To give a boost to learning in some of Michigan’s neediest middle schools, the state bolstered federal technology money with state funds during the 2004-05 school year to put wireless laptops in the hands of some 20,000 students, mostly 6th graders, and their teachers.
Originally, state leaders had wanted to provide the computers to all of Michigan’s middle school students, but tightening budgets prompted both local and state policymakers to pull back from that ambitious plan. In the end, the state earmarked just $3.7 million for the Freedom to Learn Program, which was then mostly paid for by $22.6 million in federal aid.
Two-thirds of the state money went for professional development, helping teachers make use of computers to monitor student progress and improve classroom learning, says Bruce Montgomery, the executive director of the program.
The state also maintained its $1.75 million subsidy for the Michigan Virtual University, a nonprofit corporation that offers K-12 schools online courses, test preparation, and career guidance. MVU enrolled about 1,000 summer school students in 2004—most of them were high school students, but there were also some middle school students.
Jamey Fitzpatrick, the interim president of the corporation, says he expects MVU to play an important role in meeting Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s goal of doubling the number of Michigan residents who get postsecondary credentials. It is also helping educators meet the federal government’s standard for “highly qualified” teachers, he says, with nearly 100 professional- development workshops for educators expected to be online in spring 2005.