Michigan's State Board of Education spent the day today listening to presentations from state officials and education association representatives on what needs to be done to make Michigan a top 10 education state in the next 10 years. Currently, Michigan is in the bottom 15 states ranked by student academic performance. Amber Arellano (Education Trust MidWest) reported that student achievement has declined in Michigan over the past few years, and Jeff Guilfoyle (Public Sector Consultants) explained that this decline was likely due to the economic crisis that resulted in an increase in students living in poverty in the state. There is also declining enrollment in the public schools because of a reduction in Michigan's population and increased competition for student enrollment. All of the presenters agreed that improving Michigan's educational system and it student outcomes is a worthy goal.
I noted many of the recommendations made today regarding things that the State Board of Education should consider on this journey to recreate Michigan into a top 10 education state. Here is what the presenters shared:
- Invest in early childhood education.
- Make sure all kids are in school. Address barriers to attendance such as discipline policies and support for students.
- Raise the expectations and close the achievement gaps for all students in Michigan's schools.
- Define common curricular standards for all students. Develop a coherent policy for teachers to implement. Early literacy is key for academic success in all areas. Do not narrow the curriculum; instead keep the arts, music, and literature for a well rounded education.
- Personalize education for all students.
- Address the needs of students with disabilities.
- Assessments: Reduce standardized tests so they are used as benchmarks every few years &/or Use assessments to guide instruction.
- Enhance school choice (at least within current public school options).
- Engage parents. Strengthen the school to home connection.
- Allow students to take more ownership in the school and in their own education.
- Encourage site based management with parent & community collaboration.
- Educators matter. Honor the profession and compensate them fairly. Provide more professional development. Use evaluations to provide meaningful feedback. Employ and retain effective teachers. Solicit their input on changes to our educational system.
- Bring in talented people even if they are not traditionally trained.
- The classroom is key.
- Make clear connections for students to post secondary education.
- Fix the funding formula in light of Michigan's declining student population and increasing completion among schools for these monies. Equalize spending among districts. Consider more money for higher cost to educate students (poverty, special needs, etc.).
- The charter schools association recommended that the State develop a school accountability system that would close poor performing public schools. The unions recommended that charter schools be required to have a certificate of need in order to open new schools within a community.
Many presenters talked of using bold solutions to address big problems that involve transformational leadership and approaching school reform in new ways. Sandra York of the Parent Teacher Association recommended that Michigan set a goal of maximizing the options of all students in the state.
Bruce Umpstead (Scaleup Education Partners) & I presented a vision of Michigan having all students engaged in meaningful tasks that result in authentic and beautiful work based on our experience last year at High Tech High in San Diego. Their philosophy is one of integrated learning where all students take the same core classes together, teachers (rather than textbooks) design the learning experience, and students drive their own learning. It is a system where equity is embraced, each person is treated with dignity, and all students engage in deeper learning.
The Michigan Board of Education has a big task ahead of them in setting the direction for the future of our educational system. My hope is that we will come together and develop a meaningul educational experience for all of our kids where they can engage in authentic tasks that make a difference in their schools and communities today and prepare them for success in the future.