Michigan’s #1 election issue is education

"There is a deep and fundamental crisis in this state.  Less than half the kids in every grade in every subject in the state of Michigan are at basic proficiency."

That's Mark Murray nailing it. He's vice chair of Meijer, Inc., former state treasurer and budget director, former president of Grand Valley State University and one of the most capable people in Michigan.

He was speaking at a Solution Summit last week in Grand Rapids, one of four around the state co-sponsored by the Center for Michigan designed to bring experts and citizens together, not to whine about the persistent deterioration of our schools but rather to begin developing solutions.

Solutions to complicated problems don't themselves have to be complicated. For the most part, the policy parts are relatively easy. What's tough is the implementation, which involves explaining why there is a crisis, generating a focused sense of urgency and pulling together a powerful, can-do coalition to provoke the political will to get something done.

Related: Detroit schools' outdated curriculum sets students up to fail, audit finds​
Related: 
Detroit finally has money to hire teachers. Good luck finding them.
Related: Hundreds of Michigan schools don’t have a gym teacher. Does yours?

These summits - co-sponsored by Business Leaders for Michigan and the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce - took place in Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids. Nearly a thousand people attended in person, while many more tuned in via social media. Speakers included business and political leaders, education experts and ordinary citizens.

Video: Watch the Detroit Solutions Summit on Education on YouTube

As I listened to the presentations and the discussion, a few main points became clear:

We face a deep, fundamental crisis: Michigan's schools have been falling behind other states for nearly a decade now, and some have been actually declining in performance during this time. And it's not just poor kids or minority kids or rural kids; it's everybody, everywhere. As Mark Murray says, the erosion has become so widespread that less than half of all Michigan kids in every grade and for every subject are at basic proficiency. Michigan is in the process of becoming the worst state educationally in the nation.

None of this is new: The decline has been going on for at least a decade.  Writing reports about what's wrong with our schools and how to fix them has become a cottage industry in Michigan, yielding numerous reports that are now filed away somewhere in the Department of Education, for the most part gathering dust. The structure of Michigan's education "system" appears to have been designed to fudge accountability and swallow efforts to reform. And the political system - importantly including the term-limited legislature, most members of which won't be around to see the disaster they have enabled - has shown no urgency to fix things.

Related: Got 6 minutes? Highlights of a dozen studies on Michigan schools​
Related: We read 12 reports on fixing Michigan schools. Here are 4 things we learned

The economic consequences are awful: The only way we - and our children and grandchildren - are going to compete in a shrinking world where skill and talent are the only things that matter is to have good schools. People are not going to come to Michigan just for the climate. They're going to build businesses here to tap into smart Michiganders who can be be part of the workforce. Bad schools mean a badly educated and unskilled work force, and that surely spells persistent economic trouble.  This isn't a bleeding heart matter; it's simple economic necessity.

There's no doubt that fixing the crisis in our schools isn't easy. It's complicated; it's very contentious, not to mention partisan. The interest groups are big, powerful and very well dug in. And most of our state's leadership would prefer to wave their arms and let well enough alone. But other states have done it, and there is no reason we can't to it, too.  Experts from Tennessee and Massachusetts at the Solution Summit conference in Detroit explained why persistent, bipartisan, far-reaching efforts do pay off over the long run.

Related Michigan education stories:

If you think about it, what we are doing to our children - condemning them to a life of economic trouble, social insecurity and even personal misery - is nothing more than a textbook definition of child abuse. Tolerating continued deterioration of our schools is to enable long-term abuse of the futures of our children.

What all this adds up to is a powerful case to make fixing our schools the single most important issue in this year's election campaign.  

A group of Michigan and education leaders is already advocating for media and organizations that endorse in this fall's election to refuse to support candidates who do not bring forward a specific, detailed, coherent plan to reform our school system and fix our schools.  

Candidates who offer platitudes - "Oh, yes, there is nothing more important than schools for our kids" - without offering specific ideas and concrete details deserve to be treated with scorn.

I'm hoping what happens next in Michigan is an effort to pull together a broad, focused coalition that can develop a simple, compelling agenda to drive the discussion this summer and into the election. I urge everybody who reads this so join in. Our children and their children deserve no less.

