Oxford Foundation Michigan

Michigan Education Finance Project Questions and Community Responses

(Updated November 14, 2012)

The Michigan Education Finance Project is seeking input from education groups, parents and the public to help move the process forward creating solutions to change the way public schools are financed. We are looking specifically at a key component of Governor Snyder’s special message on education:

  • Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace public school learning model.
  • Performance-based funding rather than seat time requirements.

Please see the key questions (series 1 and series 2) that are being reviewed by the Michigan Education Finance Project in its effort to redraft the existing Michigan School Aid Act of 1979.

Below are the answers, comments, and suggestions that we have received to date. Additional proposals and recommendations are posted under updates.

Elizabeth A. Wolocko, September 20, 2012

Q: What “safeguards” need to be put in place to ensure the taxpayers are receiving value for their dollars as we move away from a quantitative accounting system to a qualitative one?

A: Safeguards are set in a “perfect” world. All playing fields should be equal. Quality materials, safe places conducive to learning; quality science labs; administrative fairness; parents active in their children’s schools.

Q: As the state transitions to funding based on a percentage of student performance from the current “seat time” requirement, what percentage of school funding should be based on student performance? How long should this transition take?

A: No more than 25% of funding should be based on student performance until all other variables are equal. The children in Detroit, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, etc. should have the same facilities and opportunities as those children in Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills. They should come to school well fed, rested and ready to learn.

Q: What changes would you recommend be made to the pupil membership accounting to replace seat time?

A: I have a master’s degree and really don’t understand this question. Extra help in the classroom to accommodate the paperwork to justify results. Programs that work (Reading Recovery, etc.) to help those children falling behind. Help with that 1% (gifted) that are frustrated and bored by an aged based classroom. Those children on both sides of the bell curve are greatly underserved. I also believe the school day is too long for some students and homework in elementary school is more punishment than help. After six hours or more in school, a child should not have to take school home with him (unless he/she is so enthused about something and wants to spend more time on it).

Q: Should performance funding be based on overall performance or performance in specific subjects? Should funding be allocated based on the performance of an individual student, a school building, or the entire school district?

A: Every student is important. If performance funding is the goal, every student should show some level of progress. Should and could every student meet state standards? There are plenty of children who do not test well. Perhaps our legislators should be given the upper elementary MEAP to see how well they do in core subjects before expecting the same from children. I would find the results fascinating.

Q: What specific metrics or measurements (i.e. proficiency, growth) should be used to gauge student performance? How should each metric or measurement be weighted?

A: In the perfect world we would all be proficient in core subjects. Unfortunately almost half of Americans read at the sixth grade level or below. We should strive for proficiency but be pleased with progress.

Additional Comments: 25 children; 25 different ages in a classroom; 25 different ability levels. All are to progress at the same pace and arrive at the same place (testing) at the same time. Do teachers teach to the “middle” hoping everyone moves upward? How and when do teachers have the time to develop individual lessons to address individual needs? How do you assess this? I feel teachers are pretesting and posttesting with very little time for teaching and planning. How do you quantitatively measure progress? Whose standards? Teachers are being asked to do so much more with so much less. I would hope the very people who are so against these “overpaid babysitters” spend a few days in a classroom volunteering. Walk in my shoes … you are welcome anytime.

Alison Kenyon, September 20, 2012

Note: Respondent did not answer any questions, only left a comment in the “additional comments” section.

Additional Comments: I am the mother of gifted children. I did not know this until my middle child, age 5, entered public kindergarten only to a wild man who could not sit still, could not positively engage with classmates and eventually became so depressed that he stopped changing into clothes, stopped getting out of bed and then stopped eating. Our days began with ‘is it Saturday?’ (no) ‘how many days till Saturday (x) ‘uhhh! don’t make me go!’ I was despondent and yet the public school teachers told me things like, ‘don’t worry. We will get there.’ To this day, I am not sure what that meant but I called a couple of gifted schools and psychologists and they all said the same thing – that his schooling experiences were not meeting his needs and he was shutting down. This same child, when given an appropriate education that we cannot afford – he is now happy, communicative, involved, curious and thriving. I almost had him labeled special ed and that, my good people, is sad. What he needs is an appropriate education. Please allot resources to gifted children. They are not better than anyone else but they can fail more fantastically than the average child.

Jeff Leonardt, September 20, 2012

Q: What “safeguards” need to be put in place to ensure the taxpayers are receiving value for their dollars as we move away from a quantitative accounting system to a qualitative one?

A: What does this mean? How is a parent or community member supposed to respond to this question? I am a well-educated informed member of my community in leadership positions and this question is jargon. I don’t even understand what it is asking me. In schools we are talking about children. You know that right? Kids..people still forming who they are. That is the qualitative aspect of children. They are not finished. We can’t evaluate their qualitative aspects just yet. There is too much out of their control to base funding on their qualitative aspects.

Q: As the state transitions to funding based on a percentage of student performance from the current “seat time” requirement, what percentage of school funding should be based on student performance? How long should this transition take?

