You didn't get the memo about The Oxford Foundation? Bill and Tony's Math Academy on the way

Memo to Parents and Taxpayers: The Oxford Foundation presents top rated Districts with a false choice

TO: Parents and Taxpayers interested in maintaining the top rated schools in the state and the property values that are tied to those districts

FROM: A BHSD parent of two selfishly interested in maintaining his kids’ top rated schools and the property value of his recently purchased home.

RE: You get to choose nothing and risk everything if you follow The Oxford Foundation.

Governor Snyder’s Oxford Foundation Group is not interested in having a debate about curriculum or what kind of schools work best in the state.

They are interested, first, in providing a political screen for pending House Bill (5923) that could be taken up in the "lame duck" session after Thanksgiving. Ask friend of the local schools Chuck Moss. They provide that screen by “assuming” said school code will be rewritten to include language like this:

“Within available resources, the parent or legal guardian of each child is entitled to choose among available public or non-public schools for some or all of the education necessary to develop the child’s intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive environment.”

If so amended your top rated and highly functioning District – Birmingham, Bloomfield, Troy, etc. – will be obligated to spend some of their per pupil allocation on whatever educational business venture comes down the pike.

Your District won’t get any more of the state’s 14.6 billion total education budget than it does now. There is, after all, only one chunk of change and we aren't going to cough up anymore state tax mone. But you will have to give some of what your District already gets to, for example, Bill and Tony’s Math Academy.

Why? Because The Oxford Foundation thinks you should have a “choice.”

Get it?

In moving to Birmingham, BHSD, etc. you didn't make a REAL choice. The Governor wants to help with that. So do Bill and Tony.

If you choose to send your kid to Bill and Tony’s Math Academy instead of Seaholm or the new Bloomfield High School and Bill and Tony’s Math Academy – like a lot of new restaurants – goes under in a year or two scuttling your kids’ chance at a good university? Well, you done plain made a bad business choice. The assorted contractors and office supply folks that got state money to get Bill and Tony’s up and running? They made a good business choice. Mom bad at business; contractor good at business (insert Tim Allen in Detroit Lion's jersey grunting).

Will your District get back the money that went to fund Bill and Tony’s and caused your District to cut a program (it is always art and music to start so let’s assume huge cuts in arts and music – we want to be “career-ready” in Michigan and who has a career in the arts or music in a global economy in a digital age)?

No money goes back to the District but there will be some consequences. Since your District’s funds were cut its “performance” dropped. Since its performance dropped your District will get less per pupil allocation because the governor and his folk want to reward the winners (yay! Winners! Boo losers!).

Now, when Tina and Mary’s Science Academy opens up your District will have less to give them because of poor performance cuts, but your district will still have to ante up so that there can be “choice” and competition.

Get it?

Don’t worry, though, Tina and Mary won’t need as much. Tina and Mary’s Science Academy is on line and therefore less expensive. They don’t know anything about science but they are very energetic and excited so you shouldn’t be a hater and plus they always so wanted to open a business. They went to school, right? Degreessmegees. Courses will be taught by “adjuncts” at local community colleges who are willing to do what used to be called “piece” work for ridiculously low sums (The Oxford Foundation loves adjuncts!). Adjuncts are a fairly demoralized group, moving from spot to spot so don’t expect terribly encouraging parent teacher conferences.

Sorry: the plug gets pulled on Tina and Mary’s Science Academy after 6 months. Tina married a dentist, one of the adjuncts got a tenure-track job in Alabama where higher education funding exceeds Michigan's, and the other one was hospitalized for depression and anxiety trying to meet the demands of “24/7 education" while being paid 4k per term.

Surely your District will get compensated? No, no, no, no.

In Governor Snyder’s Michigan we demand transparency and accountability of schools. What happened was this: When the money to pay staffers at your District to help manage the 25 page monthly teacher evaluation forms didn’t get turned in on time you took a “penalty” from the state.

The state was that accurate in its record keeping to assess a penalty/late fee for tardy teacher evaluations?