Related: Dear teacher: We want to hire you. Here’s a huge pay cut. Sincerely, unions.

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Comments

Dr. Richard Zeile
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 9:03am

I attended the Solutions Summit held in Detroit. The following was presented to us-
"Michigan fourth graders ranked 28th in the nation reading in 2003, but fell to 41st by 2015.
African American fourth graders fell from 38th in reading in 2003 to 41st in 2015.
White fourth graders dropped from 13th in reading in 2003 to 49th in 2015.
Michigan fourth graders who were not in poverty fell from 24th in reading in 2003 to 48th in 2015."
I had pointed out in my September, 2017 Detroit News editorial that the states' rankings are not as meaningful as they sound for their scores are all bunched together like horses neck-in-neck in a race. At the Summit, no one mentioned that during this time (2002-2015), Michigan was the only state to lose population, especially among families with children which are particularly likely to go where jobs are. I pointed out that during this same time, virtually all the other states raised the Kindergarten entry date from December 1 to September 1, meaning that Michigan students begin their education with a 5% developmental lag behind those of other states.
Those who do not understand the causes are in no position to prescribe cures.
Furthermore, State Superintendent Whiston has been working a plan ("Top Ten in Ten") to make Michigan one of the top ten states in education by 2026, in part by shifting the MDE from a culture of compliance to one of problem solving. The Solutions Summit reminded me of the sister who visited papa in the hospital and said to the care-giving siblings, "He's sick, get him some help!"

R.L.
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 9:10am

Without family and quality education we have nothing. There is no easy fix to these problems. Involve family as much as possible and fund education, and reduce class size. Address the special education and how it is administered . We don't need students over the age of 21 in the traditional high school all day. Work programs, co-op. mentoring, social promotions, all need to be addressed. Love to hear comments.

Mike DePolo
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 9:12am

Well stated, but nothing will happen unless and until the Republican Party as a whole, and the Michigan GOP in particular, stops working to monetize public education.

Chuck Fellows
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 9:24am

Over the last decade the Michigan legislature and the Department of Education have changed curriculum and testing protocols. Our educational leaders have continually moved the goal posts and then announce that schools, and our children, are failing.
Hogwash!
The failure is within our leaders, not within our children or their teachers.
Solution opportunities abound yet we continually refuse to listen. The consequence, repeated definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.
Step one: Listen to teachers, student and parents.
Step two: Fund universal preschool .
Step three: End standardized testing.
Step four: Flip the funding model, the state responsible for facility equality and the locals for operational funding - which requires budget development and authority be moved to the classroom level.
Step five: Fund teacher collaboration and cooperation.
Step six: Curriculum and pedagogy developed at the local level with support (not direction) from the state.
. . . and it continues. Examples of what works for learning (As opposed to education) are readily available. Stop the hand wringing and tinkering around the fringes.

R.L.
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 9:26am

Just a thought. Tracking that word we tried to rid our schools of maybe it's time to revisit. Let's identify as soon as possible children's abilities and aptitudes, and build on them. We are pushing STEM and not the traditional Vocational education. You don't outsource welders, carpenters ,electricians, repair persons, vet. assistants, Certified nursing asst. child care workers, truck drivers, sales, mechanics ,iron workers, office managers. My point is this get off the bandwagon of College degrees and concentrate , on what will be needed and who can best fill these jobs. Just a thought. Love to hear. R.L.

Jerilynn
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 11:55pm

You are absolutely right about the need for different educational paths for different careers. All this handwringing concerning the fact that "only" 54% of our third graders are scoring at proficient level on the M-STEP misses the fact that proficiency is defined as "at grade level". There are three other categories of performance ratings : above proficient, partially proficient, and not proficient. Thinking of these categories of achievement using quartiles we would have a group below the 25th percentile, a group scoring between the 25th and 50th percentile, another scoring between the 50th and 75th percentile, and the top group scoring between the 75th and 99th percentile.

