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    The Michigan State Board of Education passed a myriad of reform recommendations this week. The recommendations, entitled the Education Improvement and Reform Priorities - Recommendations to Governor Snyder and the Legislature, received bipartisan, unanimous support from the Board. The recommendations were passed in anticipation of Governor Snyder's planned special address on education to the Michigan Legislature in April. Some of the Board's recommendations were congruous with Governor Snyder's plans. The recommendations pertain to, among other topics, school funding, teacher training and compensation, and universal, life-long learning. .

    Furthermore, the Board recommends the adoption of three performance goals. In its report the Board notes the congruity of its performance goals with Governor Snyder's "dashboard" targets for education. The three performance goals recommended by the Board are:

    • Significantly more (goal of 90%) students graduate from PreK-12 with the academic, critical thinking, and creative skills (consistent with Michigan Merit Curriculum) needed to enter post-secondary education without remediation
    • Graduates successfully obtain post-secondary credentials that ensure they are well-equipped with skills for work, self-support, starting a business, and contributing to the common good
    • All Michigan residents engage in lifelong learning, and are well prepared for a life as active citizens in our democracy

    In addition to its recommendations for performance goals, the Board released various policy reform recommendations intended to achieve these goals. It compartmentalized these recommendations into three categories: 1) Reimagine the Pre-K-12 Educational System in Michigan; 2) Ensure Excellent Educators; 3) Reforms, Restructuring and Revenues.

    A notable proposal in the first category is the implementation of a pre-K, K-12 and higher-education Statewide Longitudinal data system. This is intended to track student performance throughout a student's educational career. Another notable proposal is to clarify the role and responsibilities of emergency financial managers and the school elected governing body for schools in financial emergency.

    A notable proposal for the second category is the reform of teacher tenure. This includes provisions to: award tenure based on proficiency level rather than number of years of teaching; require ongoing demonstration of teacher proficiency based on multiple measures, including at least 40% based on student achievement growth; make sure all teachers are equitably evaluated annually by qualified administrators (as required by current law); streamline the process to discharge ineffective teachers. The Board also recommends the adoption of a 3-tier teacher certification system. This would enhance "new teacher mentoring, recognition and opportunities for increased recognition and compensation based on demonstration of proficiency and earning of ‘master teacher' credentials, (such as National Board Certification)."

    There are two notable proposals from the third category. The first notable proposal recommends mandatory kindergarten. The second notable proposal recommends universal preschool for all three and four year old children; dissimilar to its recommendation for kindergarten, the Board did not recommend that the universal preschool be mandatory. The Board also recommended paying for the proposals by:

    • Finding efficiencies through school consolidation and shared services
    • Better integrate and align the 80+ Michigan early childhood initiatives and budgets within an MDE-housed Agency of Early Childhood Education
    • Changes to school legacy costs such as pension and health care systems
    • Re-allocating budget priorities within state government
    • Integration of school mental health services with departments (mental health, education, human services, juvenile justice) potential redundancy elimination and a coordinated approach, potentially lowering administrative overhead and finding cost savings while providing better educational, health and mental health outcomes
    • State Constitution requires the Board to make recommendations on the financial requirements for education - pursuant to that mandate we recommend requisite changes in education service delivery to find savings to implement the needed education effort. And finally, and only if necessary, recommending additional State revenues to fund Michigan's schools

    Heretofore, Governor Snyder has not reacted to the recommendations. As the Board noted, its goals are congruous with Governor Snyder's. And their recommendation of universal, life-long education mirrors Snyder's stated desire for such a policy. As his forthcoming special address to the Michigan Legislature approaches, it should become clear as to how important these recommendations are.

    Sources:

    Michigan State Board of Education – Education Improvement and Reform Priorities – Recommendations to Governor Snyder and the Legislature

    Michigan State Board of Education Press Release

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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    Andy Chou and Andrew Revard are Education Policy Correspondents for the Michigan Policy Network. Andy is a first-year student in Economics at Michigan State University. Andrew is a senior in Political Science at MSU.