A: I didn’t know we were transitioning? When was this decision made? I thought this organization was looking for input before a decision was made. It seems like like this question is asking me what I think after the fact. Are simply asking to okay something I never agreed to in the first place? Very little should be based on performance. They are kids. How far down into someones life do you want to reach and base it on performance? They are learning. Have this group looked at the Finnish Model at all?

Q: What changes would you recommend be made to the pupil membership accounting to replace seat time?

A: I think the current system will work if it is amended to create equity. For years my community has been underfunded vis-a-vis other “wealthier” districts. When was it decided “seat time” was being replaced. We are doing a good job here and the Governor wants to fix it?

Q: Should performance funding be based on overall performance or performance in specific subjects? Should funding be allocated based on the performance of an individual student, a school building, or the entire school district?

A: I don’t think funding should be based on any of this or little of it. All students rich or poor, rural or urban, or northern or southern should be funded the same. Children from different geographical location, social, or economic places will perform differently. Performance only does not apply to students. Kids are not products on an assembly line. They do not perform. There are all kinds of variables that they cannot control that impact there “performance”.

THEY ARE STILL FORMING! NOT PERFORMING!

Q: What specific metrics or measurements (i.e. proficiency, growth) should be used to gauge student performance? How should each metric or measurement be weighted?

A: What are you people talking about? To whom are these questions directed? I thought you were looking for input from regular people…you know…parents, teachers, and community members.

Additional Comments: I am very disappointed with these questions. This is clearly something that has been framed and the Governor is not looking for input but rather approval for something he and this organization has decided. I have already started to inform people about this sham and will continue to do so.

Heather Kosmowski, September 20, 2012

Note: Respondent did not answer any questions, only left a comment in the “additional comments” section.

Additional Comments: I would like to see lots of changes in curriculum–particularly in the elementary level.  My new first-grader is doing things that my 3 year old can do!  Color the circles??  Count the wheels?  Which are numbers and which are letters?  That’s why we are behind other countries. These kids are losing interest because they aren’t being challenged.  I understand that there may be some children who need a little extra help, but you’re boring the rest of them.  I am absolutely disgusted this year so far.  My first grader can read chapter books, but the curriculum being used (Core Curriculum) is having her practice her sight words from Kindergarten with sentences like “See the clock.”  Really?  Catch up.

Jeff Lauth, September 23, 2012

Q: What “safeguards” need to be put in place to ensure the taxpayers are receiving value for their dollars as we move away from a quantitative accounting system to a qualitative one?

A: A simple safeguard to protect parents faced with a school of choice decision from greedy, for-profit school providers in it or the money. Many parents are uneducated on school of choice and what it entails. Personally, I have spent over a year on this topic and I am fascinated and puzzled with the push towards undocumented results. K-12 is a short lived education and consistency is the key to the child. So the key will be have quality measures in place before a school can move forward so our tax dollars are well spent.

Q: As the state transitions to funding based on a percentage of student performance from the current “seat time” requirement, what percentage of school funding should be based on student performance? How long should this transition take?

A: I think there needs to be a foundation in place which appears to the case when reading documents from Governor Snyder. This is too new to the average parent and teachers so I would recommend a gradual performance indicator that balances performance and seat time. Over time and monitoring school progress there may be reason to adjust or not adjust depending on the results.

Q: What changes would you recommend be made to the pupil membership accounting to replace seat time?

A: It appears the student performance is what we are moving towards. However, i think it should be a gradual pace to move towards since it is new. Many teachers in this profession are not in this for the money. It is the passion of passing on knowledge for a child to grow. However, I believe with a graduating system you can eliminate the teachers who chose his career inadvertently and keep the best of the best.

Q: Should performance funding be based on overall performance or performance in specific subjects? Should funding be allocated based on the performance of an individual student, a school building, or the entire school district?

A: I think there has to be accountability on each. Everyone needs an accountability partner to hold each other in check so there needs to be specific performance goals in place and documented (via dashboard program which Governor Snyder has discussed in his message). Those numbers would be the factors that would be measured for future changes.

Q: What specific metrics or measurements (i.e. proficiency, growth) should be used to gauge student performance? How should each metric or measurement be weighted?

A: Test scores, teacher evaluations, accessibility, transparency, accountability, parent involvement, to name a few.

Additional Comments: You need to isolate “School of Choice” and what it is so when the average parent is faced with a decision to make a change they are prepared. This is not a slam dunk decision and a poor decision may have a devastating impact on the child’s future. If I am faced with making decision where do I go to get guidance? Counselor? How will I know it is the right move to make? Where would I start? What questions would I ask to the school in question? My fear is parents, including myself could make a poor decision and find out too late. What procedures are in place to help weed through any time, any place, any pace, any way?

Rod Rock, September 25, 2012

Q: What “safeguards” need to be put in place to ensure the taxpayers are receiving value for their dollars as we move away from a quantitative accounting system to a qualitative one?

