September 26, 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016

New Literacy Guidelines for MI Kids

Changes are in store for future Michigan third-graders, as the state’s third-grade reading bill passed last week in Lansing. The new legislation will require third-graders who fall behind in reading to be held back, unless they qualify for an exemption.

Under the bill, a student would need to demonstrate third-grade reading proficiency through performance on a standardized state reading test, an alternative assessment by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or through a student portfolio in order to advance academically. For a student who does not demonstrate proficiency in one of these ways, the bill lets parents and legal guardians request an exemption, allowing their child to go to fourth grade even if they’re behind on reading. Concerns have been expressed by some lawmakers and educational leaders that only allowing parents and legal guardians to request an exemption will result in retaining kids who live with another relative or whose parents aren’t engaged in their education.

Third-grade is a crucial time for young readers as it’s the dividing line between learning to read and reading to learn.

  • Michigan is 40th in the nation in third-grade reading proficiency rates. 
  • Only 46 percent of Michigan’s third-graders were proficient in language arts on the M-STEP state assessment given in the spring.

The startling education statistics in our state have prompted a number of foundations and nonprofits to call for change.

After the bill passed, the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) shared a statement, saying in part, “Literacy is the cornerstone of all other learning through school and into the workforce, and Michigan’s third-grade reading numbers have been declining for too long. This bill will help turn things around and get Michigan students back on track.”

According to the Associated Press, the bill requires school districts and charter schools to perform literacy screenings of K-3 students at least three times every school year, and those who need extra help will get an individual improvement plan within 30 days.

How will these new requirements be funded? Governor Rick Snyder’s administration said the state budget that goes into effect next month includes funding for various literacy initiatives including targeted interventions, screenings and more. The Michigan Association of School Administrators is reportedly worried because the third-grade reading bill does not include direct funding to implement new local requirements.

As our school system moves forward with the new third-grade reading requirements beginning in the fall of 2019, it’s unclear how many Michigan children may repeat the third grade as a result of the mandate.

For additional resources visit the Campaign for Grade Level Reading.






Bold Thoughts from CMF Annual Conference

More than 500 philanthropists gathered together in Ypsilanti last week for CMF’s 44th Annual Conference to connect around urgent issues facing Michiganders and our nation, and work together to drive bold solutions to help our communities, support our youth, and grow our impact.

Robert D. Putnam, political scientist and Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, shared the growing opportunity gap facing our children and how the American dream – the idea that hard work leads to success – is no longer a reality. “The country has become more segregated in social terms,” Putnam said.

We examined the achievement gap facing kids in an August edition of the Weekly Download. According to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, nearly one in four children in Michigan live in poverty and our education rankings show our state falls in the bottom 10 states for literacy and math.

How do we respond?

“Unshrivel our sense of ‘we,’” Putnam said at the conference. “Poor kids are your kids, my kids, everyone’s kids.” Putnam’s report, Closing the Opportunity Gap, calls for organizations, including nonprofits, to support student development in a range of ways, including:

  • Preserve and expand opportunities for middle and low-income families in areas with rising housing values and rent.
  • Open up communities of opportunity by supporting affordable housing developments and/or scattered subsidized housing across cities.
  • Help youth in poor neighborhoods access high-quality schools.
  • Link disconnected youth to supportive groups and mentors.

Erica Dhawan, co-author of “Get Big Things Done,” shared the power of connectional intelligence, leveraging relationships to increase your impact. “Combustion, it's about mobilizing and igniting diverse networks,” Dhawan said. As Michigan tackles education, and works to find ways to reduce community violence and remediate the effects of the Flint water crisis, expanding our network is crucial.

How do we achieve it?

  • There are three types of connectors as described by Dhawan: thinkers who look at the big picture, enablers who structure and align forces and connection executors who mobilize into action. Find other leaders and organizations who align with these roles to maximize your impact.
  • Spend time connecting with a new source of curiosity and/or exploring a new network to get information.
  • Connect with new people you might not otherwise, as a way to expand your reach and build new partnerships.

Dr. Wayne Baker, author of “United America,” showed that even in the most diverse networks we all share a common ground, through several shared core values. “Every difference in opinion is not a difference in principle,” Baker said. “We are united in our common mission.” Expanding your network and finding common ground with others are good approaches when it comes to conversations with politicians, state government and other agencies as we continue to seek solutions to Michigan’s most urgent issues and work to clear the path to success for our young people.

Want more?
Explore the collection of resources from our Annual Conference sessions.
Read more about Dhawan’s approach to connectional intelligence.
Try Dr. Baker’s group exercise to uncover a common ground.
Learn about ways you can help shrink the opportunity gap.





Quality Childcare out of Reach for Many Michiganders

Working parents throughout our state want a safe, stable, enriching place for their children to go every day, and a majority turn to a childcare provider in the state’s childcare provider system – including daycare facilities as well as independently certified family care homes. What’s the status of the state childcare provider system, where we place our smallest, most vulnerable community members and leaders of tomorrow? According to a newly released report, there’s work to be done.

Building a Better Childcare System, a report prepared for the Michigan Department of Education Office of Great Start, with funding by the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, reveals that Michigan needs to seek improvements in several areas in our childcare system.

The study highlights how critical the first thousand days of life are for children’s intellectual and emotional development, and with the majority of children under four spending that time in childcare, the system needs more support.

The issues:

  • Access to high quality childcare may be out of reach for lower income families
  • Michigan’s spending on childcare has dropped over the years. In 2013 Michigan’s per-child spending decreased to $336, which was the 11th lowest in the country.

During the study the researchers, Public Sector Consultants, engaged with a host of Michigan parents about their concerns. Affordability was near the top of their list, one parent stating they were paying $10,000 a year for childcare and they were using the cheapest center in their area. That’s about the average cost for infant childcare in the state, which is only 12.5 percent less than in-state tuition at a four-year public university.

Parents also expressed frustration with childcare providers’ low wages which makes it difficult to achieve quality care. The average childcare worker in Michigan earns $8.36 an hour; in Muskegon County they earn the least, at $6.92 an hour.

Report recommendations:

  • Increase financial assistance to families
  • Increase access to high quality providers
  • Support the early childhood workforce
  • Create a provider advisory team to offer feedback on policy changes, programs, etc.

The study calls for philanthropy to gather with leaders on the state and regional level as well as other stakeholders and engage in conversations to try and improve Michigan’s childcare system to ensure they’re accessible, high quality and enriching for our children.

Read the full report here.






Ethel and James Flinn Foundation’s mental health campaign continues to grow

One in five young people in Michigan experiences some sort of mental health disorder, according to Opening Minds, Ending Stigma, a statewide campaign supported by the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation focused on raising awareness of mental health issues.

The campaign has gained traction in the media and throughout the state within the past year and a half by sharing stories of those who struggle with mental health disorders. Initially supported by the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation and the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, a web video aired in May 2015, then a statewide television campaign launched earlier this year with the debut of “Opening Minds, Ending Stigma: Early Intervention is Key,” thanks to the foundation and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Within the past two weeks a new mental health awareness broadcast, “Opening Minds Ending Stigma: Saving Young Lives” aired in both Grand Rapids and Detroit in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Month.

“Treating mental illness shouldn’t be viewed any differently than treating physical illnesses,” Andrea Cole, executive director and CEO of the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation said.

Opening Minds, Ending Stigma is targeted to young people, ages 10-25, to emphasize the importance of early intervention and treatment.

The campaign will continue to share videos through television spots and social media highlighting young people “who have disorders and are champions for ending the stigma.”

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