Editorial

Make education priority in state’s turnaround

May 22, 2015
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The Business Journal is reporting on a study just released by Education Trust-Midwest, a non-partisan education policy organization, showing that, by almost any statistical average, Michigan students are performing among the bottom 10 states in the country.

The study shows those disappointing test score averages transcend racial, income and geographic boundaries, as is starkly evident in the finding that “Caucasian students rank 46th in the nation” in national testing and 20 percent of all African-American students are being suspended from schools. Further, Sarah Lenhoff, Education Trust-Midwest director of policy and research, told the Business Journal, “Our Michigan fourth-graders are actually performing at lower levels than they were 10 years ago.”

The report is a siren call to state legislators to study the report and its recommendations. The impetus to do so should surely come from business leaders. It was only in the last year that Business Leaders for Michigan added education to its point-plan for Michigan’s turnaround. It’s a priority.

The study shows that states in traditionally low-ranking education assessments have moved above Michigan and those that have wholeheartedly embraced non-political best practices centered on teacher training have pulled ahead.

Both Grand Rapids’ business leadership and the initiatives implemented by Grand Rapids Public Schools give this community a spotlight to make a difference. The report showed that in Michigan, GRPS is one of the school districts that have taken the initiative to adopt best practices as well as its own evaluation system for teachers. Lenhoff told the Business Journal GRPS is “a real leader in designing a local evaluation system, incorporating all the right elements.”

She also said, “It is very business-focused in West Michigan. There are a lot of important community and business leaders who are really interested in improving education.”

While Michigan adopted new college- and career-ready standards several years ago, Lenhoff noted, unlike leading states such as Tennessee, Michigan didn’t provide adequate training or support to teachers to change their practices.

In the days before the Memorial Day recess, Michigan legislators agreed to basic assumptions for the next fiscal year state budget. The discussion in regard to education funding will not begin until June, but Michigan’s score in funding equity for K-12 education ranks it in the bottom 10 in the nation.

The financial investment in K-12 education impacts all businesses in Michigan and every child’s abilities and future. As the report shows, the future is now.

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