Haas chosen to chair Snyder’s new education commission

Jess Hodge

Gov. Rick Snyder is looking to revamp
Michigan’s educational system- and he’s enlisted the help of Grand Valley State
University’s President Thomas Haas. Haas will not only sit on Snyder’s 21st
century education commission, he will be leading it.

The commission
is brand new and will focus on shifting to a system that is better fit for the
21st century. His final report will be due to the governor by Feb.
28, 2017.

“The governor wanted some of my perspectives
– given my experiences, (because) I’ve been sharing thoughts for the past ten
years here and well beyond that higher education is part of the continuum of
education,” Haas said. “I think he heard me say that a number of times both
publicly and privately so I was very honored to get that call.”

The commission,
according to Snyder’s executive order to create the commission in March,
will be to “analyze top performing states and nations to determine how their systems
of education (structure, governance, funding, and accountability) have led to academic
and career success for students pre-school through career
credentialing/postsecondary education.” They will also be responsible for
determining similarities and differences between Michigan and the top performing
states and then make recommendations based off of those findings.

Haas will have
monthly meetings until February with the 24 other members on the commission to
discuss alternative ways to keep pace with new technological advances.

“We really want
to provide a framework with some recommendations both in the short term and the
long (term) on how we should achieve these purposes of a educational construct
that is going to be with us for maybe the next 50 years,” he said. “Let’s
create something new and see how we can move the state in the right direction
and be competitive across the nation and across the globe.”

After doing
research, Haas said students in Michigan lag behind their peers on a national
and international level. He hopes to create a design focusing on the
educational system on a state, regional and local level.

The time to
chair this commission will be “quite a bit” of a commitment, but Haas is
excited to work with the other members and find a system that works for not
only a few years, but for decades down the road.

The commission
will be looking at what other states have implemented in terms of educational
systems. Haas called it a blank slate: pulling ideas from many different places
that have been proven to work and advance education.

“I will spend
some time doing some reading and looking at best practice across the United
States and maybe even look at other countries,” Haas said. “Let’s take a
look and see what others are doing and then pick the best of all and then knit
it together in a Michigan-centric system for education.”

The problem
with the current educational system in Michigan, Haas said, is it has been in
place for over 50 years, thus not making it fit for the “global economy” of
today’s technological world.

 “What we want to do is make sure we create a system that’s
organized, governed well, funded and accountable for outcomes,” Haas said. “We
don’t need to debate what the current system and its faults are, lets look
ahead and create some innovative change to give us different results.”