State of Opportunity http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org en How do you get a kid out of a bad situation? Start with one person who cares. http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/how-do-you-get-kid-out-bad-situation-start-one-person-who-cares <p><em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Stories on State of Opportunity are all about ways to help disadvantaged kids find success in life. But when you meet a successful adult who grew up disadvantaged, they have a story that is like many others.</span></em></p><p><em>They didn’t get where they are by accident. They worked hard, of course, but usually, they also had some help. &nbsp;And often, that help can be traced back to one person who decided to make a difference.</em></p><p><em>Today, we're starting an occasional series about the people who make that decision. We’re calling this series, "One Person Who Cared." &nbsp;To share your own "One Person Who Cared" story, click <a href="https://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/source/en/insight/f8f8b186694f#query-respond">here</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I met Jamie Alexander a couple of years ago. She’s a social worker for a program in Grand Rapids called Strong Beginnings, which helps African-American moms have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.</span></p><p>But on the car ride to one of her client’s homes, Alexander told me her own story.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">"My mom was a drug addict, an alcoholic," Alexander said. "And my dad was not around."</span></p><p> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:00:00 +0000 Dustin Dwyer 565 at http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org How do you get a kid out of a bad situation? Start with one person who cares. What kids with disabilities bring to the classroom http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/what-kids-disabilities-bring-classroom <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.15;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Bentley loves people. He’s usually wearing a big smile. &nbsp;He’s a joy. But his mother, Adrienne Crawford, admits he’s a lot of work, too.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“I took a three-minute shower" the other day, &nbsp;says Crawford. "And I came back and his bedroom was covered in baby powder. I don’t know why he did it. &nbsp;I guess it looks fun, just pouring white powder on the floor.”</span></p><p>Bentley has Down syndrome.</p> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:23:29 +0000 Zak Rosen & Andrea Claire Maio 560 at http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org What kids with disabilities bring to the classroom New report says outcomes for African-American kids in Michigan are among the worst in the country http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/new-report-says-outcomes-african-american-kids-michigan-are-among-worst-country <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p>This week, the <a href="http://www.aecf.org/">Annie E. Casey Foundation</a> released a national report that caught our eye.&nbsp;</p><p>The report is part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s <a href="http://datacenter.kidscount.org/">Kids Count</a> series. Kids Count tracks a number of indicators – things like birthweight, school test scores, poverty level, and college attendance.</p><p><a href="http://www.aecf.org/KnowledgeCenter/Publications.aspx?pubguid={5B863B11-62C7-41EC-9F7F-6D12125C4DC2}">This new report</a> includes 12 indicators in all, and they’ve been combined to come up with an index score for overall child outcomes. Those scores were then broken down by race, and each state was ranked.</p><p>For Michigan, there was a surprise.&nbsp;</p><p> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 10:00:00 +0000 Dustin Dwyer 557 at http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org New report says outcomes for African-American kids in Michigan are among the worst in the country Home visiting programs for young children: solid benefits, not so solid funding http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/home-visiting-programs-young-children-solid-benefits-not-so-solid-funding <p></p><p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Before Aurora </span>Ducket<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> was even born, her mom Angela signed up for every program she could.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">"I did the MOMS program through Spectrum Health," she told me. "I really liked them a lot. They would come to my house. They would listen to the baby’s heartbeat. They would give me pamphlets upon pamphlets of what to expect, different things that I could do."&nbsp;</span></p> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 10:00:00 +0000 Dustin Dwyer 552 at http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org Home visiting programs for young children: solid benefits, not so solid funding What do you get when you ask teenagers to design an app? You get an awesome app http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/what-do-you-get-when-you-ask-teenagers-design-app-you-get-awesome-app <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The app design has been months in the making. But on this day – Thursday of last week – the teens are nervous.&nbsp;</span></p><p>"And we’re scared because we have to present in front of a board of people," says Viviana Farfan,<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;a sophomore at University Prep Academy in Grand Rapids. She’s sitting in the window-lit offices of the <a href="http://www.wmcat.org/">West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology</a>, or </span>WMCAT<span style="line-height: 1.5;">. Next to her is her friend,&nbsp;</span>Imani<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Akbar, both of them trying to avoid thinking about their presentation. &nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">"</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Have you guys, any of you ever done a presentation like this in front of a business person, a downtown development person?" I ask.</span></p><p>"No," says Akbar.</p><p>"Not at all," says Farfan.</p><p> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 10:00:00 +0000 Dustin Dwyer 546 at http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org What do you get when you ask teenagers to design an app? You get an awesome app Can the American Dream be revived? http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/can-american-dream-be-revived <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The American Dream is an idea that has a long history in this country. For immigrants in the </span>1800s<span style="line-height: 1.5;">, America was seen as a land of opportunity, a place where anyone could achieve anything. All that was required was hard work.