Count Day in Michigan

The pizza and prizes Michigan schools use to lure students on Count Day are ‘unfortunate.’ But is there a better way?

Students at Bethune Elementary-Middle School were treated to smoothies and popcorn on Count Day, courtesy of the Eastern Market and the district's office of school nutrition. The school also raffled prizes including a special lunch with the school's principal.

Schools across the state brought out donuts, dinosaurs, smoothies and all manor of special events on Wednesday to lure as many students to school as humanly possible.

It’s all part of a school funding system in Michigan that determines how much money schools receive from the state based on the number of students in class on “Count Day.”

“It’s not the best way to count students,” state Superintendent Brian Whiston told Chalkbeat. “But I just don’t know of a better way of doing it.”

Michigan is one of nine states that tie per-student funding to attendance on two or more school days, often one day in the fall and another in the spring. (In Michigan, fall count day determines 90 percent of per-pupil funding, while the spring day accounts for the other 10 percent.) Another 10 states use a single count day, while others use average attendance or other methods.

“It’s unfortunate,” Whiston said, that schools put so many resources into “pizza parties, fairs, festivals, anything to get kids excited about coming to school.” But other counting methods like using average attendance would also be problematic, he said, because schools with low average attendance still need enough money to meet the needs of all enrolled students.

“That doesn’t really work because if the student is there, we have to have a teacher,” Whiston said. “If they miss so many days, we still have to have the teacher.”

Michigan began relying on Count Day when it changed to a per-pupil funding system more than 20 years ago. But the day has become more crucial in recent years as the state’s shrinking school-age population has forced districts to aggressively compete for students, said Craig Thiel, research director at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

“Over the past 10-12 years, as the public school pie has decreased in size, the smaller pie has been sliced in many more pieces. Districts compete vigorously for their slice of the pie,” Thiel said.

In Detroit, schools partnered with businesses, artists and other groups to encourage students to show up and be counted.

Students at Sampson Webber Academy partnered with artist Alex Cook and Beyond Basics, a non-profit literacy organization, to paint a mural.

At Coleman A. Young Elementary School, UAW-Ford donated 50,000 ID kits to all district students for Count Day. (The brother of this school’s principal is with the UAW.) Each kit contains two inkless fingerprint cards, two DNA collection swabs and two activator cards. After collecting the samples and completing the activator card with the child’s information, parents can store the kit for safe keeping. If needed, it can be delivered to authorities to help track the missing child.

Angelique Peterson-Mayberry, vice president of the Detroit Board of Education, and a teacher at Coleman A. Young Elementary School in Detroit.

 

A dinosaur visited Michigan Math and Science Academy in Warren:

 

Detroit’s main district put together a countdown video to make sure kids understood the importance of the day.

 

Detroit week in review

Week in review: Young children in the spotlight

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Evangelina De La Fuente, worries that the Head Start her 3-year-old twin grandsons attend could close or change. "The babies are secure and they’re happy and they’re well fed and they’re well taken cared for. It’s scary to think it could change," she said.

Hundreds of vulnerable Detroit families are bracing for change in the wake of the announcement last week from a prominent social service organization that it can no longer operate Head Start centers. Other social service providers are stepping up take over the 11 Head Starts that have been run by Southwest Solutions but their ability to smoothly pick up the 420 children who are affected and find classroom space for them is uncertain. That’s added stress to lives of families already in crisis.

“The babies are secure and they’re happy and they’re well fed and they’re well cared for. It’s scary to think it could change.”

—  Evangelina De La Fuente, grandmother of twin three-year-olds who attend a Southwest Solutions Head Start

Given the impact that quality early childhood programs can have on preparing children for kindergarten, advocates are calling for a better support system. That’s one of the missions of the new Hope Starts Here initiative, which was rolled out this morning. The coalition of parents, educators and community groups, led by two major foundations, spent the last year assessing the needs of Detroit children before unveiling a ten-year plan for how Detroit can improve the lives of young children.

– Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

Birth to eight

Students, teachers, learning

In Lansing

Across the state

In other news

Detroit week in review

Detroit week in review: Payrolls and proficiency

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit supertintendent Nikolai Vitti talks with students at Durfee Elementary/Middle School on the first day of school, September 5, 2017.

This week, we used district salaries to see how the central office has changed since Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti started in the spring: It turns out there are fewer people in the central office but more highly paid administrators. We sorted through the data and created several searchable databases. Click on any of them to learn more, including full district payrolls as of June 1 and Oct. 1.

The city district got more bad news when 24 more of its schools were added to the partnership program, which requires them to improve or face possible consequences. Nine other district schools can choose whether to participate in the program, which comes with additional support and resources. (Two city charter schools were also added to the list.)

And just in time to welcome those schools, a new state reform officer was appointed this week to lead the partnership program.

Hope you have a good week!

– Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

PARTNERSHIPS: Nobody is scheduled for closing yet, but the state added three school districts and four charter schools statewide to the partnership list this week. Potentially, almost half of Detroit’s district schools could be participants. Statewide, almost forty schools were added. (See the complete list here.) The state also named a superintendent to lead the newly formed partnership office and become the state school reform officer.

GET IT DONE: A columnist writes that impressive economic gains will be hampered by the state’s poor quality of education. While one editorial page writer urges the state to decide on a course of action for improving schools and do it, business leaders say a piecemeal approach won’t work. This columnist thinks what’s needed is political will at the top.

ALL OVER THE BOARD: A state house committee barely approved a proposal to eliminate the state board of education. Two insiders explore the issue. For the proposal to become law, both houses must approve the resolution by a two-thirds majority and then it must be approved by voters in the next general election because it would amend the state constitution.

CHARTER WARS: An editorial in a major newspaper says it’s a myth that charter schools are performing more poorly than city district schools. Another editorial supports allowing all public schools — charter and traditional — to benefit from property tax hikes.

KEEPING TEACHERS: One columnist blames state lawmakers for the teacher shortage. But a recent study shows you can keep teachers longer with bonuses and loan forgiveness. An advocate wants to encourage efforts to recruit more black male teachers.

YOUR INPUT: Fill out this survey to help shape the state’s new school transparency tool.

CAREER BOOSTS: Several districts will share a $1 million grant to boost career counseling. And the governor invested almost $3 million to support career tech education.

VOICES: How this group of Detroit parents was called to action in the state capitol.

POPULATION SHIFT:  At least one suburban district is hiring staff after the number of students who are learning English nearly doubled.

FOR A SONG: This Detroit teacher produces hip-hop videos to teach his students to read.

THE UNEXPECTED: In an unusual twist, the Hamtramck district reclaimed a charter school building.

DISAPPOINTMENT: A high school student in a special education program was denied an academic achievement award.

RESTRAINTS: A lawsuit alleges a Washtenaw County teacher taped shut the mouth of disabled student. District leaders say the parents waited a year to respond.

BOOK REVIEW: A teacher from a Detroit nonprofit wrote a book about his year-long experience teaching poetry to children in Detroit.