Press Release

Feds approve Michigan plans with urging to do better

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (Nov. 29, 2017) – Despite bipartisan criticism of its glaring weaknesses, the U.S. Department of Education gave final approval to Michigan’s plan intended to improve the quality of education for all Michigan students.

Like many others – including other educational experts, equity-minded advocates, Governor Rick Snyder and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley – The Education Trust-Midwest has been critical of portions of the plan that fail to hold schools accountable for educating students. The plan was developed under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), with the intention of improving Michigan education.

Michigan had the opportunity — and the responsibility — to develop the statewide improvement systems that have been so hugely successful at raising student achievement in leading education states such as Massachusetts and Tennessee,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of non-partisan The Education Trust-MidwestThat opportunity largely has been squandered. Now, we look forward to working with Michigan legislators to address the glaring issues left by the Michigan Department of Education. As top states have shown, ensuring data honesty and holding schools accountable for the education of all students is critical for improvement.”

Despite marginal improvements made over the seven months that the plan was under review, it still does not meet the needs of Michigan students. For example:

  • Non-Transparent, Meaningless Data: Parents and community leaders need honest, meaningful and accessible information on the quality of their local schools in order to advocate for improvement and make informed decisions. In addition to depriving parents of clear and concise information about school quality, current plans to significantly change the annual assessment threaten the honest, validity and reliability of student learning data.
  • Accountability for Few — and Lack of Accessible Public Reporting: Schools will only be held accountable for improving student learning in the most extreme circumstances, while more than 85 percent of Michigan schools will face no accountability at all.

For instance, an elementary school with fewer than six percent of students proficient in math and English language arts would likely not be held accountable for low student achievement. Additionally, parents and community advocates would not have an accessible way to find out that this school is very low performing.

  • Unambitious Goals for Student Learning and Growth: The Michigan Department of Education has set a low bar for student achievement and improvement. For example, the state’s goal would only require that about half of students in a school be proficient in math by 2024-25.

In a departure from other education plans approved in recent months, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced approval of the plan with a statement seeming to urge Michigan to do better. “Michigan must not view this as a ceiling, but rather as a baseline upon which to build, strengthen and expand,” said DeVos. “I urge Michigan’s leaders to continue to find new and innovative ways to help students succeed.”

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Click here for a statement from The Education Trust-Midwest on approval of the Michigan’s ESSA plan, published on November 28, 2017.