Press Release

To become a top ten education state, Michigan stakeholders need to know if schools are reaching that goal

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (March 14, 2017) – This morning the Education Trust-Midwest urged State Superintendent Brian Whiston to stay the course on implementing the thoughtful school accountability and public reporting system recently proposed by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) as part of its Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) proposal to the federal government. New reports suggest Whiston and the Michigan Department of Education are abandoning its thoughtful proposed systems under intense pressure from anti-accountability organizations, despite what research and best practice show, and the wishes of parents and the support of leaders in Michigan’s civil rights and business communities.

“Governor Rick Snyder and Supt. Whiston have committed to making Michigan a top ten education state. To do that, we need honest data and aligned assessments to tell us whether we’re reaching that goal,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the nonpartisan research and advocacy organization, The Education Trust-Midwest.

Today, Ed Trust-Midwest submitted its concerns through its formal comments to the MDE on the state’s ESSA draft plan, which the MDE is expected to submit to the U.S. Department of Education by April 3rd. These comments follow ETM’s recent release of the report, Becoming Top Ten: An Analysis of Michigan’s ESSA Plan. The MDE will continue to accept public comment through Thursday, March 16th.

“News reports say the MDE is back-pedaling on its commitment to quality,” Arellano added. “Last month the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) proposed a thoughtful and transparent school accountability system that largely focused on what matters most: academic success. Using a clear summative letter grade, the state would provide a clear signal to students, parents and other community stakeholders about how their school is performing against national performance benchmarks and other schools around the state. “

“Superintendent Whiston and the Michigan Department of Education are under enormous pressure to backpedal on real accountability for public schools and we urge them to stay the quality course. Michigan students – especially students of color and student from low-income families depend on it,” added Arellano.

News outlets have reported that the MDE will no longer include a school reporting system with clear summative ratings for schools, which will lead to a lack of clarify for parents and educators about school quality — and a complete lack of real and meaningful accountability for school performance. Instead, news reports say the MDE will create a wide-ranging dashboard of information for parent to decipher. While this kind of information should be made available to parents, it is not a replacement for single summative rating nor a system of thoughtful support, interventions and accountability that have been used in leading education states such as Massachusetts to drive systemic school improvement for students.

“Research shows that states with strong accountability systems often see the largest gains in academic achievement, especially for kids of color and low-income students,” said Sunil Joy, assistant director of policy and research. “Moving away from this kind of honest and meaningful accountability would be a mistake.”


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The Education Trust-Midwest’s public comment and draft ESSA plan analysis, Becoming Top Ten: An Analysis of Michigan’s ESSA Plan can be found at