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Donnell Green
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New Report calls on state leaders to support and invest in proven strategies to raise learning and teaching in Michigan

ROYAL OAK, MICH. (December 12, 2013) — Michigan students continue to fall behind their peers in other states in learning. According to 2013 national assessment data, an appalling 69 percent of Michigan fourth-graders cannot read on grade level – an indicator of future academic success. Neither our students nor our state’s economic future can afford to wait to turnaround our state’s educational system.

In a new report, the Education Trust-Midwest provides a common sense roadmap for the state to put its schools, educators and students on a path to higher learning.

The report, “Supporting Michigan’s Teachers: Smart Implementation of High Standards, Training, and Educator Evaluation,” lays out how two transformative strategies can dramatically build teachers’ capacity to raise learning levels in the Great Lakes State: the Common Core State Standards and a new statewide educator support and evaluation system.

“Tennessee is showing how these two intertwined, mutually reinforcing strategies, done right, can dramatically raise student learning,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of Ed Trust-Midwest, a non-partisan, data-driven research and advocacy organization dedicated to raising achievement for all Michigan students.

“By investing in these strategies, Tennessee is seeing remarkable gains in student growth. We can learn a lot from them. We need to ensure no teacher is left behind in Michigan in the transition to higher standards.”

The new report calls on the Michigan Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder to fully implement both strategies, and invest in them in the coming months and years. In particular, funding is needed for the state’s planned new assessment; teacher training on higher standards; training for evaluators on supporting teachers to improve their practice; and data systems that can inform powerful interventions for students.

“We applaud state leaders who have already taken important steps to invest in proven strategies for educational improvement,” said Sarah Lenhoff, director of policy and research at the Ed Trust-Midwest and the author of the report. “Now we need to smartly implement them and invest in supporting our teachers so that all students benefit.”

Tennessee, for instance, is one state that has recognized that just handing teachers the new standards is insufficient. Earlier this year, Tennessee invested resources to directly – and intensively – train more than 35,000 educators across the state.

Meanwhile, Kentucky trained its school leaders on the Common Core so that they could support teachers in raising the level of their instruction. In addition, the state provided online, on-demand training, and professional learning communities for collaboration with fellow teachers.

“Tennessee, Kentucky and other state leaders are investing in their state’s most valuable resources: their teachers and, through them, their students,” said Arellano.

ETM’s roadmap forward includes a timeline for the smooth implementation of both Common Core and educator evaluation, and highlights some of the most important unresolved needs going forward for schools, educators and families:

  • Support for teacher training for Common Core reading and math standards and the new CCSS-aligned Smarter Balanced state assessments planned for next school year.
  • Sound, Reliable Data: A state-provided and -funded student growth model and data system that will not only support local districts in conducting sound educator evaluations, but also help teachers and inform instruction to benefit students.
  • Support for Quality Evaluations, Teacher Coaching: State-approved observation tools and funding for training evaluators, not only on observation but also on how to combine data from observations, smart student growth and other measures into one final performance evaluation rating for teachers and principals.
  • Quality Implementation and Support for Local Schools: The Michigan Department of Education should have the authority to support quality implementation of the statewide educator evaluation system. Legislative approval of the system must come in early 2014 to allow districts to move forward with overdue guidance and clarity on how to conduct evaluations, as so many have requested.
  • Respectful Public Reporting of Evaluation Ratings: Policies that respect both teachers’ and parents’ rights in publicly reporting annual performance evaluation ratings of educators.
  • Equity: Strategies to ensure quality teaching for all Michigan students, no matter where they live.

The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan’s only data-driven, non-partisan statewide 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 and expertise to our state’s families and policymakers.