Date: October 14 2014

Kati Haycock, founder of the Education Trust, a nonprofit, advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., said Michigan needs to realize that across the board, Michigan students are ranked low in achievement as well as in progress. Speaking with Bridge, Haycock said Michigan should take cues from places such as Tennessee and Massachusetts that have leap-frogged ahead with focused reforms.

Bridge: Michigan is among six states that are losing ground on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Where are our hopeful points and our hurtful points?

Haycock: A hurtful point – disinvestment. On the hopeful side, you still have the Michigan Merit curriculum in high school and while people are trying to cut that down and water that down, it’s still there and that’s really important. Also, on the hopeful side, you have legislators and, I think, largely the education community coming together around an educator evaluation system that will really help teachers get better feedback and results. That’s a pretty encouraging start.

Bridge: Is lack of focus one of our hurdles in Michigan?

Haycock: One hurdle is sometimes the tendency to want to do too much. Just look at Massachusetts. They chose a strategy and they stuck with it. You don’t want a legislature that says, ‘Now we’re going to do this, then that and now this and that.’ Another hurdle is this state needs to get a handle on the exponential growth of lowperforming charters. That undermines your high quality charters and it will undermine your traditional public schools … when charters are crappy the whole system just starts bleeding.

Bridge: That’s means we need more charter school accountability?

Haycock: Yes, tell charters, ‘You can’t open new ones and fix your existing ones or they will get shut down.’

Bridge: If politicians, educators and the business sector in Michigan got on board with the idea of working together to fix the schools, what do they do first?

Haycock: Get serious about early reading, and I mean super serious.

Bridge: What do we need to do alongside early childhood to make sure we get the most out of the investment and to ensure that the gains don’t peter out down the line?

Haycock: If you don’t follow that up with strong schooling throughout the educational experience, most of that benefit will go away. We most of that benefit will go away. … we need to set a target around third and fourth grade reading and go all out.

Bridge: What is the business community’s role in turning around our schools?

Haycock: Helping creating and push a bipartisan strategy. In Washington the most influential segment is our little coalition of civil rights coalitions and business… and why is that? What we’ve all been working – better opportunities and better results for low-income kids and kids of color- is in the economic self-interest of business. Who’s education’s best ally in Lansing? The Detroit chamber.

Bridge: What do we do about the opportunity gap – the fact that some students get more educational assistance at home, more state funding for their schools, and the like?

Haycock: There are the in-school opportunity gaps and there are out-of-school opportunity gaps. There’s no excuse for the in-school ones. Why is it that highachieving black kids don’t get put in AP classes? Don’t get put in Algebra in eighth grade? Those kinds of opportunity gaps are just wrong. Why do some kids have stronger teachers than others? That’s a huge opportunity gap and we need to change that. In terms of the external ones, there’s not much we can do about that. But quality schooling in the end – what we do inside the schools – can get even kids who didn’t have all the riches to high levels of achievement.


Chastity Pratt Dawsey spent more than a decade at the Detroit Free Press, and is a Detroit native. She can be reached at [email protected]