Dustin Dwyer

Reporter/Producer

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.

In 2010, Dustin left journalism to be a stay-at-home dad. Now that his daughter Irene is turning two, he's happy to be back at Michigan Radio, where there are far fewer temper-tantrums. 

Ways To Connect

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Here is a fact you might not know: In the decade between 2003 to 2013, no other state cut its spending on college scholarships as much as Michigan. Only six states had cuts at all. But Michigan cut the most. And it wasn’t even close.

The state-by-state comparison comes from a little-noticed annual report released by the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs.

But the reason behind Michigan’s cut is well-known. 

Dustin Dwyer

We've mentioned here more than once that boys tend to trail girls in academic settings. Boys are also more likely to get in trouble, and more likely to commit crimes as adults.

Some have argued that the differences in outcomes we see for boys has to do with innate differences between boys and girls. We are told that boys are more active learners, that schools have become feminized in a way that hurts boys. 

But there is also substantial evidence that boys are simply raised with different expectations than girls, and these different expectations may be what's leading to different outcomes. 

Which leads me to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. In it, researchers tried to get to the bottom of one of the more well-documented differences between gender groups: That men are more likely to lie than women. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

 

Mark Jackson settles into his chair, and takes a sip of coffee. He’s been in interviews all morning, meeting with high school students and parents interested in enrolling at Wayne State University through the APEX program, which Jackson oversees.

Jackson tells me he’s worked in college academic advising for 35 “some-odd” years, at six different institutions.

And he loves the work.

“You know, we’re helping change the world here,” he says. “People think I say that tongue-in-cheek. No, I’ve seen it happen.”

 Jackson begins to tell me a story of a student he met in Chicago years ago.

The Washington Post's Wonkblog has a writeup of new research that shows nearly half of kids in one large study lived in "doubled up" households. That is, these kids lived in house with their mom and/or dad plus another family. The headline describes the high percentage of "doubled up" families as "shocking." But is it really?

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You may have noticed a paradigm shift lately in the thinking about what kids need to succeed in life. 

The old paradigm was all about reasoning and acquired knowledge. The new paradigm, which burst into the mainstream with Paul Tough's  hugely successful 2013 book, "How Children Succeed," is all about character skills such as perseverance, curiosity and - everyone's new favorite word - grit. 

Tough's book had an impact in part because it was highly readable and compelling. By contrast, a new research paper published today by the National Bureau of Economic Research is daunting, long and full of jargon. 

But this paper could still be very useful.

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Earth is a terrible place to grow up. 

Many of us know this intuitively, but there is also plenty of data on the subject. A report released by UNICEF today shows how bad things were for the world's children, just in the past year. A press release announcing the report declares that as many as 15 million children around the world were caught up in armed conflicts this year:

“This has been a devastating year for millions of children,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves. Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality.”

Life was not nearly so brutal for children in the United States. But, for millions of kids, life still wasn't great. More than 7 million kids in the United States live in extreme poverty. About 1 in 8 American kids lives in a neighborhood with concentrated poverty. About 60 percent of kids in the U.S. are exposed to some type of violence each year. One in nine American girls, and 1 in 23 boys, will report being forced to have sex, before they even graduate high school. 

With such terrible conditions for children, even in developed parts of the world, many parents have to ask themselves: Is Earth even the right place to raise my children? Should I just raise them on Mars? 

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I took a class in high school on American government. Truthfully, I don’t remember much of what we learned in that class. Somewhere along the way, I think I found out what a bicameral legislature is. But I don’t remember the lesson.

What I remember of the class is the teacher. 

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Closing the achievement gap between kids from different economic backgrounds  is one of the most important challenges facing the U.S. education system today. It is also an expensive undertaking. With all the preschool programs, tutoring programs, afterschool programs and social service programs directed at helping kids from low-income families, the United States easily spends billions every year on this problem. 

Which is why a new research paper published today by the National Bureau of Economic Research holds such promise. The paper analyzes results from a randomized experiment of a reading program put in place in 463 North Carolina classrooms. The results were striking: At a cost of just $250 - $400 per student, the program raised reading scores for third graders enough to take a significant chunk out of the achievement gap. Other programs with similar results can costs thousands per student. 

The program is called Project READS. And though its results seem hugely promising, there is one catch. 

The positive effects of the program only applied to girls. Boys who participated didn't see much improvement. 

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Two years ago, Michigan raised taxes on the working poor. It was reported plenty at the time; it should be no surprise. 

If you want to be technical about it, the state didn't so much raise taxes on the working poor. It reduced the tax credits that went to the working poor. The Michigan League for Public Policy estimates that prior to 2011, the average low-income family in Michigan received a tax refund of $446. In 2012, that refund dropped to $138. The MLPP says the change means that about 15,000 fewer families were lifted out of poverty as a result of the credits. 

None of this is news. The change happened two years ago. 

Why bring it up now? Because right now Michigan leaders are considering another tax increase that will have a disproportionate impact on the state's working poor.

Flickr user Schlüsselbein2007

$29,583. 

That is the average amount owed by each student who graduated college in Michigan last year. The number comes from a report released today by the Institute for College Access & Success's Project on Student Debt. The report reveals that 63% of college graduates in Michigan last year had at least some debt when they graduated. Michigan ranked eighth in the nation for the average size of that debt. 

And the institutions where students graduated with the highest amount of debt may not be the ones you'd guess. 

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