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Education proposals this year could further harm Michigan students

By Amber Arellano 

The full text of this article ran on January 19 in Bridge Magazine and is available here

Whatever you think about President-elect Donald Trump, it’s clear that he has signaled a dramatically new direction for the role of the U.S. government in public education—one that will push ever-more decisions to the states.

That means the importance of state-level leadership and policymaking will grow dramatically this year. And it means Gov. Rick Snyder, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and state legislators have both an enormous responsibility and an opportunity to make sure their work is focused on the most pressing K-12 issues of the year — and advancing an equity and excellence agenda for our state’s public schools.

Given Michigan’s education growing crisis and what’s at stake in 2017, here is a list of the five top policy priorities that Michiganders should watch for this year. These issues have huge implications for Michigan students — particularly students of color and low-income students — and the state’s economy for decades to come.

  1. Making Third-Grade Reading a Real Priority
  2. Proposed K-12 Disinvestment
  3. Michigan’s ESSA (Every Students Succeeds Act) Plan
  4. Accountability
  5. Honest K-12 Information

Click here to read the full text of this article and more on the five top policy priorities that Michiganders should watch for this year.

State Puts 38 Schools on Notice; Releases 79 from State Oversight

In Michigan, when a school places among the bottom five percent of all schools statewide, they are identified as a priority school. These schools are required to develop and implement a redesign plan – aimed at improving academic outcomes for students – under the oversight of the State School Reform and Redesign Office (SRO). After four years, schools meeting various requirements, including placing above the bottom five percent, may be released from priority status. Schools that remain in the bottom five percent may face additional interventions, including potential closure.

Issues involved in improving schools that are struggling to meet the needs of students are complex, with much at stake for students – particularly low-income students and students of color. Meanwhile, many policymakers at the state and federal level are actively working on issues of how to help and support Michigan’s most struggling and low-performing schools this year as a part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is currently preparing a plan for how to implement ESSA, including school improvement, which is expected to be finalized by early April.

Last week, the MDE released the 2016 top-to-bottom list. Simultaneously, the State School Reform and Redesign Office (SRO) – which is now a part of the Governor’s Office – announced that 79 schools had exited priority status and 38 schools remained in priority status and have been identified for additional intervention. These 38 schools have been in the bottom 5 percent of schools statewide and are subject to SRO oversight and potential action, including potential closure, installing a CEO or becoming a charter school.

Of the schools remaining in priority status, 36 are traditional public schools and 2 are charter schools.

The determination of schools under SRO oversight is especially concerning this year because of frequent changes in testing and how the top-to-bottom list is calculated. To ensure consistency and reliability, any high-stakes decisions should be made using the same test over three years and by using the same formula for placing schools within the top-to-bottom list. Yet Michigan changed assessments only two years ago and the formula for calculating the top-to-bottom list has changed over the last three years.

A bill to repeal and replace the “failing schools law,” section 1280c of the Revised School Code, has been introduced in the Michigan Senate.

Further delays for Betsy DeVos

A Senate committee vote on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, nominated for Secretary of Education, has been delayed. The committee vote is now scheduled for Tuesday, January 31 at 10 a.m. – one week later than it was originally scheduled. According to the committee chair Lamar Alexander’s office, the vote was delayed to provide Senators with more time to review ethics paperwork, released on Friday, January 20.

This is the second delay that DeVos has faced. Her confirmation hearing, which took place on January 17, was also delayed one week.

Noteworthy News

Capital Update

House committee assignments are expected to be announced this week.

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