It seems to be an often forgotten fact that the ability to achieve academically is highly correlated with general intelligence as measured by I.Q. tests. Intelligence Quotients are derived by placing scores within the quartiles described above, so that the lowest 25% of scores are described as below average. The academic achievement of that lowest 25% of scorers on an I.Q. test cannot be expected to be proficient, given traditional education models and are likely to be rated "not proficient" on the M-STEP. These individuals, with I.Q. scores of 90 or less, are likely to achieve letter grades of D and need to be directed to areas of study and careers where grade level reading is not required and where their self-regard can grow because their strengths are nurtured.

Students scoring in the "partially proficient" group on the M-STEP are likely to score between the 25th and 50th percentile on an I.Q. test and to be approximately a year below grade level at the end of third grade. Without intensive instruction they will not keep growing in proficiency enough to close the gap by the end of fifth grade and will be our C students if they are motivated and attend school regularly.

Third grade students scoring at the "proficient" and "above proficient" levels are the much talked about 54% at proficient levels; which means a few students that scored below the average I.Q. score of 100, (50th percentile) managed to score at a proficient level too.

I recommend going to the following webpage for a description of the four proficiency levels that are not operationally defined : http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/2015_M-STEP_and_MME_PL_Descriptors....
If put in the context of expected performance based on the accepted notion of general intelligence being an excellent predictor of achievement, the outlook for our white, middle to high income students is, as has always been the case, not bad. Please see htpps://michiganachieves.edtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2018/03/Top-Ten for data supporting that assertion. However, according to the referenced report, page 43, Michigan ranks near the bottom in college affordability, currently 42nd in the nation. "And for families in the bottom 20 percent of income in Michigan, the cost of college for one child, after receiving financial aid, is about 77 percent of their annual income."
Providing an equitable opportunity for all our students should be our goal, and in Michigan we are not doing justice to an increasingly large proportion of our population. Again I cite the michiganachieves.edtrust.org report which states on page 41 that " Michigan’s funding gap between the highest and lowest poverty districts is 43rd out of 47 States. Michigan is one of only sixteen states in the analysis that provides less funding to its highest poverty districts than to its lowest poverty districts. There is(sic) more than a $15,000 gap in average teacher salaries between Michigan high-income and low-income districts ".

I am a retired school psychologist. It has been difficult during the past few weeks to listen to the radio, television and to read articles decrying the reading proficiency of our third graders while failing to take into account the variables of opportunity and economics on our youngster's intellectual abilities, and then to ignore the resulting ability to learn and become proficient. To state the obvious, half of us have average to above average intelligence, half of us have average to below average intelligence. We can choose to provide differentiated instruction, giving each child what they need to reach their potential, or we can continue as we have, where those who have more get more, and we will fall further behind as more of us struggle to both pay our bills and provide enriching experiences and the time needed to build our children's vocabularies so that they can understand the concepts they are going to be reading about at school.

Suzanne
Wed, 04/04/2018 - 8:41am

Oh, thank you, thank you, for putting into a well written explanation the real issues of what testing and testing predictability really shows. I am a SLP in the public schools and have always felt that we are really missing the mark for all students since many of the students I serve will not necessarily be your typical college bound high school student. And I might add, my youngest who struggled in school was horribly underserved and “forgotten” by our local SD. There is a missing link in educating ALL our students who have the wide varieties of abilities that reflect our population. Our data points should not only show the whole picture, but also point the way to serve all students no matter what abilities they have. Just like I would never claim to have the capability to be a theoretical physicist, there are students out there who cannot get through a college math class, but who have a lot to contribute and should be recognized with the same vigor as our college bound brainiacs. We do not have a good continuum of service post secondary educational in our state.

Michele
Wed, 03/28/2018 - 12:05am

You are absolutely right about the need for different educational paths for different careers. All this handwringing concerning the fact that "only" 54% of our third graders are scoring at proficient level on the M-STEP misses the fact that proficiency is defined as "at grade level". There are three other categories of performance ratings : above proficient, partially proficient, and not proficient. Thinking of these categories of achievement using quartiles we would have a group below the 25th percentile, a group scoring between the 25th and 50th percentile, another scoring between the 50th and 75th percentile, and the top group scoring between the 75th and 99th percentile.

