TOP TEN FOR EDUCATION:
NOT BY CHANCE
Michigan third-graders are the lowest performing students in the U.S. among peers, based on the state’s assessment.
Michigan is one of only a few states in the country that has actually lost ground in third-grade reading in recent years.
It’s a devastating decline – yet it can and must be turned around.
That is why we launched the Michigan Achieves campaign to make Michigan a top ten education state. And it’s why our most recent report digs deeper in the “how” of Michigan’s early literacy imitative, an important case study for the state’s larger K-12 improvement challenges.
We also celebrate some of Michigan’s highest-improving, high-poverty schools that are showing dramatic improvement can happen with the right systems, leadership and strategies.
Michigan is at a critical moment in time — a historic moment where our citizens and leaders must choose whether we will take advantage of new opportunities to become a top ten education state — or face a continued and dramatic educational decline. Today, national data reveal that Michigan’s public education system is among the poorest performing in the country, a problem we can ill afford to ignore.
After almost two years of research, including conversations with educators working at the classroom, school, district, intermediate school district and state level, our team found a profound need for far more robust implementation and improvement systems, guided by sustained and visionary leadership. Indeed, the lack of coherent systems and accountability for consistent improvement are holding back third-grade literacy efforts and squandering millions of dollars. As it stands, the only real accountability for Michigan’s third-grade reading investment exists for the state’s students: under the state’s 2016 policy, students are at-risk for retention in third grade if they are unable to meet grade-level reading expectations.
In this report we dig deeply into the experience of leading education states with a focus on the “how”: how did these states dramatically raise their third-grade reading levels in relatively short periods of time? Over the last two years, our team of researchers visited and talked with more than 50 leaders in these states, mined national and state data, and examined the approaches they used to lift learning for all of their children.
Michigan Achieves! Progress Indicators
To know whether we’re on track with our goals of becoming a top ten state, The Education Trust-Midwest began tracking Michigan’s performance and progress of our P-16 system in 2016, in both academic measures and measures of learning conditions that research shows are essential for equitable access to opportunities to learn. Below, we share our progress toward becoming a top ten education state by 2030, as part of our Michigan Achieves initiative.
We use the best available state and national data to show where we are and where we’re headed by 2030 if we continue down our current path.
Learning from Leading States
Leading states demonstrate a commitment to quality implementation, undergirded by a set of key conditions.
To become a leading state, Michigan should learn from the successful strategies of states that have drastically improved outcomes already.
But changing our education trajectory goes far beyond simple adoption of specific policy strategies on their own. While essential, what we’ve learned from leading states is that to truly change our educational trajectory, a clear commitment must be put on quality implementation, learning from what is working and what is not, then using that feedback to get smarter about improving the system. At the end of the day, quality implementation is everything: just as it is difficult to produce rapid changes without dollars to support change, simply throwing dollars at an issue without a mindful strategy for success doesn’t work either.
The Power of Partnerships
In partnership with the Steelcase Foundation, The Education Trust-Midwest opened the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in west Michigan to bring the highest-leverage research-based strategies from leading education states to support Michigan’s high-poverty schools.
The goal: to pilot such practices in Michigan to learn whether these strategies can help lift student outcomes as they have elsewhere around the country. Tennessee’s statewide teaching-effectiveness and principal-leadership efforts serve as the primary model for the CETL work being done in partnership with district and school leaders.
And while the schools involved have a long journey to go before being considered high-performing, the effort is showing clear gains. These schools in West Michigan are leading innovative efforts to support teaching and learning.
Recommendations for Improving Early Literacy
Over the last several years, the Education Trust-Midwest has studied and consulted with dozens of experts in leading education states to learn the best practices and highest-leverage strategies for creating sustained improvement. We focus not only on which states have produced the most dramatic gains, but also whether their most vulnerable students — low-income students and students of color — have witnessed strong gains as well.
We highlight key levers that have been deployed in leading education states, along with quality implementation and key conditions, to produce major learning gains for their students.
About This Project
In 2015, The Education Trust-Midwest launched the Michigan Achieves campaign to make Michigan a top ten education state by 2030. Each year, we report on how Michigan is making progress toward that top ten goal based on both student outcome performance metrics and opportunity to learn metrics that signal the health of the conditions that Michigan is creating that
help support — or stagnate — teaching and learning in Michigan public schools.
Since then, a growing number of partners around the state have come to work together to advance the best practices and strategies from leading education states to Michigan, in order to close achievement gaps and ensure every Michigan student is learning — and being taught — at high levels.
Join the movement
Photos by Rex Larsen at Parkview Elementary School in Wyoming, Michigan, except where otherwise indicated.