Press Release

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (Jan. 17, 2017) – Earlier this evening, Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos answered questions from U.S. Senators during her confirmation hearing. If confirmed, DeVos will become U.S. Secretary of Education at a critical time, as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) begins to take effect.

This law greatly expands the role and responsibility of states for ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education, and states role in ensuring that schools are held accountable for serving students well. Michigan is currently drafting a plan for implementing ESSA, which the Michigan Department of Education seeks to submit to the Trump administration by April 3.

“Through Betsy DeVos’ responses this evening, it has become abundantly clear that states must take on a far greater role and responsibility for ensuring excellence and equity for all students,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. “As a state with particularly poor academic performance – especially for low-income students and student of color – the stakes could not be higher. Taking seriously the role to hold schools accountable for student academic success and supporting schools to serve their most vulnerable student well, must be the focus of the Michigan Department of Education.”

Over the past 12 years, Michigan’s ranking among states for academic performance has rapidly declined in math and reading for all groups of students. For example, in 2003, Michigan Latino students ranked 16th among peers for fourth-grade math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Today, Michigan Latino student’s rank 43rd nationally for fourth-grade math.

“While accountability alone won’t improve schools, it is critical for signaling where there are problems that need to be addressed,” added Arellano. “Without identifying a problem, a teacher may not know where improved practices is needed, legislators may not know where we have systemic challenges – such as early literacy, and parents and community members cannot effectively advocate for educator and resource equity.”

The Education Trust-Midwest is a member of the recently-announced Michigan Student Achieves coalition, which has outlined key principles for Michigan’s ESSA plan. This coalition brings together business associations, civil rights organizations, community-based organizations, education advocates and others, to advance an excellence and equity agenda that will improve education for Michigan students.

Members of the Michigan Student Achieves coalition include: Black Family Development, Detroit Branch NAACP, Detroit Regional Chamber, Education Trust-Midwest, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Grand Rapids Urban League, Michigan Alliance for Special Education, Michigan Association of United Ways, Michigan College Access Network, Michigan State Branch NAACP, and the Student Advocacy Center of Michigan. Joint coalition principles are available here.

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