Oh yes. You see another part of the 14 billion went to create the massive Database system that will monitor and manage these start –ups and how well the “District of Enrollment” – that is, the District you used to know as Birmingham, BHSD, Troy – handles the massive administrative work of “seamless” education. Think the DMV, only for your kids’ education. How much will that take out of the 14 billion? Let's worry about that after we amend the law and open up the budget so there can be "choice."

You follow?

Good. We can move on to either Al and Bill’s Physics Academy or John’s Jamboree of Genius Junior Engineers.

You choose.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Joshua Raymond November 18, 2012 at 02:18 AM
For my first daughter, she needs math processes taught her. For my second daughter, she needs math concepts explained to her and the math processes flow naturally from that. A teacher not used to gifted students may try just giving her harder math processes, not understanding how her mind works. This type of thing happens in varying ways for gifted learners. Some start reading at age 3, never having been formally taught letter sounds. Others can plink out a tune after hearing it once. Some can visualize a running engine in their heads. Gifted learners are as different from typical learners as gifted athletes are from typical athletes. Coaches make qualitative changes in their coaching methods for these kids, not just quantitative changes. Unfortunately, the factory model classroom just doesn't adapt well for many kids. A lecture doesn't help a tactile learner as much as as physical activity. A harder worksheet isn't right for a kid looking to understand concepts. There is also important social skills that can flourish better in a homogenous group. Science kids aren't geeks. Smart kids aren't nerds. Art kids aren't weirdos. Tactile learners aren't troublemakers. When you are with similar people, you can belong, learn easier, and not stress out so much socially. When I was with 20 kids who thought like me, I grew so much more than when I was singled out. Kids need peers, even more than adults need peers.
Joshua Raymond November 18, 2012 at 02:19 AM
I'm certainly not saying to force kids into different groups. Some want a wide mixture. Others desire and thrive in a class where the discussion is at their level and interest. In high school, you can have honors and AP classes to help, but elementary they rarely get this. Some TPS districts have selective magnet schools because they benefit their students, but there are so many districts that believe that all schools need to be the same and do not acknowledge the differences in learners. If parents want these options and TPS won't provide them, why are we not letting independent public schools to meet the needs?
Mary L. November 18, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Joshua, if you don't mind me asking, what school district do you live in?
Mac November 18, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Joshua, I'm more than aware of all that. I'm up on my gifted education. I wasn't expressing an opinion, being somewhat agnostic on this question myself, just asking for Mr. Reno's perspective. For all the reasons you state, I see benefits to having kids group together with like-minded people, which happens fairly organically by high school age if there are decent opportunities. On the other hand, I have experienced instances where people's worlds were significantly smaller, and they were in fact less educated, by being around people like themselves throughout their education. And I know there is significant benefit to my child from being in a school with mainstreamed special Ed, international students, and students of various religions. So I am questioning (but not opining) whether the segmentation of the educational system would be entirely good. Like both you and Mr. Reno, I don't see any benefit to slowing smart kids down to the average pace, which happens in many public, private, and charter schools. Perhaps allocating more money and resources to gifted education makes more sense than spreading current funding thinner. Less public school funding will certainly not increase opportunities for the kids on either end of the bell curve, and I don't think we can promise a gifted charter school in Alpena and Escanaba.
Joshua Raymond November 18, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Mary, we are in Rochester Community Schools. I've actually recommended parents of gifted students looking at RCS to look at Bloomfield schools instead. Your schools are far ahead of most of ours when it comes to gifted education. I've got a friend whose son is 5 years ahead in math and RCS administration told her they couldn't do anything for him.
Joshua Raymond November 18, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Mac, sorry I misinterpreted your questions. I would love to see money spent on the gifted at public schools, but that isn't happening in most districts. Many states mandate gifted identification and education, but Michigan requires neither. Districts can legally choose to do nothing.
