Press Release

Contact info:
David Zeman
Director of Content and Communications
o – 734.619.8008, ext. 308
c – 248.210.8476

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (January 22, 2013) – The Education Trust-Midwest applauds the Center for Michigan for gathering public sentiment on how to best improve education in Michigan. CFM’s report, released today, slices through the myriad education reform packages in Lansing to reveal the education strategies that Michigan residents most value – as well as strategies they appear to largely reject.

The year-long study revealed an overwhelming public mandate for giving public school teachers stronger training, feedback and support so they can improve in the classroom. Nearly nine-in-10 state residents said that supporting teachers was “important” or “crucial” to improving K-12 education in Michigan. More than 7,500 diverse residents from across Michigan took part in the study, participating in more than 250 community conversations and two large-sample polls.

“Parents, students, teachers and community members know implicitly what studies have made clear for years: teachers are the most important in-school factor in a student’s academic success,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, Michigan’s only nonpartisan data and research-based organization that works to raise student learning for all of Michigan’s students, particularly vulnerable children.

“This study shows overwhelming public support for our work in helping teachers and school leaders improve their practice to raise student learning, and get more support and effective professional development.  It also shows widespread support for our organization’s agenda and work on school accountability, educator evaluation and other strategies.”

Ed Trust-Midwest was the first voice in Michigan to call for new efforts designed to help teachers get individualized feedback that identifies their strengths and weaknesses, and tailored training and professional development, among other efforts. The Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness is charged with designing such a statewide system of support along with new mechanisms for professional feedback, along with more sophisticated K-12 data system. The Council’s final recommendations are expected by spring of 2013.

An effective statewide educator support and evaluation system would not only help new and struggling teachers improve, it also would identify high-performing teachers, a strategy that also received enthusiastic support from most residents in the CFM study. This data could be used to help identify “master teachers” who have the potential to become teacher leaders who assist other teachers with improving their practice.

Ed Trust-Midwest has championed the master teacher concept for Michigan, while noting it’s important that our state designs a master teacher pathway that considers a teacher’s proven ability to raise learning, including reliable data, and consider teachers’ ability to help other teachers improve their practice.

The CFM study, “The Public’s Agenda for Public Education,” recognized three other smart priorities favored by Michigan residents:

• Holding educators more accountable for student success, which Michigan is already on a path toward doing by developing more nuanced teacher evaluations that make student growth one of many measures in educator evaluations.

• Expanding access to publicly funded preschool and other early childhood programs;

• Improving teacher preparation, such as requiring teachers to have a deeper mastery of subjects. (This, incidentally, is one of the primary aims of the rigorous Common Core curriculum adopted by Michigan, which the state is working to implement.)

The CFM report also makes clear which education proposals in Lansing are not high priorities for Michigan residents.

Fewer than one-in-five residents said it is “crucial” to further expand school choice. Residents may be reflecting some concerns raised by Ed Trust-Midwest research, which shows that while some charter schools in Michigan perform at a high level, many others do not. We have long advocated for state quality standards so that our students are not merely given a wide choice of schools to attend, but can choose among high-quality options that improve academic performance.

Residents also are deeply skeptical that online-only schools provide a superior education to traditional public schools. This, too, appears to square with Ed Trust-Midwest research, which finds that the so-called cyber schools now operating in the state are producing generally dismal assessment results for students, even when compared with the state’s worst performing school districts. Despite these poor outcomes, some lawmakers want to expand online education without setting basic quality standards that online providers must meet.

“The Education Trust-Midwest supports school choice,” Arellano said. “But choice without high-quality school performance is not a real choice. Michiganders know that we need to focus on strategies that lift student learning for all students. Today’s report makes it pretty clear that Michigan residents understand that.”

The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan’s only statewide nonpartisan policy, research and advocacy organization focused on what is best for Michigan students. Our mission is to work for the high achievement of all students, particularly low-income, African-American, Latino and American-Indian students in Michigan, and to provide honest, reliable information to our state’s families and policymakers.