A: I believe that you are misusing the terms qualitative and quantitative. A qualitative system is descriptive in nature, capturing in words rather than numbers the quality of a student’s educational experience. If your intent is to truly use the term qualitative in a research sense, I believe you are absolutely on the right track as opposed to a quantitative system that solely uses a one-time standardized test to both measure and determine a teacher, student, and school district’s effectiveness and value. A qualitative analysis would fully describe the student’s entire educational experience from a non-biased perspective (such as an anthropological, phenomenological, biographic, or ethnographic perspective). This would really be valuable and would allow for true participant perspectives rather than arbitrary tests and measures system you suggest. Please use a true qualitative system to determine educational value.

Q: As the state transitions to funding based on a percentage of student performance from the current “seat time” requirement, what percentage of school funding should be based on student performance? How long should this transition take?

A: The state should look individually and carefully at each school system and consider that most school systems in most communities produce students who are college and career ready as evidenced by their completion of college and advancement into careers. It is preposterous to enter into this analysis with a preconceived notion that every school in every district in Michigan is failing. It is also very shortsighted to forget that America’s schools shape American values. When you only look at test scores, you miss the essence of schooling in most communities across our state wherein students from homes in local neighborhoods attend schools, preschool through graduation, play in bands, act in plays, compete in athletic events, and participate fully in service activities that better their communities and themselves. When you take away the local in local schools, you take away communities. Michigan values its communities. Therefore, Michigan should provide equal funding to every public school in every community and insist that every school is qualitatively excellent in terms of how students experience schooling, how communities support schools, and who students become as a result of their time spent in schools.

Q: What changes would you recommend be made to the pupil membership accounting to replace seat time?

A: Allow local communities and ISDs to enter into comprehensive agreements with community colleges. Encourage schools to advance students according to their academic abilities while keeping in mind their social and emotional development. Insure that every child in every town in Michigan attends a quality preschool program and that a birth through five program exists to nurture the development of a child so that every child is ready for school–physically, socially, cognitively, emotionally.

Q: Should performance funding be based on overall performance or performance in specific subjects? Should funding be allocated based on the performance of an individual student, a school building, or the entire school district?

A: Funding should be equal across all districts in Michigan so that every school can provide every student with an excellent education. Public schools are the duty of a citizenry and serve as shapers of American values. Funding should be equal and schools must be excellent. If a school isn’t excellent, shut it down. Don’t punish all schools in the state for the failure of a few schools. This is too much government and not enough local control for local schools which are the heartbeat of our country.

Q: What specific metrics or measurements (i.e. proficiency, growth) should be used to gauge student performance? How should each metric or measurement be weighted?

A: Look longitudinally at every child in the areas of problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, written fluency, oral fluency, collaboration, social and emotional development, and passion for learning. Measure qualitatively each student’s development for his or her entire educational experience. Provide equal funding in every school in every district in the state so that every school can provide every student with an excellent education. Shut down schools that aren’t excellent and don’t punish all schools for the failure of a few schools. As our government, stop saying that every school is failing. That is not true. Your intentional undoing of our public education system will lead to the eventual undoing of our state. Instead, put in place transformational practices that deeply engage every student in the development of the skills mentioned above. With these skills, students will do exceptionally well on any test they face.

Additional Comments: Stop comparing apples to oranges. When you talk about the performance levels of students in other countries, look also at demographics. I believe that when you compare our students to students in other countries within demographics, our students outperform all students in the world. I love public schools. I am fortunate to have attended public schools and to have served in them for 20 years. There’s nothing better in the world than a good public school. Please don’t take them away from our children. I appreciate my grandparents providing for me. I want to provide for future generations and to continue to shape American values in all students.

Charles Fleetham, October 2, 2012

Note: Respondent did not answer any questions, only left a comment in the “additional comments” section.

Additional Comments: On behalf of the Bloomfield Hills School District Community Partnership Legislative Committee, please address the following additional questions:

We like the idea of self-pacing, but would like to know has it worked anywhere else on the scale we are talking about in Michigan?

What will happen to the hold harmless districts – like us? Will we be allowed to keep their premium funding? What happens to our sinking funds and our millage? Will our district have to accept kids from other districts? If we have to do this, how will our taxpayers feel given the investments in our facilities and the taxes?

How will this program work in rural areas and the inner cities – too many of their children don’t have Internet access or transportation?

How will this program monitor testing? How will it stop people from cheating on the on-line tests at home? *What kind of software systems will have to be designed and implemented to track financials, participation, and the learning plans? How much will these systems cost?

What will happen to the school experience and the enculturation that kids obtain from bonding to a school and to their peers?

What happens to the athletic programs if kids are attending multiple schools?

Will this allow some public schools to build football powerhouses?

Will teachers become independent contractors and will certification be needed to manage a hundred or so kids taking an on-line program?

What happens to programs you can’t take on line – like music, art, phys ed, etc.?

What happens to the intellectual property rights for on-line lesson development?

How will we measure mastery, with on-line courses that are out of our purview?

Will this program eliminate grade levels?

Some districts will fail if this is implemented…what will happen to the facilities and the debt these districts have accumulated?

What other alternatives have been considered?

How will colleges feel about a transcript with many different sources of learning?

How will the new charter schools be held accountable?

They are not accountable to the taxpayers … like we are, is this fair?