Mac November 18, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Joshua, You are edging close to the concern many of us on this Bloomfield Patch have. If the BHSD is doing a relatively good job of educating gifted students, based on current funding levels and the demands of the population attracted to the district, how will the Oxford Foundation proposal make things better for BHSD students? We are all speculating, but it appears likely that funding will be decreased. Do I really think a $7500/pupil charter school is going to be better able to serve gifted students? Do I think having less money in the BHSD is going to increase truly differentiated learning? The first thing to go is extra support for the kids who already MEAP at 99%. If gifted learning was the state's concern (it never has been), putting money behind gifted programs might make more sense than opening the door to charter schools. And it would be good for business, as high performing professionals demand high performing education for their children. I have been highly critical of gifted education in Bloomfield and in Michigan, but I don't see that introducing charter schools at a low per pupil allowance improves the situation. I will keep an open mind that the Oxford Foundation will somehow open the door for bright students to excel, but am very skeptical that is the goal or the result.
Mac November 18, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Joshua, It sounds like you and I could commiserate for hours on the sorry state of gifted education in Michigan. We are in strong agreement on that issue.
Mike Reno November 18, 2012 at 04:24 AM
"We are all speculating, but it appears likely that funding will decrease." You guys have convinced yourselves that funding will decreased. There is no direct indication that this will happen, yet a substantial number of the objections in these posts are based on assumption. So much negativity based on rumors.
J Arch November 18, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Joshua, your example of the gifted student and Bloomfield is interesting because unlike some other districts, Bloomfield does not attempt to provide a specific program or path for so-called "gifted" kids. Rather, its approach is to provide a comprehensive set of offerings available to all students such that anyone enrolled has the opportunity to excel to their full potential. In my opinion it is one of the distinguishing characteristics of BHSD and one of the big reasons why the residents here so vigorously defend their right to control their own destiny when it comes to funding for their schools. J. Wagner
Joshua Raymond November 18, 2012 at 01:31 PM
J. Wagner, unfortunately, my statement is more indicative of where RCS is than where Bloomfield is. After my daughter entered kindergarten reading and was taught letter sounds again and was taught counting when she was already doing addition, I started an advocacy group, Rochester SAGE - Supporting Advanced & Gifted Education - http://RochesterSAGE.org. At this point, we've seen a lot of talk, but no action. It is positive in that discussions have begun which were not happening and I understand that the curriculum committee has been looking at G/T methods, but there have been no results yet. In RCS, differentiation really varies. Some schools do nothing. Some provide ability grouping and limited acceleration. However, there are still members of my group who have left for charter schools that are doing a better job for gifted kids, even though they are not gifted charter schools. It can be done on the standard per pupil allowance without hold-harmless monies, but a charter school operator is not going to get rich doing it. Previously, I would have suggested Troy, but they cut their gifted program a couple of years ago. Livonia and Grosse Pointe were too far for these families. So that is the sad state of gifted education in Michigan. A district that differentiates well, a poor form of gifted education, is the best in the area.
Mac November 18, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Mr. Reno, one of the first things the Oxford Foundation posted on its website drafted language that would cut BHSD funding. There has also been firm talk of maintaining the current funding level, while adding schools. And mandated school of choice, which is clearly on the table, doesn't work very well with hold harmless. So the speculation is not wholly unfounded, and the window for feedback is going to be quick, so it is not unreasonable to be thinking about the likely effect on our current students. That said, the discussion will be more interesting when the draft is posted tomorrow.
Mike Reno November 18, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Mac says, "one of the first things the Oxford Foundation posted on its website drafted language that would cut BHSD funding" I have looked all over, and can't find any mention of BHSD. What I did see was was a discussion of the antiquated system of financing Michigan schools. Is there something I missed? Some specifics you can point to? Or is this a basic fear of the unknown, with a presumption that any change will have a negative impact? And why does Joshua get to be called Joshua, but I am stuck being called Mr. Reno? :-)
Mary L. November 18, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Maybe because of the reasons J Arch listed, I never hear the word "gifted' used in the BH district. I am sorry but I always felt the word was cliche and is definetly now passe.
