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Our five ideas for moving Michigan public ed forward

The new state Superintendent of Public Education, Brian Whiston, invited a number of state organizations - including MIPFS - to make presentations to the State Board of Education. He asked the groups to offer the three to five ideas which would help Michigan become a "top 10" state in educational outcomes.

MIPFS executive director Steve Norton and board member Elizabeth Welch presented our "five key ideas" at yesterday's SBE meeting. An outline of our presentation appears below; attached at the end of the article are PDFs of the documents we shared with the State Board members and MDE officials.

  1. Reconsider our definition of achievement
    1. We risk worshiping test scores above all other concepts or measures of student learning. We are confusing the diagnostic test with the goal.
    2.  This definition includes a bias toward viewing education as the acquisition of facts and methods rather than clarity of thought, reasoned inquiry, thoughtful choices.
    3. Parents are not interested in raising good test-takers. We want our children to grow into productive members of our community and thoughtful friends, neighbors and citizens. We’re focused on our children’s futures, not yesterday’s test scores.
  2. Get clear on what we mean by a quality education
    1. Schools do so much more than impart information, and as far as most parents are concerned, it is those other aspects of learning which are the most important in the long term.
    2. We don’t have time for an exercise in feel-good rhetoric, but need a thorough and honest public discussion, informed by professional educators, about what we want for our state’s children.
    3. MIPFS participated in drafting the statement by Parents Across America on what a quality education should mean (see below).
  3. Ensure that our schools, and the professionals in them, have the resources they need to offer every child a quality education (as above) and encourage real student learning (as above).
    1. Michigan’s ranking in state K-12 spending per pupil has consistently fallen over the last 20 years, matched by a corresponding slide in NAEP scores compared to other states. [For background, see our 2014 presentation to the SBE, below]
    2. Overall commitment of state to K-12 as share of economy has been in decline—in good times and bad—for a decade or more.
    3. Starts with money, but goes on to smart spending and intelligent policies and systems to bring our hopes to fruition. (Examples: adequacy study, now in law, and the educational audits bill, which we primarily drafted.)
  4. To offer a quality education to every child, we must put resources where they are most needed.
    1. Equity is not necessarily equal, and strict equality is not necessarily fair.
    2. Our children and communities face a variety of obstacles and stresses that interfere with them offering or taking advantage of a quality education.
    3. In order to offer a quality education to every child, our state must acknowledge that schools need resources to counter those obstacles. We must act intelligently to address those issues in a systematic and humane way.
  5. We must commit to ending the constant chasing of the latest fad and set aside ideologically driven notions of how education ought to function.
    1. K-12 public education is a service provided by the public to the public, both because we have a moral duty to help every child fulfill their potential and because we know that the future of our communities depends on the investments we make in our children today.
    2. We must not set policy, or change policy, arbitrarily or hastily. Instead, we must shape long-term policy, guided by research and expertise, that provides a stable foundation for our schools and can also meet the changing needs and uncertainties of the future
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