</span></p><p>There has been a lot of discussion among policymakers in the past few years about how to make the American Dream more of a reality. But at the same time, new research shows that opportunity in America hasn’t changed much in a long, long time.&nbsp;</p><p>So, what does that research tell us about the policy of improving opportunity?&nbsp;</p><p> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 10:00:00 +0000 Dustin Dwyer 538 at http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org Can the American Dream be revived? Five months after students take MEAP, rest of Michigan learns what many teachers knew all along http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/five-months-after-students-take-meap-rest-michigan-learns-what-many-teachers-knew-all-along <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Today we have an update from a story we brought you in January. For that story, a documentary we called "</span><a href="http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/big-test-six-weeks-one-third-grade-class-low-scoring-elementary-school" style="line-height: 1.5;">The Big Test</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">," I spent six weeks following a third-grade class at Congress Elementary in Grand Rapids. I watched as students got ready to take the state-mandated </span>MEAP<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> test for the first time. Students took the test in October. But the results of the test didn’t become public until last week.</span></p><p>So now, we're going back to Congress to see how students did.</p><p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 11:00:00 +0000 Dustin Dwyer 530 at http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org Five months after students take MEAP, rest of Michigan learns what many teachers knew all along Will better evaluations and more training help Michigan's teachers improve? http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/will-better-evaluations-and-more-training-help-michigans-teachers-improve <p>Teacher evaluations have become a hot political topic in Michigan.</p><p>Chances are if you’ve heard anything about them, the discussion has been about how to use evaluations to get rid of poor-performing teachers.</p><p>But that's not the only way to use them. Teacher evaluations can be a tool to help teachers improve their craft.&nbsp;</p><p>Now, Michigan legislators are considering changes that some say could help teachers do so.&nbsp;</p><p> Wed, 26 Feb 2014 11:00:00 +0000 Dustin Dwyer 525 at http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org Will better evaluations and more training help Michigan's teachers improve? Could more lawyers make Michigan's child welfare system work better? http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/could-more-lawyers-make-michigans-child-welfare-system-work-better <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Michigan’s foster care system is the </span><a href="http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/6242-children-0-to-17-in-foster-care?loc=1&amp;loct=2#ranking/2/any/true/867/any/12985" style="line-height: 1.5;">sixth-biggest in the country</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, with more than 13,000 kids around the state. The system has been plagued by problems over the last several years.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Court monitors, appointed after the state was sued over the treatment of children in its foster care system,&nbsp;say the system has&nbsp;improved over the past few years, but it&nbsp;still falls short when it comes to keeping kids safe.<br /><br />The court has also said the state&nbsp;needs to reduce the&nbsp;time children are in the system while they wait to be adopted or reunited with their families.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">For every one of these 13,000 kids, there is a specific&nbsp;story behind&nbsp;what landed them in foster care in the first place or how their life unfolded afterward. The same can be said of their parents or the adults who stand in for parents. Many of these adults&nbsp;can feel just as trapped in the system as the children. </span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Vanessa Moss is one of those adults.&nbsp; She&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">had guardianship of some of her grandchildren for years. In all, she took care of four of her grandchildren. She stepped in because the children’s mother, Moss' daughter, has had serious mental and physical health issues.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When Moss began caring for her grandchildren, she didn't know much about, or want much to do with the child welfare system. &nbsp;<br /><br />"</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I don’t want my grandkids in the system." Moss says tearfully. "The only thing I wanted to do for my daughter was keep her kids all together." &nbsp;</span></p><p> Wed, 19 Feb 2014 12:40:33 +0000 Sarah Alvarez 519 at http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org Could more lawyers make Michigan's child welfare system work better? Political posturing, multimillion dollar contracts and the future of student testing in Michigan http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/political-posturing-multimillion-dollar-contracts-and-future-student-testing-michigan <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Schools in Michigan will face a big change next year in student testing. After more than four decades in use, the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, or </span>MEAP<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> test, is on its way out. That much is known.</span></p><p>What’s unknown at this point is what will replace the MEAP. There’s currently a pitched battle raging in Lansing over what to do. And it turns out, much of that battle boils down to money and government infighting.</p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">One thing we are able to say for sure: kids will be asked next year to take some kind of standardized test. It’s a requirement of <a href="http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/index.html">federal law</a>. And a requirement for the state to keep receiving federal education funding, which <a href="http://www.house.mi.gov/hfa/PDF/Summaries/12H5372_%20EducationOmnibusConferenceReport.pdf">last year was equal to an estimated 13 percent of the state’s total education budget</a>.</span></p><p>But which test will kids be asked to take?</p><p> Wed, 12 Feb 2014 11:00:00 +0000 Dustin Dwyer 514 at http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org Political posturing, multimillion dollar contracts and the future of student testing in Michigan