It seems to be an often forgotten fact that the ability to achieve academically is highly correlated with general intelligence as measured by I.Q. tests. Intelligence Quotients are derived by placing scores within the quartiles described above, so that the lowest 25% of scores are described as below average. The academic achievement of that lowest 25% of scorers on an I.Q. test cannot be expected to be proficient, given traditional education models and are likely to be rated "not proficient" on the M-STEP. These individuals, with I.Q. scores of 90 or less, are likely to achieve letter grades of D and need to be directed to areas of study and careers where grade level reading is not required and where their self-regard can grow because their strengths are nurtured.

Students scoring in the "partially proficient" group on the M-STEP are likely to score between the 25th and 50th percentile on an I.Q. test and to be approximately a year below grade level at the end of third grade. Without intensive instruction they will not keep growing in proficiency enough to close the gap by the end of fifth grade and will be our C students if they are motivated and attend school regularly.

Third grade students scoring at the "proficient" and "above proficient" levels are the much talked about 54% at proficient levels; which means a few students that scored below the average I.Q. score of 100, (50th percentile) managed to score at a proficient level too.

I recommend going to the following webpage for a description of the four proficiency levels that are not operationally defined : http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/2015_M-STEP_and_MME_PL_Descriptors....
If put in the context of expected performance based on the accepted notion of general intelligence being an excellent predictor of achievement, the outlook for our white, middle to high income students is, as has always been the case, not bad. Please see htpps://michiganachieves.edtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2018/03/Top-Ten for data supporting that assertion. However, according to the referenced report, page 43, Michigan ranks near the bottom in college affordability, currently 42nd in the nation. "And for families in the bottom 20 percent of income in Michigan, the cost of college for one child, after receiving financial aid, is about 77 percent of their annual income."
Providing an equitable opportunity for all our students should be our goal, and in Michigan we are not doing justice to an increasingly large proportion of our population. Again I cite the michiganachieves.edtrust.org report which states on page 41 that " Michigan’s funding gap between the highest and lowest poverty districts is 43rd out of 47 States. Michigan is one of only sixteen states in the analysis that provides less funding to its highest poverty districts than to its lowest poverty districts. There is(sic) more than a $15,000 gap in average teacher salaries between Michigan high-income and low-income districts ".

I am a retired school psychologist. It has been difficult during the past few weeks to listen to the radio, television and to read articles decrying the reading proficiency of our third graders while failing to take into account the variables of opportunity and economics on our youngster's intellectual abilities, and then to ignore the resulting ability to learn and become proficient. To state the obvious, half of us have average to above average intelligence, half of us have average to below average intelligence. We can choose to provide differentiated instruction, giving each child what they need to reach their potential, or we can continue as we have, where those who have more get more, and we will fall further behind as more of us struggle to both pay our bills and provide enriching experiences and the time needed to build our children's vocabularies so that they can understand the concepts they are going to be reading about at school.

Chuck Jordan
Sun, 04/01/2018 - 11:33am

Jerilynn, Michele? Thanks for your post. Very interesting. I'm still not sure what reading at grade level means. Not much? We all read what we are interested in much better than what is boring for us. Most Reading tests are made up of reading some really boring bits and pieces and asking multiple guess questions about what was read. Critical Reading and thinking is more difficult to measure. Making all of the students in a widely varied classroom read the same texts will lose about half of the class. When tested on material that is boring and uninteresting, students tend to do even more poorly than they could have.

Mick
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 9:53am

Nothing will change. The legislature controls the $, and they can't even figure out to fund and maintain roads.

Plus this state is full of people who don't care about schools too much, despite their rhetoric.

