Press Release

Full impact on Michigan schools and students still unclear

ROYAL OAK, MICH. (July 19, 2012) –  The Obama administration has announced Michigan is one of the states that has won a waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.  This news means Michigan is now approved to implement a new statewide school accountability system that will have a profound impact on schools across the state.

However, it is still unclear what the full impact will be on our state’s students. Michigan has not released the final agreement approved by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  In the first round of waiver winners — which were announced earlier this year by Duncan — many states’ approved final waiver agreements were dramatically different from the proposals the states had submitted originally to the federal government.

“We are eager to take a close look at Michigan’s final agreement,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest.  “This is an important step for Michigan to take — and it is the right step forward for our students.  Now we need to examine the full implications for our schools, educators and families.”

The Michigan Legislature now has a huge role in ensuring that our public schools are accountable, rigorous and transparent. We urge lawmakers to:

• Approve a comprehensive teacher support and data system now being developed by the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness. This system will allow Michigan, for the first time, to determine what good teaching looks like and provide struggling teachers with the feedback and support they need to improve.

•  Resist calls to water down the Michigan Merit Curriculum, which has raised the rigor of our high school instruction. The MMC benefits all Michigan students, whether they are going to college or entering the workforce.

The consequences of the waiver are high. In Michigan’s original proposal — made public this spring — the state department of education proposed making changes that would have impacted:

•  How well Michigan’s teachers are able to prepare students to meet new academic standards;

•  The helpfulness and reliability of information the state will provide to parents, students and educators on how well their public schools are actually performing;

•  The state’s ability to reliably and fairly evaluate educators’ impact on student learning; and

•  The identification of schools as failing and in need of improvement, which often dictates eligibility for state and federal dollars and other intervention programs.

The Education Trust-Midwest was one of a several organizations that called on state leaders to improve the Michigan waiver application to make our state’s new accountability and public reporting system more accessible, transparent and useful to Michigan parents.  Ed Trust-Midwest will be analyzing the final waiver agreement to report to Michiganders on what these new systems will look like as Michigan implements them.

“Leading states develop coherent school accountability and public reporting systems and use them for helping schools focus on attaining ambitious but realistic goals; setting expectations; sharing helpful information with parents, and setting common sense limits on chronically low-performing charter school operators’ expansion,” Arellano said.

“We’re hopeful that Michigan’s approved waiver agreement takes a similar approach,” Arellano added. “Accountability alone does not improve schools and student achievement, but it can be a lever for improvement when combined with other effective strategies such as capacity building and human capital improvements.”

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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.