Mac November 18, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Good point, Mike. I surely intended to be respectful all around, so should have gone with "Mr. Raymond". Any mention of hold harmless affects BHSD. This the proposal to which I was referring: http://oxfordfoundationmi.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/enhancementmillagerefinement.pdf To your point, tomorrow we will have a draft to read. From today's Free Press article, it appears it may elide the main complications and concerns about the new funding model. But the discussion will certainly be less speculative tomorrow. I think many of us feel that this will go from proposal to law very quickly, and that we don't see signs that important issues are being considered or that input is incorporated. We are trying to understand and interpret the clues we have so that we are proactive with the little time we may have to improve the bill. I recognize that you and I may have different views on the fact that the effort is led by an Engler/Mackinac Center leader, but that does indicate a certain point of view.
Mike Reno November 18, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Has anyone done the math using the formula? Oakland county website would have all the data.
Mac November 18, 2012 at 04:01 PM
The formula is not necessarily in tomorrow's proposal, so big math can wait until tomorrow. But BHSD hold harmless is 7.7%, Birmingham is 9.1%, and Southfield is about 17%. And 3% is definitely less than 7.7%.
Mike Reno November 18, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Comparing the rates simply means that your property taxes would go down. You would probably receive a higher foundation grant. I don't recall the exact 20J formula, but i seem to recall that you currently receive a reduced foundation grant. Perhaps it would be an overall reduction in funding to 20J districts. At this point it sounds like nobody really knows.
Mac November 18, 2012 at 04:25 PM
20J funding has been gone for awhile now. That's not on the table. Those hold harmless taxes go to our schools; if we pay less, they get less. There is certainly no pot of gold waiting to bring BHSD funding to current levels while BHSD residents pay lower property taxes. If that provision is in the proposal tomorrow, my view will indeed change.
J Arch November 19, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Joshua, my point is that the funding level that BHSD has enjoyed over the years has allowed it to integrate offerings into its curriculum for a wider variety of needs than most districts: DHH (deaf and hard of hearing), ESL (English as second language), special needs, talented or "gifted," etc. All of these needs are served by the inherent breadth of BHSD's standard curriculum. The philosophy is that these students are not segregated or isolated, rather they are all part of the mainstream and all students benefit from this integration. To Mary L's point, that is why you rarely hear the term "gifted" used in BHSD. Arguably, this is a less efficient way to deliver these services as opposed to running them in silos (academies), but by doing so, a broader base of students are allowed to learn together and more students have the opportunity to access these offerings. This is one of the reasons why BHSD residents so staunchly defend their desire to run their district as it has historically been run. J. Wagner
Joshua Raymond November 19, 2012 at 02:36 PM
The Oxford Foundation's proposal is at http://oxfordfoundationmi.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/mefp-draft-version-1.pdf
Mike Reno November 19, 2012 at 02:59 PM
All they could come up with was 300 pages? How many times was Bloomfield targeted? :-)
M. Harris November 19, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Local Control - Local Control - Local Control There ought to be a law. We do not need the state's involvement in our schools. Taxes collected locally, should remain local, to be control by local school boards.
Linda November 19, 2012 at 04:22 PM
We clearly all have strong opinions on this but local control is only meaningful when local control delivers. Maybe it did for your children it didn't for mine.....why should my tax dollars fund a system that doesn't work for me? I should be obligated to fund your choice but not mine? No way. If local control and school boards don't deliver the choice people need then I want my dollars and I want to go my own way. If Snyder can deliver it...so be it I am for it.
Ken Jackson November 19, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Linda, I mean this sincerely: that is a great question -- if not the question for residents of BHSD, Birmingham, Troy, etc. I understand your point and (in this case) your affect because Birmingham schools did not work for my kid. I saw an elementary school principal who had all the academic gravitas of an MSU Residence Hall Advisor, a functionally illiterate assistant principal (in my professional opinion), and at least one teacher who should not be anywhere near children -- something every parent and teacher and administrator in the school knew and that is why they kept their kids away from her. And, of course, as a parent, there was nothing I could do about this. That said, and as you suggest, I am not ready to prescribe legislation rushed through a lame duck legislation for a District that works for many and that has, for years, preserved property values. The current legislation seeks to address real problems in real places. But it won't address the sorts of things you (seem) upset about -- and it will, all too quickly -- change the character of whole areas. Want to run a bad teacher out of town? Call me. A bad administrator? Text me. I assure you you want find a school cheerleader. This legislation is counting on the sort of anger you (and I) feel to make all too quick and drastic changes.
Mike Reno November 19, 2012 at 08:09 PM
