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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2014/04/my-schools-great-its-detroit-thats-failing-and-other-myths/

Talent & education

My school’s great, it’s Detroit that’s failing – and other myths

Since 2009, Detroit students have posted worst-in-the-nation test scores among large urban school districts, drawing unwanted attention that still dogs the city today.

But if people in Michigan think bad test scores are confined to poor students in big cities, they’re wrong.

“We can’t afford to take our time getting back to good (academic) health…Every single day that a child isn’t learning in the most effective way is a day lost, and another day that chips away at that child’s eventual ability to contribute to the state.” Elizabeth Moje, associate dean for research and community engagement at the University of Michigan School of Education.

In fourth and eighth-grade reading and math – key barometers of student learning – Michigan students of different races and income levels have fallen behind their demographic peers in other states, and the gaps are widening. Over the past decade, Michigan has been lapped by states as liberal as Massachusetts, as conservative as Tennessee, and as close as Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.

“I think everyone thinks it’s fine in their own school district, but it’s not,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, an advocacy group comprised of top executives from the state’s largest companies and universities working to improve the state’s economy. “It’s a statewide problem.”

Which is why Bridge is launching a year-long examination of Michigan’s declining educational fortunes and what steps lawmakers, schools and others can take to improve student performance, including the study and adoption of policies proven to work elsewhere. Inaction will only compound the crisis.

“It’s embarrassing to be so far behind the other states in the Midwest and the nation and the world,” said Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, which advocates for public school academies and education choice in Michigan.

In a state with some of the nation’s best public universities, less than a third of fourth graders are proficient in reading, and less than a third of eighth graders are proficient in math, according to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which compares student performance across the country. But the problem extends across a wide cross-section of the state’s demography. Consider:

  • In fourth grade math, Michigan’s white students tied for seventh on the NAEP in 2003. Ten years later, they tied for 35th.
  • African-American students in Michigan ranked 26th in 4th-grade math 2003. In 2013, they were tied for last in the nation among the 44 states with reported NAEP scores.
  • In fourth-grade reading, Michigan students who are not from low-income families fell from a national rank of seventh in 2003 to 27th in 2013.
  • Eighth-grade math students in the 75th percentile of academic performance in Michigan – in other words, those considered above-average — were ranked 9th in 2003 when compared with above-average students in other states. A decade later they had fallen to 30th.

Michigan hasn’t always been near the bottom. A decade ago, Michigan’s fourth graders were bested by only 11 other states in math. By last year, Michigan was looking up at 35 states, statistically beating out only students in Alabama, New Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Michigan is now one of only two states (West Virginia is the other) north of the Mason-Dixon line whose students fell below the national average considered “proficient” in math for both fourth and eighth graders in 2013.

NAEP1

It’s the kind of news that can turn a room of business leaders in West Michigan numb.

“People gasp. There’s silence,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the nonprofit Education Trust-Midwest, describing such a meeting where Michigan’s rankings were presented. “It was almost like being at a funeral.”

No one wants to bury the state just yet, and many in Lansing are working on a host of changes that could improve education in Michigan. But Arellano, Rothwell, Naeyaert and others said they are fearful what will happen if the state does not make changes like improving teacher quality, helping struggling students get help early, and ensuring Michigan students can compete with students across the nation and around the world.

NAEP2

Economy needs prepared students

Michigan’s political and business leaders have long warned that the low-skilled factory jobs of years past are vanishing, and high school graduates need some kind of education – either post-secondary training or a two- or four-year college degree – to fill the more demanding, higher-tech jobs of the future.

But national and state data show many of Michigan’s students may be unprepared.

“Michigan now ranks well below the national public average on every grade and subject and for virtually every subgroup across all four tests of national assessment,” said Sarah Lenhoff, director of policy and research for Ed Trust-Midwest, which published its latest report, “Stalled to Soaring: Michigan’s Path to Educational Recovery,” today.

