A community struggling with school issuesPublished 10:27am Tuesday, November 10, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
The state may have finally signed off on a budget for the year – but for school officials, the challenge of dealing with funding cuts and even lower estimated figures for the 2010-2011 school year is just beginning.
At the Brandywine Board of Education meeting Monday night, board members a video presentation, “Facing Michigan’s School Funding Crisis,” put together by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.
The video was a perspective on what has led to the school funding “crisis” in the state and looked at measures that could be taken to try and ease some of the burden on school officials.
Jarpe said that, among other area superintendents, he would be meeting with the state school superintendent in Benton Harbor today.
Certain is the fact that school officials will find funding a challenge in the coming years – uncertain is just how they might handle that challenge.
Funding the school district hasn’t lost is that of the federally funded Title I – which provides the Brandywine School District with its after-school program at Brandywine Elementary School.
Principal Tim Bagby gave board members an overview of the program Monday night.
Stating he had some good news, Bagby said, “We’ve got some improvements we’re going to make to continue to make (the program) better.”
Brandywine’s after-school program focuses on those students in the school’s bottom third percentile; test scores and teacher recommendations are also factored in choosing those students who are struggling with their reading and math studies.
Bussing and snacks are provided and students are given the opportunity to work after school.
“Our focus has to be bringing up the kids who are struggling the most,” Bagby said.
Last year the program included 45 students who received help with reading skills and 38 in the math program.
Results from studying last year’s program did show marked improvement by students though there are visible gaps between the grades.
Through the math program, 90 percent of third-graders who participated in the program “met or exceeded their expected growth,” as did 86 percent of sixth grade students.
The percentages for fourth- and fifth-graders were 57 and 45 percent respectively.
In the reading program, 83 percent of sixth-graders showed that they met or exceeded their expected growth, 57 percent for fifth-graders, 55 percent for fourth-graders and 42 percent for third-graders.
Bagby said in regard to the goals he has for 2010, “I think we need to reach harder,” shooting for 70 percent or more of those participating to meet or exceed their expected growth.
One challenge, he said, is that students aren’t receiving help at home – which is affecting their work in the classroom.
“Our community continues to struggle and have a lot of children who aren’t getting help at home,” he said.
Looking at the future, he said something would need to be done to help struggling students, whether that consisted of a review of materials or even the possibility of teachers assigning students to stay after school for help.
Still, with funding challenges facing schools as it is, the burden of teaching Michigan’s students seems to only get heavier on the shoulders of state educators.