Erwin Haas
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 10:59am

Public schools are not the same as public education.
Public education is the original term used by the Founders who knew that their republic would not survive unless the people knew, debated, helped formulate the issues in the public realm. They included morals and the philosophic issues of the time. Public schools (PS) piggybacked onto this honorable term to aggrandize their own project which is the training of individuals, much as we train soldiers, doctors (like myself) or dogs for that matter.
The term and the institutions that we now call PS arose with the progressive era, the 1870s but were anticipated in the 1840s by Horace Mann of Massachusetts who had studied the universal, compulsory and free-to-the-student school system that Prussia had instituted after it lost a war with Napoleon in 1806. The Prussians endeavored to train a population that would be obedient, hard working, and make good soldiers. Nine years later they crushed the French emperor at Waterloo. Europeans attributed Prussia’s military prowess to their invention of PS and one by one succumbed.
Mann talked the Mass. legislature into instituting this scheme in 1852, but there was a lot of resistance among the citizenry and no other state dared to repeat the Mass experiment.
The big movement in PS started in the 1870s, Michigan passed our law in 1871, NY, my home state in 1874. Before that, no "free," mandatory and universal schooling in the USA. I have a picture of the plaque about PS in 1889 taken at Fayette State Park in the UP. One third of the kids in a tiny encampment would not go to the school on the village green. The good citizens who were pretty smart didn’t think that PS were an advance of civilization and many would not subject their kids to the governmental training. I’ve often noted that the original PS in Kent County which are spaced at two mile intervals and built at the intersection of the main roads all have the date 1891 on the door lintel. It’s probably the year that the Kent County commission caved in to state pressure.
The battles over the public schools were fought vigorously and in public; Mark Twain’s “Schooling interferes with their education.” says a lot.
On the other side, were progressives like John Dewey who wanted to design the perfect society and who wrote at some length that PS were to re-train bright enterprising farm kids to become dull, uncomplaining factory workers. This was the era of manufacturing when designers and planners like Frederick Taylor (of scientific management) squawked loudest in the media. The term “Factory model School” has been applied. Children, like automobiles were to be moved down a line and stuff added to them at station one, station two, grade three, grade four etc. They still operate on the principle of loading our kids up with facts and use the amount of stuff added up, be it mathematics, English or Science, to judge their efficacy and efficiency. They never, ever look into how fit their work product is for living in a constitutional republic or in a moral universe. PS enforce PC, teach diversity and eschew judgementalism. Everyone is great and gets participation awards. The PS must make everyone equal, right all societal injustices, even prevent the bright from progressing ahead of the dull.
There are good reasons for debunking PS claims that they have led to any advance of civilization. I’ll list them;
1) Our greatest presidents; Washington, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and FD Roosevelt; no public schools, not even any schools listed that I can find for any of these guys..
2)There is good evidence that literacy was almost universal in the US as early as 1820. https://mises.org/library/free-education-and-literacy and https://fee.org/articles/education-in-colonial-america/ Think on it; what else did a famly have to do for entertainment after the grim workdays of 200 years ago except read, write, maybe make some humble house music. Read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s LIttle House on the Prairie for information on the communal spelling bees that her father won in the 1870, pre PS. Compare literacy from 1820 to that of any large city in Michigan in which up to 50% of high school graduates are unable to read.
3)Home schooled kids excel; they seem to win all of the national spelling bees, science contests, quiz bowl competitions. They are sought after when they apply to colleges, if they want to waste their time getting “higher education.”
The next most highly educated group in Michigan are the Amish who go to one room school houses taught by their 19 year old aunt and stop going to school after seventh grade. They run enterprises running into the hundreds of thousands and have families with a dozen kids by the time that they are 30 years old. Compare that to graduates of Harvard University of whom Ben Franklin said that they were unable to earn a living by using their wits. Ben, BTW, had a year of primary school in in native Boston before he left for Philadelphia to earn his fortune as a printer, publisher and raconteur. (He had an out of wedlock son with whom he fought all his life and married at age 24 to prevent “venery” an old term for syphilis..