"The current legislation seeks to address real problems in real places. But it won't address the sorts of things you (seem) upset about..." But this will: ??? "Want to run a bad teacher out of town? Call me. A bad administrator? Text me. I assure you you want find a school cheerleader. " Curious how this gets written in legislation? Is this service only available in Birmingham? It sounds like it didn't work for you... have you now perfected the process? This will address her concerns in what way? It's unclear what that even means. I think many of us would prefer to do this in a much less confrontational way. If the education process is not working, then talk to the teacher. If there is pushback, talk to the principal. At that point, you should have the option to move on. No battles in the boardroom... no battles at the ballot box. The current process has no escape mechanism, other than fighting. If you get a poor teacher... it becomes "the lost year". You get a bad principal... you have limited options. You get a bad district... (and are not wealthy)... you have almost no options. You do seem to care about this, and sincerely seem to be trying to protect what you believe is an effective means of educating children. So what do you propose for people like Linda, me, Joshua, and even yourself who have had ineffective experiences with schools? We have years of experience trying to work within the system. It's just not working.
Joe Pedagogy December 02, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Joshua, I am a teacher in Troy and my children are students in Troy. When I taught 5th and Troy had its PACE program (G/T), my PACE students would request that they be allowed to drop PACE and be able to participate in our classroom. They felt like they missed too much. I found it was really the parents who wanted their kids in PACE, it was status for the parents. Differentiation is a much better model for the regular school day. After-school G/T would be better for kids. My sons are talented artists, so I have had them in after-school art programs. My one son loves soccer. He plays on a travel soccer team. Students get many more benefits for being in differentiated classrooms and having opportunities, such as Science Olympiad and Lego League, outside of the regular school.
Joshua Raymond December 02, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Joe, I am not a fan of pull-out gifted programs for many reasons. One is the reason you mention of missing too much of the class. Most pull-out programs require the students to do homework for the classes they missed. Gifted students don't need "more", they need academics aligned to their skills. Second, gifted learners aren't just gifted a few hours a week. They may be only gifted in one area, but that typically isn't addressed in a pull-out program. They shouldn't be slowed for the rest of the week and only have a few hours that they feel is time they can be themselves. Third, pull-out programs often lead to resentment. Many seem to be based on around fun activities that most kids would like to do. The worst that I ever heard of was a gifted pull-out program that did a Disney trip at the end of the year. Of course everyone else was mad. It isn't about g/t kids getting to do more fun stuff, but about the right education. Fourth, pull-out programs are often used to placate parents. The parents feel that at least their children are getting a bit more attention. Are pull-out programs better than nothing? Usually. For a couple of hours, g/t kids don't feel out-of-place and are with similar minds. For a couple of hours, they get to work at a natural pace.
Joshua Raymond December 02, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Sometimes it is the parents who need to make the decisions. Some g/t kids want to take school easy and score A's instead of being challenged to work hard. However, that hurts them when they don't learn to work hard or overcome obstacles. Some kids would choose hiding their talents to fit in and let peer pressure run their lives. In one of my daughter's classes, she has a significantly harder math packet than most kids. The other kids are competing to see who can do the most math packets, so the g/t kids want to do the easy packets too. An adult is needed to have them do the packets at their level. Kids may want things that are not good or appropriate for them. While kids have talents in many areas, sports and, to a certain extent, art and music, are not the domain of elementary schools. Math, reading, writing, science, social studies, history, and academics are. Would you enroll your sons, who are talented artists, in a program that required them to spend the majority of their time working at the level of other children their age and charged even more if they wanted to come back for another hour or two to work at their talent level? Or would you want their entire art program to be their level? I'm not going to be happy if my daughters' piano teacher requires them to also play songs that the average student their age could play. I'm going to put them in a program where they play songs at *their* level.
Joshua Raymond December 02, 2012 at 08:31 PM
As a society, we have chosen to provide free public education. To tell people that if they want their g/t children to learn they need to put them in a separate pay program goes against the principals of free public education. We have not guaranteed free arts, music, and sports programs. Oddly, though, even at the public level, those do a significantly better job of providing options for those with talents in them. Something is amiss.


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