In addition to pointing out the problems – Michigan was, for instance, one of only six states to post lower scores in 2013 than a decade earlier in fourth-grade reading – Ed Trust-Midwest’s report looks to Massachusetts and Tennessee for potential solutions.

In Massachusetts, once known as much for its textile plants as its clam chowder, the state has spent the past 20 years adopting tougher academic standards, increasing teacher training, targeting funding to poor schools and creating a high-quality charter school system, according to Ed Trust-Midwest.

Tennessee invested early in higher academic standards and a more comprehensive system for evaluating teachers, and implemented Common Core curriculum standards in phases.

Results in both states have been impressive.

In fourth-grade math, Massachusetts students, already among the top performers in 2003, saw its score rise from 242 to 253 in 2013. Over the same decade, Tennessee went from 228 to 240. By contrast, Michigan inched from 236 to 237, a statistical standstill, over that same period.

Tennessee recorded some of the biggest NAEP gains in the country in 2013 and its African-American students, once on par with Michigan’s, are now substantially ahead. Ed Trust-Midwest estimates that African-American fourth-grade math students in Tennessee are now half a year ahead of African-American students in Michigan.

A challenge for Lansing

Among those most concerned about Michigan student performance are educators who worry what could happen in the state if it doesn’t solve its education woes.

“We can’t afford to take our time getting back to good (academic) health,” said Elizabeth Moje, associate dean for research and community engagement at the University of Michigan School of Education. “These children are our future. And every single day that a child isn’t learning in the most effective way is a day lost, and another day that chips away at that child’s eventual ability to contribute to the state.”

Which puts the burden back on Lansing, which has passed myriad education reforms over the past three years, many of them controversial, including measures that lifted a cap on charter schools in the state and tied teacher tenure and evaluation to student test scores. Lawmakers are now considering changes in the way public schools are funded, and how to best implement a statewide teacher evaluation system and the Common Core, rigorous curriculum standards that have been adopted by 44 states.

Rothwell said it’s imperative that Michigan’s leaders implement Common Core and tests that are aligned to the new standards, which would allow parents across Michigan to compare how their children and schools perform compare with students and schools across the country. But adopting the last stages of Common Core have hit a roadblock, with a growing chorus of critics saying the standards will take away local control.

Though many agree the state’s education system is in crisis, finding the appropriate solution continues to be difficult. Michigan lawmakers, educators and interest groups continue to clash over everything from school funding formulas to graduation standards, charter school expansion and how to best close the state’s yawning achievement gap that leaves low-income students and children of color far behind their white, more affluent classmates.

And finding a solution that requires more spending may prove difficult in a state that’s just coming out of the Great Recession and has cut billions of dollars from state and local budgets.

“I think there’s a crisis of performance and lack of growth,” said John Austin, president of the state Board of Education. “There’s also a crisis of schools being able to deliver good education and run programs,” he said, pointing out nearly four dozen districts are running deficits and two-thirds of districts and a third of public charter schools face declining enrollment.

“The whole system is under stress and not performing. We need to get our heads around what’s broke and how do we fix it.”

Naeyaert, of GLEP, recognizes that lawmakers may lack the “stomach” to raise taxes. But he said that’s not necessarily the solution anyway. His organization has called for changes in how the state allocates funding. He said school choice must remain in Michigan and that the state should reward programs that succeed — and punish those that don’t.

While GLEP may be at odds with Austin and others on funding strategies, Naeyaert said there is agreement that state residents should pay as much attention to poor test scores as they are now paying to poor roads. “I think the start of any conversation has to start with what’s happening in the classroom.” he said.

Business and political leaders have contended for nearly a decade that education is the salve to the state’s unprecedented decline in income To get there, everyone will have to support education policies that are proven to help students, not only in individual communities but across Michigan, experts say. Bridge will highlight many of those initiatives, some in Michigan, some elsewhere, in future reports.

