Transforming Education

If, as we and others have argued, education attainment is the key to economic success for both individuals and communities in a flattening world, how you improve education outcomes becomes a central question for community leaders and policymakers.

We need big change. The current reality for Michigan is generally poor results. The best metric for how well our whole system of k-12 education is working is the proportion of high school graduates who are college ready. As I wrote in a previous post ACT calculates that its only eighteen percent, my best guess would be closer to thirty percent. Either is unacceptable!

That data also should take off the table the myth that our k-12 system works well except for urban education. Yes, urban public schools are the biggest challenge. The results there are horrific – as the recent lowest ever math NAEP scores by Detroit Public Schools students demonstrates. But student achievement across the state, in all but the highest income suburban districts, is also way below where it needs to be.

Its all not gloom and doom though. Michigan has done some big things right:

1. the new high school graduation standards are much better aligned with the foundation students need to develop the skills they will need to participate in an increasingly knowledge-driven economy

2. the foundation grant for k-12 education follows the students to either charter schools or to traditional public schools outside their home district

3. Michigan philanthropy making education innovation for urban students a priority

And now there seems to be some encouraging news on the political front. The school reform just enacted seems to provide progress on all the right issues: closing chronically failing schools, enabling more quality charters, teacher quality and teacher preparation. Maybe most important is the emergence of a bi partisan group of policy makers who care about k-12 reform.

The fundamental challenge going forward is how do you build on and expand these steps so that we enroll substantially more students in high quality schools. That’s the topic we will explore in future posts.

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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.