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Opinion | Michigan doesn’t need another election-year ‘reform’ to help schools

As a Pre-K-12 school district superintendent, I am deeply immersed in the realities of educating our youth. This vantage point compels me to critically examine the assertions made by Sen. Mark Huizenga in his recent guest commentary about Michigan’s educational policy.

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Shawn K. Wightman is the superintendent of Marysville Public Schools.

Huizenga highlights important concerns regarding educational outcomes in Michigan. However, the MI Brighter Future plan, which he endorses, appears to be a textbook example of a policy with superficial political appeal, particularly noticeable in an election year. 

Such plans often emerge at politically opportune times, seemingly more to gain electoral favor than to sincerely address the intricate needs of Michigan's students. True educational advancement demands more than just cyclical policy proposals; it requires a deep, ongoing commitment to substantive solutions.

Our district's experience highlights the value of implementing evidence-based strategies within our curricula. We have witnessed significant improvements in student engagement and achievement, which align with broader educational research supporting a variety of instructional strategies.

The plan’s advocacy for an A-F grading scale illustrates a simplistic approach to complex challenges. Education cannot be reduced to such reductive measures without missing the unique contexts of different schools. A more nuanced and comprehensive evaluation method is essential for a genuine understanding of school performance.

Regarding the plan's proposed teacher incentives: While offering bonuses for highly effective teachers is commendable, it must be part of a broader, systemic approach. Advancements in student outcomes in our district have been achieved through comprehensive strategies, including professional development and equitable resource distribution.

While the plan's focus on phonics-based reading methods is a positive step, literacy education should encompass a wider range of evidence-based interventions. Such inclusive approaches have demonstrated effectiveness in a variety of educational settings.

The criticism of current teacher evaluations and school assessments seems more like a maneuver rooted in superficial political appeal than a genuine concern for educational efficacy. Holistic evaluation methods are critical in capturing the true progress and challenges in education.

Educational research supports the need for a comprehensive, evidence-based approach. Schools that have implemented broad strategies, including social-emotional learning, report not only academic improvements but also significant enhancements in student well-being.

The dialogue surrounding the MI Brighter Future plan seems influenced by the typical dynamics of election-year politics, wherein policies often prioritize superficial political appeal over deep-seated educational needs. 

As educators, our focus should be on finding effective, long-term solutions that address the diverse needs of our students, transcending political cycles and agendas.

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Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact David Zeman. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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