Ann Bieneman, October 2, 2012

Q: As the state transitions to funding based on a percentage of student performance from the current ‘seat time’ requirement, what percentage of school funding should be based on student performance? How long should this transition take?

A: I do not think you can accurately measure student performance, or at least a teacher’s impact on it. If a good teacher gets a kids who hasn’t eaten breakfast or had a good night’s sleep, they will not achieve the same “student performance” as a bad teacher with rich kids from motivated families. I’m not sure what “funding based on a percentage of student performance” would mean. Does that mean the school is incented by getting paid when my child achieves 4th grade proficiency? If that child comes into 1st grade at 4th grade level, does the school get paid for three years? If that child takes 8 years to get to a 4th grade level, do they get 4 years pay for 8 years of work? Then don’t the teachers for the disadvantaged kid get diminishing funding, and therefore diminished teacher quality? Will kids get rushed ahead, to show “proficiency” on a test, when in fact the material is lost the day after the test? Will teachers who inspire kids to really learn, who teach them to write eloquently and read deeply, not have incentive to do so? This strikes me as an ill-advised direction.

Q: What changes would you recommend be made to the pupil membership accounting to replace seat time?

A: I do think districts should be incented to allow students to move ahead. If my child can get four years of high school science in before she is 14, she should be able to do that, and the school should be compensated for that achievement.

Q: Should performance funding be based on overall performance or performance in specific subjects? Should funding be allocated based on the performance of an individual student, a school building, or the entire school district?

A: Performance funding is silly.

Additional Comments: I fear deeply that this whole exercise is a failed experiment that will ruin my public schools at the very moment my children are being educated in them. I feel betrayed by the State of Michigan, who does not seem to be able to support quality public education, and feel that this enterprise is going to make things worse, not better.

Feedback Response Submitted: I am very concerned that standardized tests are killing education instead of facilitating educational quality. My children are very eager to learn, and could go faster, but are slowed by the weight of mandated curriculum and standardized testing. GREAT teachers are the ones who are not bridled by a government-mandated content set, and who can incent students to learn passionately. When they are bound by standardized testing, intellectual material becomes dry, rote, and dumbed down. My hope would be that there would be a way to measure student progress without relying heavily on standardized testing.

Ray Telman, October 2, 2012

Quick question to “Disaggregating High School Education”

-Page 10

-#2 at the bottom of the page

-second full sentence

Is the word “with” correct?

Kelly, October 2, 2012

Q: Are there any outside factors (FRL, ELL, improvement rate of low performing students, ect.) related to performance funding that should be considered?

A: No

Q: How many years of data should be examined in a performance based funding system?

A: 5

Q: Should a student be allowed to “test out” of a content area? How should the school be compensated?

A: Yes

Q: How could policymakers at the state level encourage or incentivize different instructional techniques or delivery methods?

A: Fund education properly and subsidize training costs in different methodologies.

Additional Comments: Each community has a unique culture as well each district. Do not force cookie cutter programs or funding onto well performing and well funded districts to try to make up for poor performing and less funded districts. Across the board mediocrity is not a viable solution to funding and performance gaps across the state.

Melissa Jenkins, October 2, 2012

Q: Are there any outside factors (FRL, ELL, improvement rate of low performing students, ect.) related to performance funding that should be considered?

A: I think performance should be measured based on performance for each student compared to that student’s potential. For example, Sally has an IQ of 100. Based on that information, she has the potential to achieve work right at grade level. Is she? If so, she gets 100% score on performance. Is she doing below grade level work? Then give her a lower score. Take these scores for all students and lump together to get an average performance level for students at the school. This method should be a fairly accurate way of assessing performance overall, because it takes into account differences in the potential of different students. It also requires that schools appropriately educate children at every level of potential. Each child is schooled at a maximum appropriate level for him/her which should improve our global competitiveness overall.

Greg Rosine, October 2, 2012

Q: Are there any outside factors (FRL, ELL, improvement rate of low performing students, ect.) related to performance funding that should be considered?

A: I think it should be focused on value added. Some children, mine included, come to the public schools already exposed to libraries, museums, etc. and have a limit on the amount of television or media exposure. Both of the parents in our household have college educations. Reading is a modeled behavior. Others come in with a handicap of not having any of the advantages of my children, who perform well. If you only want to measure who comes into the system prepared and reward those who have, then don’t use a value added approach. But, I think the right way is to see the progress of students, compared not to each other, but to themselves.

Q: How many years of data should be examined in a performance based funding system?

A: 5

Q: Should students be allowed to “test out” of a content area? How should the school be compensated?

A: I don’t like this approach. It means we are going to admit that we can’t provide additional educational challenges to bright or advantaged students in our schools.

Q: How could policymakers at the state level encourage or incentivize different instructional techniques or delivery methods?

A: Stay out of the kitchen. Let the cooks cook the soup. Just tell them what you want it to taste like.

Jeff Leonhardt, October 2, 2012

Note: Respondent did not answer any questions, only left a comment in the “additional comments” section.

I was looking for information about your organization on your website.

Where do get your funding?

Do you have a governing body? If so, who are the members?

What have you worked on prior to the new SAF project set in motion by the governor. Basically, I would like to know who runs the show.

