‘Michigan Achieves’ Campaign Addressing State’s Education Slide


Michigan’s public education system is falling behind lower-achieving states that have ranked below the Great Lakes State, announced a report this week.

Education Trust-Midwest, a non-partisan interest group, publishes a yearly Michigan Achieves report, and this year’s document has the organization concerned about the direction public education in the state is heading, says Kyle Feldscher, writing for MLive Media Group.

The organization’s executive director, Amber Arellano, said the state is definitely moving in the wrong direction where public education is concerned, but she remains hopeful that Michigan can reach the goal of becoming a Top 10 state.

“We’re now on track to perform lower than the nation’s lowest-performing states, like Arkansas,” she said.

The report shows that white students will possibly be 49th out of 50 in fourth grade reading by 2019, while African American and Hispanic students are dropping dramatically in overall education achievement. At the current rate, Michigan stands to be in the bottom 10 states for student achievement by the year 2030.

Furthermore, according to the report, Michigan ranks 47th in college affordability, 45th for low-income students, and in the bottom 10 for funding equity – the funding gap between low-income school districts and high-income school districts. Michigan also has the third-highest rate of home suspensions for African-American students in the nation.

“I’m a Michigander too, and — I know it’s a terrible stereotype of ours — but I really am shocked to see Michigan ranked below historically low-achieving states,” said Terry Gallagher, a senior leader on the Michigan Achieves campaign . “I had a different picture, and we need to paint a different picture.”

The Michigan Achieves campaign, which was begun this week, has plans to recommend detailed strategies to improve teaching quality, increase standards, require more accountability for schools, and increase learning opportunities for all state students by improving funding equity.

Arellano notes that the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder are pushing for improvement in teacher evaluation standards and third-grade reading proficiency. She added that the campaign has borrowed ideas from states with high performance rankings like Massachusetts, Florida, and Tennessee.

“This is not about ideology. This is a conversation that shouldn’t be about special interest groups,” she said. “This is about what needs to happen for kids and what we should focus on in schools.”

Education Trust-Midwest is interested in improving teaching quality and school leadership, which are important predictors of student success. Also, the group wants to expand advanced placement courses which are often precursors to college enrollment for students and for a successful college experience, reports CBS Detroit.

The Detroit News reports some of the other recommendations from the Education Trust’s analysis including spending $4 million to $5 million annually on educator training, enforcing accountability for charter school operators, and adjusting policies to reduce student and teacher absences.

Another action by Gov. Snyder was praised by the report – his initiative to provide pre-K for all young people in the state.

Rebecca Kruth, reporting for Michigan Public Radio, states that ETM is encouraging parents, teachers, school administrators, business leaders, and civic groups to support its new campaign.

“It’s a clarion call for everyone who really cares deeply about our schools and really wants to spend focused time rebuilding our public education system,” Arellano said.