‘Smart Politics’ examined

May 8, 2019

Grosse Pointe News

Melissa Walsh

With the annual Mackinac Policy Conference a month away, a sizable crowd recently showed up at The Whiskey Six to discuss issues they would like to see resolved by the state.

Host of WDET’s Detroit Today Stephen Henderson launched the station’s 2019 series of “Smart Politics” discussions at the City venue Thursday evening, April 25.

With him were Deadline Detroit news reporter and Woods resident Nancy Derringer and PBS’s Great Lakes Now program director and Park resident Sandi Svoboda.

The event began with WDET Program Director Joan Isabella chatting with audience members as she collected questions they wrote on Post-it notes for the panel.

Though diverse opinions and conflicting statements were made from the panel and audience on several topics during the event, an early comment from a member of the audience sent the crowd into shared laughter. Pointing to an 8-foot by 6-foot image of Prohibition-era bootleggers standing next to a cargo truck stuck in Lake St. Clair ice, he said, “Can we all just agree that this photo is just timeless?”

The humor set a friendly tone that continued throughout the discussion — that in many ways Detroiters share a common appreciation for the area’s history.

View the full article here

Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards Testimony

This week, the Detroit Regional Chamber joined the Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards in support of maintaining rigorous career- and college-ready standards in order for Michigan to remain competitive in the 21st century. The Chamber’s government relations team testified against the passage of House Bill 4192, which would repeal and replace Common Core standards in classrooms across the state. Repealing Common Core would be detrimental to Michigan students and undo important progress made in recent years. The coalition includes statewide education and business leaders, parents, teachers, principals and military families.

Read the full testimony:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today in opposition to House Bill 4192.

In addition to speaking to the views of each of our respective organizations, we are also testifying on behalf of the Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards. This coalition is a statewide partnership of education and business leaders, parents, teachers, principals and military families, committed to maintaining clear and rigorous academic standards for all Michigan students.

The ultimate goal of our K-12 education system is to prepare our students to succeed after high school graduation – no matter what their future holds. We oppose House Bill 4192 because it would be detrimental to Michigan students and undo important progress that we have made in recent years.

Our opposition comes down the three main factors. First, rigorous career- and college-ready academic standards are important for student success. Second, changing academic expectations for students and teachers now would undo recent progress. Finally, students and educators need certainty and consistency – not further change.

Career- and College Ready Academic Standards are important for student success.

Michigan moved to our current academic standards after recognizing that too many of our students did not have the skills and knowledge to succeed after high school. Far too many students graduate, but were unprepared to enter the workforce or begin credit-bearing coursework in training and degree programs.

Our current academic standards were designed to build seamlessly from kindergarten to 12th grade, preparing students to succeed in the next grade, and eventually in career, college and life. Unlike prior standards, they focus on real-world skills like critical thinking, problem solving and deep comprehension, rather than simple memorization.

Changing standards now would undo recent progress.

The shift from our old standards to our current standards was not easy and did not happen overnight. Our teachers have been asked to teach at much higher levels, and our student have had to learn at higher levels. Countless hours have been spent by teachers and districts preparing for this shift, implementing higher standards and developing standards-aligned curriculum.

All of this effort has paid off as students are graduating better prepared to succeed in their path after high school. Over the next several years, we expect this progress to accelerate.

Students and educators need certainty and consistency.

Finally, over the past several years, there has been tremendous change within Michigan education, including the challenging work of implementing much more rigorous academic standards. While these changes have been difficult for our school and teachers, they have been absolutely necessary for preparing our students to succeed in the next grade, and eventually in careers, college and life.

Michigan educators and students have stepped up to this challenge and we are beginning to see these efforts pay off. Now, students and educators need consistency and time to meet – and exceed – our higher expectations.

Unfortunately, this legislation would stall the progress that has been made over the past several years and add volatility and uncertainty for our students, educators and families. As a result, we are strongly opposed to this legislation.

Our broad and diverse coalition recognizes the importance of having clear and rigorous academic standards that help students build toward future success. We are making important progress and need to continue doing so. For the reasons discussed today, we are opposed to House Bill 4192.

Thank you for your time.

Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards


For more information, please contact Lindsay Case Palsrok at lcase@detroitchamber.com.

New Study: Does Better Recess Equal a Better School Day in Detroit?

Randomized controlled trial of popular recess program shows widespread benefits, including less bullying, more physical activity, and more time for teaching.

DETROIT,MI, May 14, 2013 — A new study released today from Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University suggests that there may be more to recess than just a break in the school day.