4) Folks who didn’t go to PS invented the telegraph, telephones, steam engines, built railroads and steel mills, wrote Shakespeare and the Declaration of Independence, developed the calculus and business empires. The guys who developed computers, plastics and automobiles stood on the shoulders of creative and unschooled giants.
5)The PS are quick to claim credit when one of their products is elected to public office or makes a lot of money. But roads run downhill in both directions. Public Schools must accept reproach when the individuals and groups that they favored and profited from indulge in crimes or in other antisocial behavior. And so we can finally put Nikolas Cruz into context. He came from a dysfunctional background growing out of the easy divorce and public assistance dating from progressive social ideas and from the Great Society programs during the 1960s. The ideals that he was taught in the classroom were a mixture of becoming a team player, a cell in some glorious but unnamable organ blended in with the kids in the neighboring desks, the anti-individualism that is now the dogma in academia beginning in Pre K through to post docs. He learned that the individual does not count. Only the collective provides guidance and is the reason for his existence. Furthermore, he was a white kid with an Hispanic surname and so morally suspect. Nikolas had little reason to respect himself and certainly had no polestar of truth that made his fellows important, much less sacred as he might have learned had he homeschooled or gone to a small community school. So, what prevents Nikolas from fantasizing escaping his being a tiny blob, a part of a larger blob of protoplasm? Maybe making himself into an important person, or at least someone who can be distinguished. He has learned nothing of the moral universe from 13 years of governmental indoctrination, told that he is a nothing and longs in some maudlin fashion to be something, so buys a semiautomatic and uses it. Headlines! And the next intellectual, emboldened by participation medals from a public school elsewhere finds a dim bulb light up in the unlit corridors of his brain (but what else is it that guides our moral conduct?)
6) The PS claim falsely, that lifetime earnings and presumably happiness increase in direct proportion to the amount of schooling that one has, Wrong! These “studies” are based on pure selection biases.. Kids who finish high school or college or grad schools are more disciplined, have better family structures, start off with more family money, are more motivated to succeed and above all, have higher IQs than do folks who don’t excel in the academic milieu. I could as easily claim that more schooling makes kids dumber and less successful in life than they would have been had they walked away from the PS and colleges; prove me wrong.
7) The use of “educational attainment” for hiring and advancement is racism; The employer advertises for a college grad for a job that pays moderately well after he has invested several weeks of training in the employee. He knows he will get a pleasant, tractile white woman who has graduated from a college and doesn’t have to deal with an aggressive abrasive black male drop out who could as easily learn and do the job.
8)I have tried to look at “education theory” and dogma as scientific literature; it is as close to fraud as it can get. It is the equivalent of bloodletting and grinding up horned beetles in medicine. I could not use this level of bad statistics and of flights of imagination to treat patients.
9) More money will improve PS is a fool’s errand. If you want to improve PS. get better students. The output goes up directly with the input, not with the quantity of money that you can extract from the impoverished poor people who pay these taxes.
The regimentation (Common Core) and impersonality characteristic of large PS inevitably lead to groupthink, all of the students have the same inputs, year after year and end up looking alike, replicas lined up at the end of the assembly line. Anyone who has an untaught thought stands out like a gouty toe. I visualize the next generation as endless rows of well schooled seals balancing beach balls on their noses and responding to bits of dead fish thrown at them while the million or so homeschooled adults lead them around and polite, independent Amish avert their eyes.
10) US PS fare notoriously poorly in international comparisons (PISA.) Yet the USA leads in earning Nobel prizes. Could it be that not having to learn nonsense allows our graduates to imagine the hidden? The unimagined? The bored and resentful kid escapes the chaos and mindlessness of American classrooms by going into his own world, going independently into chasms and heights where his mind, freed of cant can roam and discover? Lousy PSs, at the very least, don’t interfere with the kind of outside-the-box exploration necessary to earning Nobels. The highly praised great PSs in China, Korea, FInland foster tribes of adults who need to study and emulate what graduates of those over priced and shoddy PSs have created. Lousy PSs might actually foster the more desirable American public education with its plainspokeness and earnest seeking after truth.

