You don’t become a Top 10 hitter in the major leagues batting against Little League pitchers.
You don’t become a Top 10 golfer only playing putt-putt.
You don’t become a Top 10 education state only expecting the minimum out of your students.
Michigan needs to elevate its game.
The potent and lasting career fields of the 21st century are for the educated and highly-trained. Michigan will succeed and move forward as a state by raising the expectations on ourselves and our students.
We have to set our state’s education standards high – make them rigorous and expect the best from all our children.
Higher standards give students a deeper understanding to what they are learning. It takes students from just knowing the facts to learning how to use those facts to understand context, apply them to problem-solve, and make those facts relevant in their lives. This is the learning path that will prepare our students for the next evolution of personal and economic success.
Our goal is to make Michigan a top-10 education state in the next ten years. Right now, we’re at the lower end of that scale.
We are starting by setting higher standards for our students and our educators. We need to raise our expectations, and we are beginning with the M-STEP state assessment results coming out later this fall. The new test last spring was more challenging, and over 80 percent of Michigan students took it online, which also was new.
It’s going to take more to be successful with the state assessments this year and into the future. I know that whatever bar we set, our students will jump over it. If we set a high bar, they’ll meet it and jump over it.
This year’s results will be lower than scores from the previous state tests, and that’s OK. We are setting a new baseline to the higher bar.
It’s not just about assessments, though. It’s about setting high expectations in learning and teaching and parenting.
Every student should set learning goals for themselves, focusing on reading and writing. A big part of that is building a strong partnership with parents.
We need to work with parents and family members to help with a true partnership, so that kids are setting aside time every day to read and play math games at home. If the family requires help and support on how to do that, we should provide that training through local school districts, because securing that rich partnership with parents will help make sure our kids are succeeding.
Likewise, we need to set higher expectations with our educators, and to do so, we must provide them with the best tools and transformative training.
As the learning path is evolving, so is the teaching path. We have to respect our teachers, respect their passion, respect their innovative nature, and respect their ability to adapt. Give them what they need to be successful and let them go to work.
In this process, we’ll retool the structural system that supports this drive to the top-10; and there are so many other pieces to consider, including
- the impact of poverty on learning;
- the disparity of educational opportunities from one school district to the next;
- low literacy rates;
- proper nutrition;
- continuity from early childhood learning to post-secondary education;
- a stable and fair school funding system recognizing that some kids need more resources than others;
- safe and suitable school buildings for every child;
- a useful and transparent accounting of school performance; and
- replicating quality schools and closing failing schools.
We have been asking for ideas on how best to make Michigan a top-10 education state in 10 years. Education and research leaders have shared their ideas with the State Board of Education, and hundreds of teachers and parents have been sharing their best thinking with me and the Department of Education.
Working together, I believe we can develop a coherent plan to move Michigan forward; and when we do, we need to stick with it and give it time to fulfill.
We all need to raise our expectations, and we need to do it now.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated who appointed Whiston to his current position. The error has been corrected.