“Does it matter to me that the kids in the county next to me are doing well? It should,” said Karen McPhee, superintendent of the Ottawa Intermediate School District. “We all live in an economic reality larger than ourselves. We have to be in the business of educating the whole state.”

Senior Bridge staff writer Ron French contributed.

Mike Wilkinson is Bridge’s computer-assisted reporting specialist. Mike held a similar role at The Detroit News. See more stories by him here.

26 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Rick

    Let’s see – we cut education funding to give businesses tax cuts…

    This is the result.

  2. Steve K

    Of course, this does leave out one very important factor. Test scores correlate to income levels in many cases. Michigan’s recent economic woes (over the last decade or so) have driven many of our best educated residents to other states. As a high school teacher of nearly twenty years, I can tell you that I have more former students living outside Michigan than remaining in Michigan. And this is especially true of those who have graduated from college.

    Any glance at a study of standardized test scores will show the connection between household income and education levels and test scores. Compare our economic plight over the last decade to other states and you’ll see that the connection between our “educational fortunes” and that of other states makes sense.

    And while Naeyaert (who works for a DeVos funded organization) can tout school choice, there is no evidence to show that choice makes a significant difference. One can argue that parents should have a choice but Detroit has had charters for two decades and still remains an educational challenge. It is logical to assume that greater choice does not necessarily or routinely equate to better large scale outcomes.

    1. Mike E

      That may be a piece of it Steve, but, looking at the data above, the slide begins pre-2008.

      1. Barry

        Mike
        Yes the slide began when divided government in Michigan could never agree on any solution. However a single party government which took power in 2009 and promised to solve all of our problems by cutting budgets has made things significantly worse

    2. Al Churchill

      There are countless, countless studies that conclude a one to one correlation between income, demographic circumstances or socio-economic circumstance and student success in school. If you take a longitudinal look at MEAP scores you will find that year after year more affluent communities do proportionally well while poorer districts do proportionally less well. It is cast in concrete. You simply cannot, as the writers of this article have done, use raw scores to compare the quality of one school system against another system.

      Nor should one accept, at face value, the conclusions of research or opinion cited just because it is there. In this article, one of the sources quoted has a dog in the fight. Ed Trust, for example, is based in Washington DC with a branch in Royal Oak. It is funded by a lot of foundations that advocate for the absolute disaster that passes for school reform these days. They are funded by the Gates Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation the Walton Family Foundation and other “reform” organizations. Ed Trust is not an independent, unbiased research group. They are an advocacy group. Be careful.

  3. Barry

    It is interesting that the State of Michigan has reached the goal of being just like Mississippi and other southern States as our local legislators have wished. unfortunately their goal was to have the poor wages and great business climate of those States. They do not seem to realize the result would be to emulate the poor quality of the southern tier in all respects.
    Mr. Naeryaert wishes to punish poor performing districts. I believe we should bring them up to par. Punishment only punishes the students and makes things worse. Most “punishment” is a reduction in funds. We have seen how well that works.
    The education of our children MUST be our first priority. Even in the early beginnings of our country, public education was important. Read the Northwest Ordinance which established the States around the Great Lakes. Salvaging our environment so we can live in Michigan is our second priority. The rest will follow.

  4. Thomas

    Why would anybody be shocked by these statistics? They are the natural result of a society that has been disinvesting in people for decades. Who in their right mind would go into teaching these days? We’ve demonized teachers, public schools, public workers and the poor, one in five of whom are children in this State. The middle class jobs that weren’t replaced by technology have been sent to China. We have starved the public schools of just enough resources to guarantee their failure. We don’t invest in anything anymore, least of all education. Have you looked at the most recent Paul Ryan proposed Republican budget? More money for the corporate war machine and lower taxes for the gazillionaires – goodbye Medicare, goodbye food stamps, goodbye Obamacare, goodbye Pell grants, and on and on.
    The ultra-rich want not one dime more of their money to go for taxes, but thank you Supreme Court for allowing them to spend unlimited amounts to buy the government. That is one investment that’s actually working.