The randomized controlled trial of Playworks, a nonprofit organization that delivers a safe, healthy recess in low-income elementary schools in 22 U.S. cities, including Detroit, found that the program reduced bullying, enhanced feelings of safety at school, increased vigorous physical activity during recess, and provided more time for classroom teaching. The research raises the possibility that what happens at recess can affect a school’s learning environment in important ways, and that improving recess and play may enable schools to address a number of pressing issues at the same time.

“These findings reinforce what we have seen across the nation in schools that partner with Playworks to make recess and play a priority,” said Nancy Barrand, senior advisor for program development with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This study suggests that a great recess is an essential building block for healthy school environments that help kids thrive socially, emotionally, and physically.”

Key findings include:

  • Less Bullying. Teachers in Playworks schools reported significantly less bullying and exclusionary behavior during recess compared to teachers in control schools—a 43 percent difference in average rating scores.
  • Increased Feelings of Safety at School. Playworks teachers’ average rating of students’ feelings of safety at school was 20 percent higher than the average rating reported by teachers in control schools.
  • More Vigorous Physical Activity. Accelerometer data showed that children in Playworks schools spent significantly more time engaged in vigorous physical activity at recess than their peers in control schools (14 percent versus 10 percent of recess time—a 43 percent difference).
  • Ready to Learn. Teachers in Playworks schools reported spending significantly less time to transition from recess to learning activities (34 percent fewer minutes).

According to Susanne James-Burdumy, Ph.D., education area leader for Mathematica, “Playworks had a positive impact on outcomes in the school climate, conflict resolution and aggression, learning and academic performance, and physical activity domains. These impacts suggest that Playworks was beneficial to schools, teachers, and students along multiple dimensions.”

Despite shrinking budgets, schools are faced with the challenge of boosting academic performance while also having to address the social, emotional, and physical needs of students. Recess and other school-based playtime are some of the least-studied elements of the school day. Elementary school principals and teachers often say, however, that as goes recess, so goes the school day. Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that “recess is a necessary break in the day for optimizing a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.”

This new research contributes to a growing body of evidence that a safe, healthy, and organized recess environment—like the one Playworks provides—has the potential to be a key driver of better behavior and learning. A non-experimental study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco found that students from schools with Playworks reported higher levels of physical activity, participation at school, problem-solving, and goals/aspirations compared to students from schools without Playworks. In another evaluation, the Harvard Family Research Project credited Playworks with improving cooperation and bonds among students and between kids and adults in school. In Baltimore, principals have reported using programs such as Playworks to make progress in reducing conflict and suspensions.

“If we want to bring out the best in our kids, we should start by giving them a great recess,” said Jill Vialet, CEO and founder of Playworks. “A great recess primes young people to learn and puts them in a better position to succeed in school and in life. It’s also something every school
can provide.”

Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center at Stanford University conducted a rigorous evaluation of Playworks during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. Twenty-nine schools interested in Playworks were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Data were collected from students, teachers, school staff and administrative records to document key outcomes related to school climate, conflict resolution and aggression, learning and academic performance, youth development, student behavior, play, physical activity and recess.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable and timely change. For nearly 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.

About Playworks
Playworks is a national nonprofit organization that transforms schools by providing play and physical activity at recess and throughout the school day. Through on-site direct service and trainer-led professional development workshops, Playworks restores valuable teaching time, reduces bullying, increases physical activity and improves the school and learning environment.

Playworks currently serves 367 schools in 22 cities and reaches nearly 270,000 students directly and through training services in more than 475 additional schools and community organizations. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other investors, Playworks is fulfilling an ambitious national expansion effort with the goal of operating in 27 cities across the country by 2016, providing play and physical activity to more than 1 million students every day.

About Mathematica Policy Research
Mathematica Policy Research seeks to improve public well-being by conducting studies and assisting clients with program evaluation and policy research, survey design and data collection, research assessment and interpretation and program performance/data management. Its clients include foundations, federal and state governments and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company, with offices in Princeton, NJ; Ann Arbor, MI; Cambridge, MA; Chicago, IL; Oakland, CA; and Washington, DC; has conducted some of the most important studies of education, health care, nutrition, international, disability, family support, employment and early childhood policies and programs.

About the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University
The John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University partners with communities to carry out three inter-related goals. Develop Leadership: Build relationships and capacity among community organizations to identify shared challenges; foster partnership between the university and community to engage in evidence-based inquiry and decision-making to find common solutions related to youth and communities. Conduct Research: Collect and analyze data to understand youth across contexts and across a range of developmental domains; engage in high-quality evaluation of youth-serving programs and services. Effect Change: Support community stakeholders to translate research findings into actionable knowledge, and to identify the most effective levers for programmatic and policy improvement.

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