A response is respectfully requested.

Jeff Leonhardt, October 3, 2012

Q :Should there be process to review and update the performance funding metrics or measurements?

A: As I noted the on the last survey, if you are really seeking input from parents and the community, you will need to stop using jargon. This question will do nothing but confuse anybody who is not statistician. I have taught for 25 years and I don’t know what you are talking about here.

Q: Are there any outside factors (FRL, ELL, improvement rate of low performing students, etc.) related to performance funding that should be considered?

A: Just fund schools for all children period.

Q: How many years of data should be examined in a performance based funding system?

A: I do not think a performance based funding system should be used at all.

Q: Should a student be allowed to “test out” of a content area? How should the school be compensated?

A: Only at high school and with very clear indicators that they are above the competences of the course.

Q: How could policymakers at the state level encourage or incentivize different instructional techniques or delivery methods?

A: They shouldn’t. Not all things should be incentivized.

Additional Comments: A: I feel like this whole revamping of the SAF using Oxford is rigged. The question are framed and only allow comment on the parameters Oxford sets. The game rigged. The questions mean little to the lay person. The agenda has been set. Some of us are watching this process in disbelief! It is the privatization of public schooling and it is being under the radar of the general public.

Greg Warsen, October 9, 2012

Q: What “safeguards” need to be put in place to ensure the taxpayers are receiving value for their dollars as we move away from a quantitative accounting system to a qualitative one?

A: We (Kelloggsville Board of Education and administration) had serious questions on this question. Does it assume that parents are not currently receiving value for the dollars in public education? We would acknowledge that education, like any field, can continue to grow and improve, but value is currently being delivered to students and families. Also, what is meant by a safeguard? Qualitative judgments are by their nature subjective, so who is making these? Would a safeguard limit or eliminate Schools of Choice? Would there need to be safeguard against recruiting high achieving students and/or ferreting out at risk or challenged learners? The current funding system lacks equity and is insufficient to operate schools at the level of quality that we have previously experienced.

Q: As the state transitions to funding based on a percentage of student performance from the current “seat time” requirement, what percentage of school funding should be based on student performance? How long should this transition take?

A: Dropping seat time requirements can have many unintended consequences (attendance, collaborative work with actual people, etc.). Face to face interaction is an important skill to foster. Furthermore, what determines student performance? Is it growth or proficiency? Both have potential difficulties with high achieving students (difficult to get growth) and at risk learners (may be 2-3 grade levels below proficiency).

Q: What changes would you recommend be made to the pupil membership accounting to replace seat time?

A: Not the plan that assumes this change has been made. Billing sending districts for students who have transferred is labor intensive and drains resources districts don’t have. We would advocate keeping the current system of two blended counts.

Q: Should performance funding be based on overall performance or performance in specific subjects? Should funding be allocated based on the performance of an individual student, a school building, or the entire school district?

A: Again, much of this depends on what performance means and how it is defined. We would advocate for a growth model of performance. Students come to school with very different levels of skill and background knowledge, and they learn at different rates and in different ways, yet a proficiency model expects them to all have the same knowledge and skill at the same time.

Q: What specific metrics or measurements (i.e. proficiency, growth) should be used to gauge student performance? How should each metric or measurement be weighted?

A: Every child is different as is every school district. We would advocate for a funding model that respects those differences and provides the equity needed to address them. Growth models capture the essence of what education should be about the growth of each child.

Additional Comments: The current system does contain within it vast inequities in funding. As a base foundation district, we would hope to see student foundation allowances brought into more equitable alignment across the state. Differences that do arise should be the result of addressing poverty and other at risk factors.

William Jones, October 18, 2012

Q: What “safeguards” need to be put in place to ensure the taxpayers are receiving value for their dollars as we move away from a quantitative accounting system to a qualitative one?

A: I believe that the overwhelming factor in education is the motivation and hiring of exemplary teachers. Any system will be defunct with out that key component. Spend time and effort getting the most qualified educators and the qualitative component will take care of itself.

Q: As the state transitions to funding based on a percentage of student performance from the current “seat time” requirement, what percentage of school funding should be based on student performance? How long should this transition take?

A: It should likely progress over the next 10 years to 50%.

Q: What changes would you recommend be made to the pupil membership accounting to replace seat time?

A: I recommend that due to the community and interpersonal relationships that build communities the present district system stay in place. Being a district member is not a negative in my estimation.

Q: Should performance funding be based on overall performance or performance in specific subjects? Should funding be allocated based on the performance of an individual student, a school building, or the entire school district?

A: An inverse funding formula based on the students level would be most effective. Lower functioning or achieving students cost more to educate. The money should be per pupil.

Q: What specific metrics or measurements (i.e. proficiency, growth) should be used to gauge student performance? How should each metric or measurement be weighted?

A: Proficiency,standardized area tests, all based on the common core standards should be used. Along with individual teacher assessments.

Lisa Kotula, October 23, 2012

Note: Respondent did not answer any questions, only left a comment in the “additional comments” section.

I would like to know about special education and early childhood issues? How and when are these two topics to be addressed? Thank you.