  5. Eric

    Milliken v. Bradley

  6. Duane

    Mr. Wilkinson and Bridge have the Detroit 3 manufacturing mentality. Bridge only see numbers, from the ’30,000 foot’ level. They seem unable to look at the individual.

    Mr. Wilkinson’s report is shows no understanding or interest in the individual students. He must not have read Mr. French’s articles on Albion and Marshal where it was about the students not about the Michigan system or performance.

    When will he and others realize that each student succeeds or fails based on their efforts and that their learning is not somehow ‘manufactured’ by the State educational system, that they are not the product of what people in Lansing do. There are too many stories of those who have succeeded in the poorest performing schools and in the poorest performing classrooms, and there are those failing in the best performing classrooms and the best performing schools. There are those who live in ‘wealthy’ homes and those who live in ‘poor’ homes that are succeeding and failing. There are those succeeding sitting next to those who are failing and they are all in the current Michigan school system. When does Mr. Wilkinson and Bridge, when do those in Lansing and the educators, accept that it is the student who determines their own success or failure.

    Why aren’t they looking for those successes and investigating them? Why aren’t they trying to learn how and why those students succeed? Why aren’t they asking the successful students what barriers they have had to overcome and how they have done it? Why do those at Bridge, those around Michigan always want to turn to Lansing, what ‘magic’ have the people in Lansing created that has shown us any success?

    We heard from some of the students in Mr. French’s articles they mentioned, expectations, respect, responsibility, they were referring to their fellow students, they weren’t talking about Lansing. We heard how Albion High School has struggled and yet we heard from alums that had succeeded, why did they succeed, why doesn’t Mr. Wilkinson, why doesn’t Bridge, why don’t those in Lansing, why don’t many who read these articles ask about those successes?

    Why don’t we look for success and learn from those successes?

    1. Cris

      There’s no need to put the words poor or wealthy in quotation marks – some families are poor and some families are wealthy. If you are from a poor family and you do well in school, you’ve got a chance of making it. If you from a wealthy family and you do poorly in school, you’ve still got a very good chance of making it. And the very idea that it is primarily the effort of individual children that is the determining factor behind success or failure in school is a position that cannot be substantiated. Regarding the tendency to look to Lansing, one reason that communities do so is that Lansing, for good or for ill, currently exercises and demands to exercise ever more control over the facilities, the personnel, and the curriculum. It is my experience that if people who care about the educational achievement of children could ignore Lansing and still be successful in their endeavors, they would do so.

      1. Duane

        Cris,

        I put weathly and poor in quotes because I have no idea of how other define them. I don’t know if it is based soley on income? if it includes quality of life and family support? if it is about social status?
        I put them in quotes because I am using others words of poor and wealthy, not my own.

        What criteria do you use for define being wealthy or poor? Is there any in between? Do you consider a student’s family wealth more important than a supportive family? Is it about being poor or is it about having a stable home, clean clothes, and regular meals?

        I don’t see financial situation as being the reasons for determining academics or life successes.

        “And the very idea that it is primarily the effort of individual children that is the determining factor behind success or failure in school is a position that cannot be substantiated.” Have you ever heard or known of a student that succeeded inspite of being ‘poor’, attending a poorly preforming school or school system, having a single parent who was illiterate? Have you ever heard of Dr. Ben Carson? Have you ever wonder how or why that person succeeded? Have you ever asked why some kids in the same classroom succeeded and others failed? How can you be so sure it isn’t the child who decides with their efforts whether they learn or not? You say I don’t have evidence, then what evidence do you offer that shows I am wrong? I believe there is enough anadotal evidence that it can and does happen to show the possibility that the student is more important than it is given consideration for.

        “Lansing, for good or for ill, currently exercises and demands to exercise “, are you so sure or could it have been that the communities gave it to Lansing out of convenience, wanting other people’s money rather then asking their reisdence for more while their schools provided less?