I have no particular animus against PS but I present the above historical and observational features to create a suspicion that maybe, the “needs” of the PS for more money and influence are overwrought, that we should be rethinking “more education” as the cure for every societal ill, and that there might be better ways to truly let the public “educate” themselves by letting them spend time with their families, with their religious and philosophical thinkers and with the cornucopia available on the internet.

I would personally advocate for one room neighborhood schoolhouses until age 14 or so. Let these community centered facilities teach what the parents want their children to learn, allow the brighter kids to test out of sitting through the repeated attempts to drill basics into the skulls of the dimmer, encourage enrollment in apprentice and work-experience programs at an early age, and of using the internet and the few surviving larger schools attract whichever students who desire that kind of instruction and let kids do whatever self education that they want and/or need..

R.L.
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 1:25pm

Wow, I will be jaw weary by the time I chew and digest all that. I will try. R.L.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 9:00pm

Outstanding post, Mr. Haas!

Leon Hulett
Sun, 04/01/2018 - 7:46am

Erwin Haas,

I always enjoy your posts and your viewpoints. Excellent!

Here is another reference for you, supportive of your thesis, on the high level of literacy, or education, in the year1800. It is a book by Pierre DuPont, suggested by Thomas Jefferson, after he received DuPont's reply, to his letter, to provide ideas to Jefferson, to the cause of education for Americans. DuPont summarizes the level of education in the various countries in the world at that time, and says that America has the highest educational level in the world. He says "only 4 Americans in 1000 do not have the ability to read well, to write well and to do math well." DuPont says how this was done, "the father reads to the family while breakfast is being prepared, for 45 minutes a day." If fathers can not do this, the children are sent to a Grammar School.

I am also a promoter of the idea that the Basic Purpose of education is "work." Meaning that the ideas taught in schools should assist the child to connect with what he or she wants to, or will be doing in life. DuPont says the purpose of education is work. These things were known in April of the year 1800, too bad they are not appreciated today. His book is, "National Education in the Unites States of America."

My wife went to a one-room school house to 8th grade, then public high school. A survey done back then showed that, of the students who had attended her school, 80% were on the Honor Roll at the high school.

We are supportive of your thinking on One Room School Houses.

I am advocating for better study skills, where the individual student should have and know the skills to learn all subjects independently. This would allow them to choose and be successful at home, at a one-room school, or any public or private or parochial school. Such a course only takes weeks to complete. There is no reason a first grader should not be able to read, let alone a third grader that can not.

Again, thanks for your ideas.

Leon Hulett

erwin haas
Tue, 04/03/2018 - 9:05am

Thanks to all for your kindly comments and especially new contributions

Chuck Fellows
Sun, 04/01/2018 - 6:20pm

See www,ted.com, Ken Robinson's video presentation, "Paradigms" and "Are Schools Killing Creativity"

John C Stewart
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 12:27pm

The Political Parties pick "hacks" who don't know much about Education. They sit on their gluteus maximus. YCDBSOYA-You can't do business sitting on your a__

Wayne O'Brien
Tue, 03/27/2018 - 6:49pm

Stories have a beginning a middle and an end. The beginning of this story of Michigan's "fundamental crisis" seems to be missing here. Michigan legislative records document that the future of Michigan as a viable, competitive and thriving economy was jeopardized during a 48 hour period beginning July 19, 1993 when then Governor Engler proposed a 20% cut in state property taxes. Then Senator Debbie Stabenow, amended a bill to cut Michigan property taxes by 100%. The state senate passed that bill the same day and the House passed it the next day when Governor Engler indicated that he would sign it. Within a few hours, Michigan became the first state in the union to entirely defund its local public schools eliminating 6.5 billion dollars from the state coffers with no pre-planning for the consequences whatsoever. Most Michigan residents are aware of the next part of the story (patchwork of attempts to refund and, assert state control over, local schools) and now citizens are becoming increasingly aware of the bleak "crisis" middle part of the story well covered in this column. What now? How will the story end? The time for education "solution summits" and "strategy" sessions may have already ended -- especially if the situation is now correctly deemed a "crisis". In crisis mode, those most affected typically take action -- emphatic, decisive, action. Locals, whose children are most affected may decide, if actually in crisis mode, to sign declarations of no confidence in the Michigan Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the State Legislature and the Governor and administration regarding the education of the children in local districts in the State of Michgan. Locals may decide to suspend compliance with any state mandated factor which inhibits the successful and optimal education of their children. Locals may decide to fund their own district schools and to resume funding them locally (and controlling them) as they did before July 19, 1993.....when this "crisis" story began in Lansing. This story may conclude with locals reclaiming the future of Michigan education districts and perhaps the State of Michgan's future viability (if the children are indeed our future), if it is not already too late; crises being what they are. A genuine crisis, after all, demands decisive and emphatic action. One wonders if electing a part-time legislature might help citizens in Michigan to avert future crises, considering what Michigan's full time legislature and governor enacted in 1993. How many more legislative enacted "crises" are Michigan citizens willing or prepared to endure?