Joan Stelzer, October 28, 2012

Q: What “safeguards” need to be put in place to ensure the taxpayers are receiving value for their dollars as we move away from a quantitative accounting system to a qualitative one?

A: We live in one of the “hold harmless” districts. Our taxes are substantially higher than others’ in the state. We accept them and purchased property here because we knew that we could count on the “hold harmless” money to support the standards of education that are important to us.

It sounds like you want to eliminate funding by district and therefore the advantage we think we’re buying with our higher taxes and premium property prices.

If education financing it turned on its ear, and we no longer receive “hold harmless” funds to support our schools in our area, we will become even more of a “donor” area than we are already. More importantly, our school quality will deteriorate, with less funding, and the value of owning property here will decrease. This will significantly impact our property values. IS ANYONE LOOKING AT THIS DIMENSION OF THE PROPOSALS?

Please write back to me as soon as possible.

Patrick Little, November 1, 2012

Q: What “safeguards” need to be put in place to ensure the taxpayers are receiving value for their dollars as we move away from a quantitative accounting system to a qualitative one?

A: That funding for the students who cost more to educate are considered in the formula. Examples include special education students who need additional service beyond the general education teachers. A second example is “at-risk” students who can present greater challenges to the typical student. The cost for schools who house large numbers of “at-risk” or students with disabilities can be greater than those schools who have lower populations.

Q: As the state transitions to funding based on a percentage of student performance from the current “seat time” requirement, what percentage of school funding should be based on student performance? How long should this transition take?

A: I think the measure should not be student performance. This to me sounds largely measured by mass data or meta data. Rather, we should look at a schools ability to show individual growth from one year to the next. Reliable testing has to be in place – the MEAP as we know if does not suffice. This would make it more appealing to teach Special needs and “at risk” populations. In this example, it does not matter how low the kids is when the teacher gets them in the fall, what matters is how much the teacher can help them grow by June.

I don’t know what a fair % would be. Probably a yearly phase in process would be most fair. Start with 10% and in 10 years work up to 30%.

Q: What changes would you recommend be made to the pupil membership accounting to replace seat time?

A: Attendance is important and schools can influence good attendance. In the new evaluation requirements of principals, attendance rates have to be considered in every evaluation. Wholesale elimination of seat time could send the wrong message about the importance of attendance.

It is essential that all schools are required to do proportional FTE counts for students who move mid-year. It is unfair to districts who have the kid on count day then the student moves and the receiving school educates them without most of the funding. I know the state is trying to get this done but some institutions are throwing up road blocks. This should be mandated.

Q: Should performance funding be based on overall performance or performance in specific subjects? Should funding be allocated based on the performance of an individual student, a school building, or the entire school district?

A: How will the state measure anything besides performance in math and reading? It would be huge, huge undertaking to measure for example, all the aspects of the MMC in a standardized manner. But that is the crux of the state curriculum so if it was over all performance, and the MMC is truly the priorities of the state, it would make sense that all aspects of it would be measured.

That would be massive project with fiscal, logistical and communication problems galore. Not to mention that it would have to be done in the Senior year. This would put teachers in all other grade levels off the hook and Senior teacher on it, so to speak.

Q: What specific metrics or measurements (i.e. proficiency, growth) should be used to gauge student performance? How should each metric or measurement be weighted?

A: Per my answer above it seems if this is the direction we are headed the following has to be in place:

1. Pre and Post (Sept and May) testing in math and reading for all grade levels k-12.

2. It should be computer based and adaptive (see answer to number one for the reason why).

3. RIT score percentage change from pre to post would be the marker to calculate from. This can be measured using something like NWEA’s MAP test or similar programs. (that is what I use at my school so that would be best for me 8).  That being said, percent change is the key.

4. If RIT score is used, it also makes sense to parents. RIT scores can be calculated for any grade and translated in to lexiles for parents to use with kids when selecting books. The other good part of it is that it is translatable to MEAP proficiency or ACT scores with a high reliability.

Additional Comments: I think I understand and support what this change may be about. This is so complex. It needs to be studied by many people, it needs to be transparent in its development. I do believe that we can test all four core content areas and assess them digitally by 4th grade. Reading and Math can start in 1st. But there has to be crystal clear clarity about what is being tested in each subject area each year. Or, go to a more adaptive test like NWEA that looks for skill ranges.

If you need someone to serve on a committee or something like that – let me know.

Best of luck!

Kelli Horst, November 5, 2012

Note: Respondent did not answer any questions, only left a comment in the “additional comments” section.

Fellow public education supporters, below is an email I sent to Richard McLellan, identified on the Oxford Foundation website as “project director” of the Michigan Education Finance Project,” on Oct. 11, 2012.  I’m submitting my thoughts with the hope they reach people who are thinking in earnest about these issues.