        ” if people who care about the educational achievement of children could ignore Lansing ” why are you so sure they can’t? Before the funding was shifted to Lansing they were doing it. There are communities doing it now inspite of Lansing. Just because Mr. Wilkinson only reports on how it looks from ’30,000 feet’ doesn’t mean there aren’t successes happening all around.

        Look at youself, and ask how and why you succeeded. Was it because you studied, you did the homework, you respected your education and the teachers, that you expected to succeed? Do you recall those around you in school, did some succeed and some fail? Did they all do the homework, did they all study, did they all expect to succeed, did they all respect the education/people that were helping them to learn?

        You may believe it is Lansing that is the center for success or failure. I believe if the student has the desire they can succeed inspite of Lansing. I feel we should be looking to the students to identify the successes and learn how and why they succeed and what barriers they are having to overcome. With that knowledge we can help others succeed.

    2. Al Churchill

      School districts are required by state and federal governments to report the number of parents that attend parent-teacher conferences. In Livonia, where I live, 96% of parents attend. In some poorer districts, you might get 7 or 8 parents in a class that attend. You can bet that the children of those 7 or 8 parents have a better chance to succeed. Indeed, the Michigan Department of Education says that the most reliable predictor of student success in school is the degree that parents involve themselves in their childs’ education.

    3. Al Churchill

      School districts are required by state and federal governments to report the number of parents that attend parent-teacher conferences. In Livonia, where I live, 96% of parents attend. In some poorer districts, you might get 7 or 8 parents in a class that attend. You can bet that the children of those 7 or 8 parents have a better chance to succeed. Indeed, the Michigan Department of Education says that the most reliable predictor of student success in school is the degree that parents involve themselves in their childs’ education.

      1. Mike Wilkinson

        Al: I checked with the state and they DO NOT track attendance at student-teacher conferences. So what you are hearing is anecdotal. So if you’re hearing one thing about Livonia because someone knows because they work there, that’s a singular number. Unless you talked with teachers and administrators in other districts, you would be unable to compare.

        1. Al Churchill

          Good try Mike, but no cigar. The federal government requires the data and,as I understand, the state makes sure school districts comply. The parent-teacher data in Livonia was taken from their Annual Education Report. The 7 or 8 student figure was stated to me on two different occasions by two different school administrators. One was retired and working to set up a charter in an urban school district. He was given the 7 or 8 number by an administrator who worked in the urban district. I’m sure that if you go through the federal data, you will find that to be true.

          I would suggest that you reread the first comment in response to your article. The guy who wrote it poked a very large hole in the fundamental assumption underlying your article. You simply cannot evaluate the quality of a school system by using only the raw score of test. It is a fact, cast in concrete, that the socio-economic or demographic condition of the family or community has to be integrated into the evaluation. The Center For Michigan uses that assumption when, annually, you determine the quality of each school district in the state.

          Like I said Mike, good try. But no cigar. .

