Michigan Approves Slate of Steps to Improve Educational Achievement

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Michigan officials are determined to move within the top 10 highest-achieving states in the education realm, and to do this, the State Board of Education and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) have created a set of 31 strategies that have been approved this week. The steps are part of the MDE’s efforts to turn around a system that has faced monumental problems with academic achievement.

The goal is to turn Michigan’s public schools into some of the best in the country. Currently, the state has lagged behind other states that have improved students’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a test that measures a representative sample of pupils in every state, writes Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press.

Meanwhile, the new and more rigorous Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress scores have shown that schools are not where they should be to assure students can reach the proficiency required in the higher standards.

When Brian Whiston became the state superintendent in July, he, along with the MDE and state board, began reaching out to educators, parents, advocates, and lawmakers. The board approved a set of goals, and now the steps needed to achieve the goals have been adopted.

Whiston says his priorities begin with helping students in early childhood education all the way through post-secondary education. He adds that he wants to include business in the formula to produce an extremely competent workforce.

He emphasizes the fact that including families in their children’s education and taking measures to lessen the effect of poverty on the learning process are crucial for a sound education.

Governor Rick Snyder announced in his 2016 State of the State address the start of the 21st Century Learning Commission, which will relate to the work Whiston is supporting. Establishing priorities is the next step to move Michigan from the bottom third in the country to a top 10 state.

Also this week, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, chairman of the Michigan Special Education Reform Task Force, offered a report, writes Anne Runkle for Digital First Media. The task force was formed in October by Snyder to suggest reforms and create policy recommendations that will improve special education.

“It became clear as the task force met that the state’s responsibility for educating children needs to be refocused,” Calley said. “Everyone in Michigan deserves a chance to live a self-determined independent life and an effective education is essential to achieving that outcome.”

The broad goals discussed at a meeting of the State Board of Education include improving classroom instruction, building a better connection in Michigan’s K-12 schools system, and developing and supporting teachers, according to Brian McVicar, reporting for MLive Media Group.

“The strategies provide an overall vision of how Michigan can become a top ten performing state in 10 years,” said Martin Ackley, Director of Public and Governmental Affairs at the Michigan Department of Education.

If State Superintendent Whiston has his way, the plan will encompass industry, labor, and higher education officials. He also understands that many of the proposals will require legislative approval, so he is anxious to have bipartisan support, according to WLNS-TV.