Michigan's Public Education System

Purpose

The intention of this project is to use the power of Geographic Information Systems to display the spatial relationship of public shcools in the State of Michigan. Using Michigan's 550 School Districts as a basis for analysis, the following pages contain different maps for different variables grouped under for main headings. The first heading, Basics, covers the elemental information of interest to school districts, size and financial indicators. In addition, this heading provides a map for the closely scrutinized student to teacher ratio or pupil to teacher ratio. The next two sections delve into understanding how some of Michigan's more progressive school reform programs have impacted local public schools. First, the Schools of Choice maps show how many students a district has enrolled from outside its geographical boundaries. Second, the Charter Schools maps show many students are attending charter schools, or Public School Academies as they are properly termed, within a district's boundaries. The final section displays maps that exhibit what percentage of students scored a passing grade on the state's standardize test, Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP).

These maps should be a value to anyone with an interest in education. In essence, that should be just about everybody; not just parents, teachers, and administrators, but also tax payers, politicians, students, and city leaders. In particular, education has amazing implications in the urban planning sphere. This importance is often overlooked by officials. There are a couple of reasons for this assertion. Firstly, the quality ofthe local school system and in many cases a particular school building is usually one of the most deciding considerations in a homebuyer's decision. The cumulative result of thousands and thousands of purchases driven by the search for better education systems is a major force behind the abandonment of older suburbs for greener pastures typically at lower densities. Secondly most of the time, the local school district is one of the largest employers in its jurisdiction. The contributions and power they wield in this regard in the economy and polity is immense.

Data

  • Most of the data for this project came from the 1999 Michigan School District Report which is available from the Michigan Department of Education online at http://www.mde.state.mi.us/reports/msr/index.shtml.
  • The shapefiles used came from Michigan State University Map Library's GIS page (http://www.lib.msu.edu/coll/main/maps/datadown.html")
  • A good portion of the work on this project was converting the Michigan School District Report into a database file that was useful in ArcView. First, a key had to be created and checked that linked the records in the School District Report to the spatial shapefile. The School District Report contained all the information for individual school buildings as well as the entire school district so all the building records had to be purged. Then, many of the values in School District Report had to be converted from text to numbers, an arduous process. The final database file can be downloaded via the following link: MIeducation Data