  7. Bill Fullmer

    The main point of the article is very important. I suggest we need to step back and try to see the forest before proposing any significant reforms.
    There has always been a range of learning abilities and the Education System alone won’t change that. In a similar vein, there has always been a range of jobs in the market place with some being more cerebral or brainy than others. All young people need some basic skills that enable on-going learning. These include reading, writing, math in a big way, and an appreciation for learning (the joy of learning, the surprises that delight).
    We like to categorize things, often to a fault I think. Writings on Education are good at this. But, schools are not the soul of learning, nor is any one source the soul of learning. The foundation for learning forms largely in the first three years of life as I understand the brain development people. The infant begins by inheriting a set of genes(a) and is raised by people(b) who may or may not be focused on nurturing a strong foundation for learning and growing. Some may enter day care programs(c) while others not. Then the Education System begins(d).
    Throughout this there remains a family of some sort, living in a culture of some sort, in an economic niche of some sort, with a stability of some sort, etc., etc..
    So while the teaching of our young people in Michigan can be improved, I have no doubt, lets broaden the playing field to keep the child’s development in proper perspective. The a,b,c,d above is the playing field I’m talking about. Fact 1: I have nothing useful to offer right now regarding “a”, the inheritance of genes. But “b” , child rearing, can be impacted if brought into the discussion. A key here is, are we willing to invest in this, and if the answer is no then we’re setting ourselves up for a less than good school outcome for many students right from the start.
    Michigan has recently made some level of commitment to enhancing early childhood education (c) which is commendable. We’ll see how this goes. And now finally, after getting the child to age 5 we come to the formal Education System(d). Here my plea will be to think simple and get out of the way of good teachers and let them teach (but first ensure they are good and creative). Students need some basic skills/tools like reading, language skills, and math. Then they also need to be exposed to a wide range of aspects of our/their world to have a sense of what’s there and how they fit into it. Biology and chemistry are key, but so is exposure to the performing and fine arts, literature, Social Studies, History, and perhaps above all, critical thinking and the joy of learning throughout life.
    Will this produce a class of 4.0 grade point students? Of course not. It will produce a diverse group of students who have basic skills and appreciation for learning, with some moving toward highly intellectual careers and others moving toward less intellectual careers. Life will be good for them because they are very good readers, and well rounded individuals who know how to think and to enjoy learning.

    1. Chuck Jordan

      Excellent post. Actually, the problems begin before birth. We need to begin with prenatal health care for women and young children. We should not underestimate the joy of learning. The emphasis on testing and testing to the exclusion of a broad based curriculum is killing that joy of learning.

  8. Deborah Riddick

    A significant and overarching factor impacting educational outcomes that remains unaddressed is the underlying mental health status of our student population. There are thousands of Michigan students who are currently suffering from depression, anger management issues, and post-traumatic stress related to physical and sexual abuse, bullying and loss due to violence and incarceration. Students who suffer from unaddressed mental health problems make the learning experience more challenging for both student and teacher, and success less likely.

    A recent MDCH review of its self-reported student risk assessments clearly illuminated this very serious issue. It offers some insight to this unpublicized yet highly significant contributing factor to Michigan’s dismal educational results. And in recognition of this growing problem, Michigan’s Mental Health and Wellness Commission, chaired by Lt. Gov. Calley, indicated in its 2013 report that expansion of mental health services within its Child and Adolescent Health Centers was necessary and appropriate. Unfortunately this recommendation was not prioritized in either House or Senate FY 2014-15 budgets.

    Unless the State and its partners in education reform are willing to openly and aggressively address this major obstacle to educational readiness, we will have wasted an extraordinary amount of time, money and resources without any realistic capacity for return on investment. But more importantly, administrators, educators and the students themselves will be labeled and penalized, unjustifiably, because of this failure to respond to the growing mental health challenges facing our students. A complementary strategy to treat the mild to moderate mental health problems of our students must be embraced and actively pursued by anyone genuinely interested in achieving meaningful and sustainable improvement in student educational and personal success.

    Deborah Riddick RN, JD

  9. deborah riddick

    A significant and overarching factor impacting educational outcomes that remains unaddressed is the underlying mental health status of our student population. There are thousands of Michigan students who are currently suffering from depression, anger management issues, and post-traumatic stress related to physical and sexual abuse, bullying and loss due to violence and incarceration. Students who suffer from unaddressed mental health problems make the learning experience more challenging for both student and teacher, and success less likely.

    A recent MDCH review of its self-reported student risk assessments clearly illuminated this very serious issue. It offers some insight to this unpublicized yet highly significant contributing factor to Michigan’s dismal educational results. And in recognition of this growing problem, Michigan’s Mental Health and Wellness Commission, chaired by Lt. Gov. Calley, indicated in its 2013 report that expansion of mental health services within its Child and Adolescent Health Centers was necessary and appropriate. Unfortunately this recommendation was not prioritized in either House or Senate FY 2014-15 budgets.

