With a plan on the table already to close elementary and middle schools in Buena Vista, the recent budget shortfall that led to an abrupt end to the 2012-13 school year is only making worse problems for kids and parents. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports on the situation.

What are you doing Tuesday night?

If you're like me, you'll be checking out the new, one-hour TED Talk special on education, featuring Harlem Children's Zone founder Geoffrey Canada, Bill Gates and some of the country's leading education experts and thinkers. The promo video says students will also get up on stage and share their thoughts.

yellow chair in the rain
James Nord / Flickr

We're starting to look into why certain kids are getting suspended from school more often than others, namely African-Americans, Latinos, students with disabilities, and low-income white students.

It’s not because these kids are worse than others or have taken misbehavior to new levels.

Instead, disturbingly, it’s because these kids are who they are---African-American, Latino, in special education, or low income. Closing the gap in achievement won’t happen if kids from different backgrounds are disciplined differently based on race, income, or other factors.

But even more disturbing, is the rise in preschool suspensions. Pre-K suspensions from state-funded program are three times higher than for K-12

On 'smart, poor kids applying to the wrong colleges'

Mar 12, 2013

Slate Magazine has a multi-faceted look at what happens when poor kids lack the resources---financial and advising support---that result in applying to selective colleges and universities. A Stanford/Harvard study cites, "10,000 or 20,000 of America’s brightest high-school graduates don’t go to a great college not because they can’t afford one but because they don’t realize they should apply." The report suggests changes in geographical recruiting practices and advising that can help high-achieving, low-income, often first generation, students set their sights higher. But once these kids reach college with the appropriate financial aid package, do their institutions provide the resources to keep them enrolled? By this, I don't mean academic resources, but does the school provide substantial financial aid for all four years of matriculation? Sometimes an alluring first-year of funding evaporates, leaving students to assume burdensome loans or take on part-time jobs that leave little energy for a great academic track record. The New York Times had a few stories last year about students who started from a position of disadvantage financially and simply couldn't make ends meet to stay enrolled. One example of strategies schools are using to see minority students through to graduation can be found in this NYT article http://goo.gl/fN5t8.

Graph of black student suspensions in Ann Arbor Public Schools
Michigan ACLU

A few recent recent stories made me wonder how much a health or special education diagnosis can impact a kids achievement in school. 

Stockbridge superintendent Bruce Brown
Logan Chadde

The first time I met Bruce Brown, he had to excuse himself when three middle-schoolers came into his office to ask if he could jump a father’s car with a dead battery out in the parking lot. He was happy to do it. I should mention Brown is the superintendent of the school system, but he has a small-town accessibility. When a family is moving into the district, their realtor is likely to connect them directly to Brown, who will personally show them around.

Minding the Achievement Gap

Feb 5, 2013

PBS Newshour has a thought-provoking segment on the implementation of "deep learning" at the secondary school level.

Deep learning is hands-on, experiential learning that advocates hope will teach real world values, be less focused on testing, and close the achievement gap. Proponents believe that this teaching method can help students develop self-motivation, creativity, initiative, and collaboration skills, to name a few. 

Lansing is abuzz with controversial legislation, including a number of bills that would overhaul Michigan's public education system. Our colleague Jake Neher reports on one measure that would expand the state's school reform district. The Education Achievement Authority currently runs a handful of low-performing Detroit schools. The new bills would allow the EAA to take over all failing public schools in Michigan.

Our colleague Lindsey Smith has been doing some dogged reporting about what's going on in the school district in Muskegon Heights. Over the summer, the district's emergency manager laid off every employee and hired a private company to effectively run the district as one big charter. Three months into the new system, Lindsey reports that a quarter of teachers have quit and students say the learning environment is chaotic.

Photo courtesy of Focus Hope

If you've been following State of Opportunity over the past couple months, you've probably heard us talk about the Harlem Children's Zone. It's this 100-block zone in central Harlem that's designed to create a safety net so strong and so wide that no child could fall through and fail. The program covers all kids from birth through college.