21st Century Michigan Education Commission releases recommendations for state school systems

GVL / Luke Holmes - President T. Haas introduces the keynote speaker in the Fieldhouse Arena on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes – President T. Haas introduces the keynote speaker in the Fieldhouse Arena on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Dylan Grosser

The 21st Century Michigan Education Commission has now concluded and has produced a report containing 32 recommendations pertaining to Michigan’s education system. The chairman of the commission, Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas, said the recommendations outlined in the report are necessary to save Michigan from its current low-ranking status in K-12 education.

The commission was created via executive order by Gov. Rick Snyder to take a diverse group of Michigan educators and have them identify what steps the state must take to be on par with other states in terms of education. Michigan lags behind many states in education across the board but mainly in K-12. The state ranks 41st in fourth-grade reading and 37th in eighth-grade math performance, according to the report.

The report also mentions that black students in Michigan have the lowest fourth-grade reading performance in the country, and higher-income white students are some of the lowest performing in that national category as well.

The summary of the report said there is a need to address the causes of underperformance in Michigan in order to solve the problem.

“Our system must recognize and address this disparity and do much more to reverse the connection between learning outcomes and race/ethnicity, disability status, and socioeconomic status,” the report said.

Haas said if all 32 recommendations were implemented, it would transform education and the state of Michigan.

“It’s a compelling document, and if we do nothing, then we will continue to be mired in mediocrity,” he said.

He stressed the importance of education as a public good laid out in the Michigan constitution.

“We need to have educated citizens that can serve and use their skill sense and their talents to help move the state along economically and also in service,” Haas said.

The recommendations were established with the complete consensus of the commission’s 25 board members. Haas said they have the opportunity to achieve the vision of Michigan moving from where it is now in education to being top 10 in the country.

“And we have to do it because if not, we will be where we are and struggling to really be a vital and vibrant state,” Haas said.

Many of the recommendations were modeled after systems in states such as Massachusetts, which has one of the highest K-12 programs in the U.S.

“We really wanted to see what those high-performing systems are doing to achieve the outcomes that are at a higher level than what we are,” Haas said.

Haas said education does not receive enough funding in Michigan.

“I think it’s clear that we have in fact not kept up with the higher performing states and nations,” he said.

The report was delivered to the governor Tuesday, February 28, and a press conference was held on the report Friday, March 10, in Detroit. Haas said he has confidence in the recommendations being taken seriously after conversations he has had with the governor. He said there is some urgency to fixing Michigan’s education system and that there is also a “long ways to go.”

The full report is available online.