    Unless the State and its partners in education reform are willing to openly and aggressively address this major obstacle to educational readiness, we will have wasted an extraordinary amount of time, money and resources without any realistic capacity for return on investment. But more importantly, administrators, educators and the students themselves will be labeled and penalized, unjustifiably, because of this failure to respond to the growing mental health challenges facing our students. A complementary strategy to treat the mild to moderate mental health problems of our students must be embraced and actively pursued by anyone genuinely interested in achieving meaningful and sustainable improvement in student educational and personal success.

  10. Chuck Jordan

    It is interesting that the Kids Count data from the Casey foundation came out at about the same time as this report. Education trends along the same lines as our children’s general well-being. It seems to me that the data from both our state and Kids Count show the failures of Choice and Charter schools along with No Child Left Behind over the last 10 or so years. Putting so much emphasis on test scores is at best misleading. The status quo is the last ten years and it is time to try something new. Increasing testing, more charters, especially for profit ones, and more blaming of teachers hasn’t helped, but you can bet that is the direction the “reformers” will go.

  11. Kathy

    The article places responsibility on the school districts, and on Lansing, but what of the students and their parents? Educating is a three legged stool, it takes the teacher, the student and the parent(s). When one or more legs are broken, education will falter. In my experience teachers are testing MORE than ever, following common core state standards, differentiating instruction, using data to guide their instruction. Educators are doing more than ever, yet our state scores are sliding. On the other hand students are disinterested, unmotivated (unless we constantly reward them) and will do as little as possible. This is a generalization, obviously not all, but many. We don’t need Lansing to do more, we need a culture shift in families and communities. Education has lost respect due to articles such as this that bemoan how terrible schools are. This is not blaming the “victims”, it is expressing reality. Yeah…reality can (inhale vigorously)!

  12. ***

    Regarding the poor reading scores – do kids even read just for pleasure anymore or is everything in that area just school work related?

  13. EdChris

    Former Michigan Governor John Engler said that the Common Core Standards are, “the single most effective education advance we have seen in a generation.” These Standards were informed by the best education practices in the country, the highest international standards, and evidence and expertise about educational outcomes. We need college- and career-ready standards because even in high‐performing states, students are graduating and passing all the required tests and still require remediation in their post-secondary work. See more reasons on why it’s time for the Common Core Standards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AF3fCvQPwco

  14. Larry

    I am not a teacher (one of my daughters is), but I have worked as a volunteer with children’s groups for about 40 years now. One of the things that I have noticed is that a large percentage of children by the age of 8 or 9 years cannot even write or print legibly and neatly now. And many, not all, tend to want to get by with the most reward for the least work. In other words, mediocrity has become the accepted norm. Kids today have 10 times the educational tools we had when we were kids. Why then do we set the bar so low.

    My observation as a student of life is that this may have to do with our refusal to be accountable for our own actions. The lack of accountability permeates our society from top to bottom. We don’t want anyone telling us what is right and what is wrong, choosing to shed blame for our own mistakes to other people and circumstances. This starts with parents and rubs off onto our kids. And, teachers are to some extent forced into this same mold, even if they would like to break it.

    So, without accountability, students frequently get a pass. As a parent, doing the right thing is many times very hard. It is always easier in the short haul to do nothing; but the long-term message for our children is devastating. If we as parents (and grandparents) held ourselves accountable, and our children in turn accountable to a higher standard; we may see some change. I suggest we stop accepting mediocrity as the norm. And doing so would not cost us a dime.

  15. mike

    I believe that smaller class sizes especially in lower elementary will improve test scores. Having a class that is over 24 students pushes and limits both teacher and students.

  16. Leon L. Hulett, PE

    To: Mike Wilkinson 3 April 2014 Regarding your article: ‘My school’s great, it’s Detroit that’s failing – and other myths’

    I’m sorry, you are going in a direction I can not follow.

