SAFETY A school safety task force created by Michigan’s governor came up with a predictable conclusion: More can be done to ensure students are safe in school. WOOD TV

JUDGMENT-FREE ZONE FOR KIDS Detroit teens now have a new place they can go to get fit, part of a program that’s all about promoting kindness and ending bullying. Detroit Free Press

ROBOTICS MONEY School districts across Michigan are getting a boost for their robotics programs, thanks to $3.8 million in grants from the state’s Education Department. Alpena News

HANDS OFF John Austin, former president of the state’s Board of Education, writes in an opinion piece that lame-duck lawmakers should leave big education decisions to the state’s incoming governor. Bridge Magazine

SCHOOL RELIGIOUS DISPLAY The Newaygo board of education, in response to a complaint, has opted to keep a religious Christian display at an elementary school. WNDU

FREE TUITION High-achieving, low-income high school students offered free tuition through a University of Michigan program were far more likely to apply to the university and enroll, according to a study. Mlive

FLEXIBLE FURNITURE In the Jackson school district, teachers are taking advantage of new 21st century classroom furniture that is giving students more flexibility. Mlive

MUSKEGON PROMISE A scholarship program for Muskegon County students, which requires a 3.5 grade-point average to be eligible, isn’t reaching the neediest students in the county. Mlive