State of Opportunity is closing in on its second anniversary. The project officially began in April 2011, with the first stories hitting the air in July of that year. 

Now we're about to cover issues faced by kids as they approach young adulthood. But first we're taking a look back at some of our early stories to figure out what we want to continue to explore and what we've missed. We want your ideas too; scroll down to the end of this post for details.

We've also put together some audio that paints a picture of what's at stake if childhood poverty around the state remains as pervasive as it is today, with one in four Michigan kids living in poverty. Here they are, the voices of the kids and families working to get ahead.


Yesterday we had a story about teacher evaluations, and how the process might be changed to make evaluations less about punishing bad teachers and more about giving feedback so all teachers can have ideas for how to improve.

For that story, I interviewed Thomas Kane, a researcher at Harvard who's been one of the driving forces behind the teacher evaluation movement in the U.S. – though he hasn’t been entirely pleased with how evaluations have been implemented in most places.

As part of his research, Kane led a $45 million study called Measures of Effective Teaching. The study looked at not just how to set up good evaluation measures, but how to use that information to drive teacher improvement.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

As you may have heard, last week we aired a radio documentary about the third graders at Congress Elementary in Grand Rapids.

Audio from the documentary came from the six weeks I spent with the kids at Congress, from the first day of school until the end of MEAP testing in October. For the one hour program, I gathered, I think, well over 100 hours of audio. Needless to say, we have plenty more material to share with you for the State of Opportunity Outtakes feature.

user penywise / morgueFILE

The blogosphere has been abuzz the last week or so about What Poor People Do (Or Don't Do). The topic of savings often comes up in discussions about the poor, and with those conversations come lots of misconceptions.

I interviewed the Blackman family a couple weeks ago for a piece on climbing out of poverty. Tiffany Blackman has been trying to climb out of the poverty she inherited from her parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Together with her husband, Rodrico, and their four kids, they've managed to climb up one rung on the income ladder, thanks to lots of hard work, education and savings.

In our conversation, we talked about savings and kids. Specifically: Does she talk to her kids about how to save money? Her answer was an emphatic yes.

Here how she does it:

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Welcome to our new weekly "outtakes" blog posts!

When we're out in the field, we get TONS of tape. I'm no percentologist (TM), but I'm guessing I probably use about 20% of the tape I gather. That means a lot of stuff gets left on the proverbial cutting room floor. But no more. Our industrious web guru Kimberly came up with the outtakes post as a way for us to share things that didn't make it into our final stories, for whatever reason.