    You said, ‘Bridge is launching a year-long examination of Michigan’s declining educational fortunes and what steps lawmakers, schools and others can take to improve student performance, including the study and adoption of policies proven to work elsewhere.’

    I take the last eight words “and adoption of policies proven to work elsewhere” as the operative words of the article. Correct me if I am wrong here.

    In a word, this looks like ‘Consolidation’ to me.

    I was writing a paper on local history, for our local library and I came across a one page letter written in 1937. I suppose in other areas the consolidation of local one room schools into district schools probably occurred in different years. The letter simply asked the one room schools to report to the county the assets of the school and the operating costs for the previous year. The teacher was $35 a month for 9 months, firewood and misc. was $15 and the school building was worth $426 dollars. This school taught about 35 kids in 1937. The 12 local schools were consolidated into a district school in 1942. Another letter from 1952 from the county described how the county had built the one room schools. This is not how they were built. My brother started school at one of these local schools in 1939, and transferred to the district school in 1942. I started in this district school in 1952. There were 50 students in my class. The district had build six new classrooms. Each classroom was built for 50 students, ‘baby boomers’. My class went through each of them.

    I don’t like consolidation. I think it has more to do with politics and who holds the power, ‘what is best for them’, than it does with what is best for students.

    I wrote the Mission Statement for our local district school years ago, and I included ‘the community’. I was rather hopeful back then. I don’t think they really take that part to heart much, and they do what a local tyrant tells them to do instead.

    So how well does your proposition fit with Bridge’s Mission Statement? I found two, and here is the first one I found:

    ‘Mission statement’

    ‘Bridge Magazine’s philosophy was best set out nearly 200 years before its creation. In his “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote,“The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”

    ‘The Center for Michigan was created to help Michigan citizens develop an agenda to move our state forward.’

    Bridge’s mission is to inform Michigan citizens about their state, amplify their views and explore the challenges of our civic life. Our goal at Bridge is simple: To better inform Michigan’s private citizens so as to encourage a vibrant state in both the private and public sectors.’

    I agree with that mission statement. I can go there. As an advocate for students, I might reword ‘the quality of functions performed by private citizens’, to ‘the quality of functions performed by the student.’ But it actually says that already doesn’t it? Students are private citizens, aren’t they? What if we concentrated on ‘improving the quality of functions performed by the student’, and not so much on the functions of teachers, or public policy only?

    Now for the second mission statement I found for Bridge:

    ‘Motivated by our deeply challenged state economy and a hyper-partisan political culture, we launched the Center with the following mission statement: “Conducting research into public policy issues affecting the people of the state of Michigan, developing public policy initiatives for the improvement of civic leadership in Michigan and educating civic leaders and concerned citizens in Michigan as to more effective approaches to public policy and governance through dissemination of written materials and sponsorship of conferences or forums.”

    Your initiative seems to fit with this second statement, more than it does with the first, the current mission statement.

    I would like to see a year-long initiative that focuses on ‘improving the quality of functions performed by the student.’

    Here are two examples. First, my son was a fourth-grader that could not read well. He was 1.6, he had a one-year six month’s reading level in fourth grade. I hired a tutor for 25 hours. They improved his ability to learn to read, ‘the quality of functions performed the student.’ In 9 months he was at 9th grade reading level. He improved on his own at 2 years of reading grade level per year, through 12th grade reading level.

    To me a tutor working with a student for a few hours, to achieve the ability to increase his own reading level by two years, per calendar year, is important.

    Tutors in California worked with some teachers in the LA School District, in a pilot program, for one year. These teachers demonstrated they could increase their students reading two grade levels in one year. The program was rejected.

    Improving the functions of a teacher, using a tutor, in this way is important.

    My point with these two examples, is that both options would be rejected by your ‘policy’ initiative. They are not ‘policies.’ I would rather see a part of your initiative to include what effective methods others have rejected.

    I think you are abandoning, you have chosen to abandon, the discussion of how we improve ‘the quality of functions performed by the student.’

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