Many thanks,

Kelli Horst
——————–

Mr. McLellan, I realize this note is coming a little late to the party, but I have just spent time this morning reading through the updates posted on the Oxford Foundation’s website regarding the Michigan Education Finance Act. I am an active parent leader in Clarkston Community Schools and a candidate for school board this fall. As a four-year PTA president in our district, I have spent a lot of time educating parents on education funding and policy. I have been very critical of the state’s funding structure, so I am pleased Governor Snyder is tackling this issue. I’m not afraid of change or evolution, particularly in light of the speed at which society evolves. I do have several questions and observations as a parent, though, which I hope you will find helpful and and worth considering:

  • I appreciate the breadth of organizations that have been consulted in this overwhelming challenge, but where is the voice of the parent? I’m thinking specifically of Michigan PTA, the state’s “parents union,” but would feel more comfortable knowing any parents were a key part of the conversation. The overview talks a lot about parent choice driving this process, but it also seems to have the potential for creating a lot of chaos for parents who are not already go-getter advocates for their children.
  • Why is special education not included in this effort? Surely you know how much more it costs to educate our students with special needs and that districts are required to provide for adult students with special needs into their 20s. Clarkston is one of the districts known for its special education program. We enroll a larger-than-average special education population (something like 13%) and field many school of choice requests for students with IEPs. I appreciate the inclusion of the perspective of gifted parents (one of their members encouraged me to read through the web site), but cannot understand how this segment failed to make the cut. The parents of children of special needs are among the most motivated, educated and passionate advocates for choice for their children.
  • This effort has to be integrated with how colleges and schools of education train teachers. It seems it will change that career path dramatically, not only from the perspective own education and training, but also expectations for career reward, longevity and satisfaction. A lot of teachers will be excited by what sounds like a lot of creative freedom to engage an excite students; we’ve seen it in our own district through the adoption of Cultures of Thinking. But new teachers will need to graduate from college ready to enter this new world of public education in Michigan.
  • Is not the issue of local control tied to home values? That I live in Clarkston with Clarkston Community Schools as my district makes a difference in the value of my home and the attractiveness of my community to potential residents and new businesses. Will this plan reduce the attractiveness of a community and its property values because the importance of the local district as a community identifier is minimized? Local districts and communities do determine their own vision, culture, budgets priorities, and value-added programming … all directly tied to the expectations and “personality” of the community. I’m getting the feeling that even if I win a seat on the school board in November, it will be an obsolete concept next year!

I offer a lesson of caution from the world of higher education marketing, a field in which I have worked for the last 13 years as an administrator and consultant. When US News and World Report introduced “America’s Best Colleges” many years ago, it created an expensive game in which colleges and universities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to compete, ostensibly for students, but really for the attention and respect of their peers. They attempt to influence the nebulous “reputation” score that counts as a significant element in US News’ rankings. I’ve been part of that machine as a former communications director for a regional private university. I would hate to see our public schools and districts forced into a similar competitive game under a broad Schools of Choice mandate that would force us to market ourselves to parents…we steal from A, B steals from C, C steals from X, and so on. It is a zero-sum game that takes resources away from the student and classroom.

Many thanks for listening and considering the viewpoint of a parent. I wish you success in this effort – our children are depending on it. If I can be helpful, do not hesitate to let me know.

Best,

Kelli Horst

Brett R. Mitchell, November 7, 2012

Note: Respondent did not answer any questions, only left a comment in the “additional comments” section.

To whom it may concern,

As a public school parent, I would like to continue to rely on my local elected officials to create education policy that directly affects my children’s classrooms, i.e. Local Control of our neighborhood schools. I am therefore opposed to this administrations interest in forcing “schools of choice” on those communities who have already demonstrated a high regard for a diversified student population and currently maintain a high degree of student achievement. Each district has the “right to choose” its own course when it comes to this issue.

Sincerely, Brett R. Mitchell

Judy Gafa, November 10, 2012

Note: Respondent did not answer any questions, only left a comment in the “additional comments” section.

Dear Committee Members,

I am contacting you in the hopes that the Oxford Foundations intent is to work in partnership and listen openly to suggestions from Michigan community members. I currently serve as the President of the Grosse Pointe Board of Education. It is no secret that our community vehemently opposes Mandated School of Choice, as we feel it is a detriment to our very successful district.

In reviewing the Governors goals, the Civic Marshall Plan and recent high school graduation rates by state two things stand out to me. First, Grosse Pointe has implemented  many or had in place many of the benchmarks of the Civic plan, and has a graduation rate of approximately 98%. The 29 other States that have implemented the civic plan have seen an increase in their graduation rates. The second thing that stood out very clearly out to me, is that many of the states that have gone the school of choice path have lower graduation rates than Michigan and their graduation rates and state rankings are not improving over all.

It is imperative that Michigan be a leader in education reform, not a follower. As I look at states that have successfully increased their graduation rates (which are based on an agreed formula nationally), they are meeting national benchmarks such as, focusing on early reading intervention, reduced chronic absenteeism, instituted early warning sign interventions, provided strong peer mentoring programs, put comprehensive drop out recovery programs and provided all students a clear pathway from high school to college or career training. These are just a few of the successful programs being put in place.

It makes much more sense to me for our state to invest in these types of improvements and and set-up our own Civic Marshall Plan, basing improvements on the successful districts in the state and reinvesting in that success. Investing in a plan that is community based and locally controlled will improve overall academic success, instead of creating borderless schools with no clear pathway to success.

