Absolute Michigan's Michigan Blog
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Five Things You Need to Know for Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Summer grilling recipes including Salmon stuffed with pesto -- Mmmmm.

Ice Mountain Permit Exemption Was in Error
The Detroit Free Press reports that the State of Michigan's attorneys have admitted that the state was in error for failing to require an environmental permit for the controversial Ice Mountain water-bottling plant. The position reverses a course set in 2001 when regulators deemed the plant exempt, and it sets the stage for tougher oversight of groundwater use.

Soaring Retirement Costs Push Communities to the Brink
The Detroit News reports that Metro communities are facing billions of dollars in costs for medical benefits for retirees -- costs that could push many communities to the limits of their financial abilities (or beyond). Retiree health care costs have grown between 10% and 20% annually in recent years.

Sandhill Crane Causing Trouble for Farmers
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium reports that the Eastern population of sandhill cranes has grown so large that they're becoming a problem in some places and there's talk of starting a hunting season for cranes.

Michigan Books for Young Readers
The Detroit Free Press has a feature on several books for young readers with Michigan ties including "When the Great Lakes Drained Away" by author/illustrator Charles Ferguson Barker (Mackinac Island Press). The story (with foreward by Gov. Jennifer Granholm) is a cautionary environmental tale that stresses how great a treasure our great lakes are by imagining what would happen if we lost them.

Michigan Laptop Program
The Heartland Institute (a conservative think tank) takes on on Michigan's student and teacher laptop program. Freedom to Learn has relied primarily on federal funding and school district contributions. This March, Senator Valde Garcia introduced a bill to appropriate $3.7 million in state money and $5 million in federal funds to continue the program. Granholm didn't include it in her 2006 budget.

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# posted by farlane @ 11:10 AM
Here's a comment that was also sent to the author of the laptop piece from a public school technology director:

Dear Megan,

Your reference to our district in your article, “Michigan Rethinks Laptop Giveaway Program” is disconcerting to us here at Leland Public School. Neither the Superintendent nor myself recall discussing the success of our laptop program with you. Although, I would agree with you that many Michigan schools did not fare well with implementation, our district remains a solid model of what can happen when a highly qualified staff is presented with technology that allows all students to reach higher standards. (Note: 5.25.05, there are other districts showing the same positive results across the state.) I think you would quickly come to the same conclusion by speaking to the teachers and parents of these students.

You are incorrect in assuming that implementation of the program was not simple, as we easily deployed over 104 laptops in just five days. Our laptops, given to students in grades 6-8, have operated with little support. Further, any technology coordinator with an ounce of talent could quickly configure the wireless access provided with the grant to simply plug into a network port.

Also, the district had a vision of a wireless campus that the grant allowed us to implement not a wireless ready network. Thanks to our community and their commitment to offering cutting technology through the passage of two bond proposals, our infrastructure was ready and waiting for funding to allow us to complete a wireless initiative. We invite you to visit our classrooms, talk to our students, review our test scores, and see measurable results in person.

Keven Pershinske
Technology Administrator
Leland Public School
# posted by Blogger farlane : 9:41 AM  
It's been my pleasure to watch Leland's implementation of the Fredom to Learn laptop initiative as a consultant to them through Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District. As is true with most generalizations and poor research, the article masks some significant success by many local school districts in the state. In particular, Leland Public Schools has emerged as a model for implementation and they have good data to support it. In a very smooth roll out 5 months ago, Leland put laptops in the hands of 104 middle school students and their teachers. Teachers experienced ongoing technical and instructional support as they’ve integrated the 1 to 1 technology in their classrooms. Five months later, test scores are up in language arts! Recent MEAP results show improvement among Leland’s 7th graders in both reading and writing. Of particular interest is their significant improvement in writing. Last year 53% of their 7th graders were proficient in writing (compared to 47% of students statewide). This year, subsequent to the laptop implementation, writing scores jumped to 87% proficient (compared to 53% statewide). That’s 34% more students proficient in writing this year than last compared to only 6% more statewide. There is no accounting for this beyond the implementation of their laptop initiative. So when the writer makes a statement like “whatever its future, Freedom to Learn is a gimmicky program with no demonstrable results.”, it’s clear that she’s not thoroughly done her research. What makes this poor research worse is the fact that the author lives in Leland’s back yard and never formally visited the Leland School. Although she didn’t, the Michigan Department of Education did, indeed, make a visit this month to the school to audit and review implementation of the program. They were completely astonished with the level of student engagement and demonstrated achievement. Ms. Dwyer would be too.
# posted by Anonymous Regis McCord : 12:47 PM  
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