Contact: Sara Wurfel
Special message focuses on reinventing Michigan's education system.
LANSING, Mich. - Saying education is the long-term key to reinventing Michigan's economy, Gov. Rick Snyder today proposed sweeping education reforms aimed at transforming Michigan's educational system from one still rooted in the days of a mostly farm-based society to one that prepares students for the technological age of today and jobs of tomorrow.
Central to Snyder's plan is a dramatic shift from viewing different levels of education as separate stages to viewing them as part of an integrated system, beginning with early childhood education all the way up through the completion of an advanced degree. Making that change requires giving teachers and schools more freedom to find solutions, measuring performance, holding districts accountable for results and giving students more options to succeed.
"This plan is about moving away from the outdated model of the past and giving teachers and students the tools they need to succeed in the future." Snyder said. "We have to start looking at students as individuals with different abilities that need to be taken into account, but also as individuals with unlimited potential to achieve."
In laying out his case for reform, the governor noted that Michigan ranks 21st in the country in total current expenditures per-pupil according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, yet it ranks 39th in the nation when it comes to fourth grade math proficiency and 34th in reading proficiency. Fewer than 50 percent of students are proficient in writing, and perhaps most startling of all, a total of 238 Michigan high schools have zero college-ready students based on the spring 2010 ACT test.
"These numbers make it clear that our educational system is not giving our taxpayers, our teachers, our parents or students the return on investment that it should," Snyder said. "Instead of focusing so heavily on funding levels, we need to talk about what really works and what doesn't when it comes to helping kids learn."
That discussion starts by recognizing success in school starts well before a child's first day of class. To make sure children are developmentally on track, the governor is creating a new Michigan Office of the Great Start - Early Childhood. It also means making sure students have a safe learning environment in which they are free to learn by addressing the problem of bullying.
To bring greater accountability to Michigan's educational system, the governor is implementing a "State of Education in Michigan" dashboard that will serve as a statewide report card. To help parents make better-informed decisions about their children's education, the governor is also asking schools to create their own easy-to-understand dashboards. Using these and other measurements, the governor proposed that a portion of the state school aid be tied to academic growth. School districts that demonstrate student growth in reading, math and other subjects will receive a bonus under the governor's plan.
"By rewarding growth and not just proficiency, students in poorer districts or those who have fallen behind their peers will not be forgotten. Instead, they will be viewed as having the most to gain, giving school districts an incentive to make sure they improve," Snyder said.
One of the most innovative departures from the way schools are funded now is to develop what the governor calls an "Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace" learning model in which funding follows a student rather than being exclusively tied to a school district. Making this change will give students more opportunities to participate in dual enrollment, blended learning and online education opportunities. To make this change work, the governor proposed giving school districts more control over seat time regulations, length of the school year, length of the school day and week, and more flexibility when it comes to instruction and traditional configurations of classrooms.
The governor also proposed giving parents more options by ensuring every school district participate in "Schools of Choice." Under the governor's proposal, residents of a local district will still have the first opportunity to enroll, but schools will no longer be able to refuse out-of-district students. Additionally, the governor proposed lifting the cap on the number of public charter schools in any district with at least one academically failing school. To give students more opportunities to earn advanced degrees, the governor is challenging every school district to offer college credit opportunities.
"Providing open access to quality education without boundaries is essential," Snyder said. "One of the complaints I hear most from teachers is that regulations prevent them from working with each students' individual learning styles. It's time we let schools focus on teaching and hold school districts accountable by measuring results."
Performance-based teaching is at the heart of Snyder's education reform.
"As parents, we expect a lot from teachers and that's exactly the way it should be," Snyder said. "To see our students succeed, we must expect the best, and we must provide the tools, support and environment students need to reach the high expectations we have set."
Snyder laid out a series of steps the state can take to enable great teaching, including raising the bar for teacher certification tests, restructuring the tenure system so that it rewards demonstrated years of effective teaching rather than time in the classroom and replacing current continuing-education requirements with ones that are clearly linked to teacher skill-building.
EDITORS NOTE: The full text of the governor's special message to the Legislature on education and a PDF file of the governor's education dashboard are attached.