Here in Grosse Pointe both of our high schools have implemented strong peer mentoring programs, partnered with specific initiatives to aid our struggling learners. The district has created an continuous improvement plan based on data driven decisions. The superintendents goals are based on this plan as well as district goals, this gives each individual school a clear pathway on which to base their improvement plan. The district has also implemented rigorous academic programs to challenge all of our students. Over 90 of our students at Grosse Pointe North advanced placement classes have tested in the top 17% in the country.

It is comprehensive plans such as these that a community can rally around, that will improve Michigan’s educational system and mark our state as a leader in education reform. I implore you not to follow Florida, Louisiana, and Indiana, whose graduation rates have stayed flat or has shown a slight increase. Let us not follow Colorado, by uncapping Cyber Schools and increasing the drop out rate. There must be accountability from our charter schools and virtual classrooms. Grosse Pointe has a large majority of highly effective teachers. This must be part of any plan to improve the academics in Michigan.

We must invest in early childhood education, sound research based programs that provide proven results. The Oxford Foundation has an opportunity to write an educational plan in Michigan, make it the standard other states refer to and model themselves after. Prove that Michigan is a leader in educational reform, not just another sheep in the herd.

Thank you for your time and attention,

Judy Gafa, President Grosse Pointe Public Schools Board of Education

Susan Miller, November 12, 2012

Note: Respondent did not answer any questions, only left a comment in the “additional comments” section.

Good morning.

I would appreciate more information regarding the “statewide enrollment” section of the memo appearing on page 8.

- When it indicates that receiving schools will control their own enrollment, what does this mean?

- Does this mean that districts and schools could choose which students to accept or to opt out of inter-district enrollment?

- Would students who live within a school district have a priority for enrollment within that district?

- If control is taken away from local districts and they are forced to participate in inter-district enrollment, how will the State of Michigan reimburse district residents for the funds they have personally invested in the school district, its facilities and its programming? National research has determined that property values in urban, affluent cities fall when those cities are mandated to participate in inter-district school  enrollment programs.

- Also, if the draft of this bill was available November 7th, where may I obtain a copy of it?

- Supposedly, there was going to be a public meeting to discuss this proposal in October 2012. When will this actually take place?

Thank you very much for your assistance. The last time I emailed your office with questions, I received no response.

Susan Miller

Joshua Raymond, November 14, 2012

Q: What “safeguards” need to be put in place to ensure the taxpayers are receiving value for their dollars as we move away from a quantitative accounting system to a qualitative one?

A: The data collected must be available and transparent enough to the public so that parents can understand how well a school is meeting the needs of students with low, medium, and high abilities. Data should not just be an aggregate of the school’s performance, but show the growth and proficiency for each decile of students.

Q: As the state transitions to funding based on a percentage of student performance from the current “seat time” requirement, what percentage of school funding should be based on student performance? How long should this transition take?

A: For each decile of students, based on Smarter Balanced test scores, schools should risk losing 20% of their funding for that decile when not meeting yearly growth compared to other schools and stand to gain 20% additional funding when performing significantly better than peer schools in meeting needs in that decile.

Q: What changes would you recommend be made to the pupil membership accounting to replace seat time?

A: Accounting should be based on growth and proficiency. A school that helps a child learn at a rate greater than one year of growth per calendar year should be rewarded with funding commensurate to that rate. This does not need to be a 1-to-1 measure, so a student learning at twice the average rate may only earn the school 50% more.

Q: Should performance funding be based on overall performance or performance in specific subjects? Should funding be allocated based on the performance of an individual student, a school building, or the entire school district?

A: Funding should be based on all measured subjects. It should either be based on the performance of an individual student or on deciles of the students as ranked by Smarter Balanced test scores. Having performance funding at the school or district level leads to aggregation of data and the unique learning needs of each student lost in the averages.

Q: What specific metrics or measurements (i.e. proficiency, growth) should be used to gauge student performance? How should each metric or measurement be weighted?

A: Student performance should be measured using both proficiency and growth. To maximize the individual learning of each student, weighting should be 70% growth and 30% proficiency. This will help ensure that students who will never be proficient or are already proficient have their academic needs met.

Additional Comments: Under the current proficiency-based model, schools are pressured to bring each student up to an grade-based level. Some students already exceed these – and often ignored by the schools. Some students will never reach this and are sometimes overlooked as well. Instead of focusing on the average student, we need focus on the growth of each student.

While the standard mantra is “one year’s growth in one year’s time,” this is also inadequate. Some children can’t make that growth. Other children can make 2-3 years growth. That is why I suggest focusing on each decile to compare how schools and districts are meeting the needs of every student. Using an aggregate of all students’ growth would still allow a school to ignore top or struggling learners in favor of growth in the middle. For example, a district where the bottom 10% made 0.5 years growth, the middle 80% made 1.2 years growth, and the top 10% made 1.3 years growth would have a higher score than a district where the bottom 10% made 0.9 years growth, the middle 80% made 1.1 years growth, and the top 10% made 1.6 years growth. A district needs to pay attention to the growth of every student, not just the average student.

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