Jerilynn
Wed, 03/28/2018 - 11:09am

I appreciate Wayne's comments but given the ability to publicly fund charter schools, which can choose their students if they like, local districts have no incentive to fund their own districts, laws governing charter schools and school choice have done it for them. Case in point is in Betsy DeVos' home town in Holland, Mi. A thriving public school district that once had less than 50% of it's students receiving free or reduced lunches is now the district that many whites flee from, going to Zeeland, Hamilton or the two charters within the small district. One of the charters is for profit, so accepts everyone, the other created a graduation requirement of being accepted by at least one college. Consequently, Holland Public Schools, which must find a seat for each student who enrolls, (you didn't have to "apply" to go to school before charter schools were allowed), gets some students back in 11th or 12th grade, when their previous school makes it clear they won't graduate.

I am not suggesting that all whites that leave Holland do so because they are racist, but because the tests scores at Holland are lower than the other districts or charters because of the lower achievement that has resulted from systemic racism that has existed since our country was founded and the concept of Manifest Destiny was promulgated by our fledgling nation.

Anonymous
Wed, 03/28/2018 - 12:23am

All the wishing and hoping Mr. Power and other have for someone to solve our education system problems have not improved anything for more than a generation. The reality is that learning is done by the individual student. That learning is driven by the desire to learn by the individual student, it is achieved by the work and sacrifice to learn made by the individual student.

If we want the results to change then we had best not lose individual student learning by waiting and wishing as Mr. Power seems to be doing. If each person who knows a student were to talk to that student about their desire to learn, what they are doing to learn, if they know how to learn, and then worked with the student to elevate their desire, to breakdown a barrier or more to working at learning, and regularly reinforcing their efforts to learn there would be a dramatic improvement in student learning.

Learning is personal and unique to each student, without personalizing it we will not change the learning of students.

The most effective help we could receive today is for a description of the learning process.

Leon Hulett
Sun, 04/01/2018 - 9:43am

Anonymous,

Well said!

I will attempt a concise description of the learning process needed:

Life is basically understanding.

A subject is a related understandings.

A word is the unit of understanding.

When one understands the words, one can understand any subject, and life.

When one does not fully understand the words, one can not understand any subject.

When one clarifies the words, one can understand any subject.

That is the way one learns any written or spoken subject. One first learns the words, and does not go past any words that one does not understand.

If one does not understand any subject, one finds the word one went past.

When one goes past a word that is not understood, they become unable to learn, unable to learn that subject.

If one is unable to learn any subject, one finds and clarifies the words one went past.

If one is not flying along, enthusiastic, bright, fully understanding what one is reading or hearing, and having the ability to apply it, one needs to locate the words one has gone past.

If one feels they have never felt that way, then one needs to clarify the first word in each subject, one did not fully understand. Then study that subject from there.

That is the process. Doing anything else is not likely to improve on that process.

Life is basically understanding.

Leon Hulett

duane
Sat, 04/07/2018 - 12:46am

You're descripting how a motivated student applies the process of learning. They have been introduced to the subject, they are trying to develop an understanding of the subject, and then they will apply [ the learning part] what they understand. Introduction, understanding, then application/practice would seem to be the learning process.

As in your description the critical element is the desire of the student to learn the subject, the willingness to make the effort to go beyond the introduction to the subject. Since it is up to the student to invest in understanding and then practicing it would seem desire is integral to learning.

My concern is that the successful students understand and apply the learning process to all their subjects, but the students with the disappointing results either don't understand the learning process or they don't have the desire to apply it. With this being the case then we should be hearing more about efforts to identify what is critical to the necessary 'desire' and develop the means and methods for helping the students to develop their desire, for the reality is that a 'desire' forced on a student will never last nor instill the necessary drive to learn.

Chuck Jordan
Sun, 04/01/2018 - 11:21am

I wonder what is the feeling of the individual student when taking these standardized proficiency tests. In other countries these tests determine whether they get into college or not. There are advantages and disadvantages to that system.
Understanding why and how students learn is essential. Teaching that emphasizes how to pass these proficiency tests is not learning. Critical thinking is what is being lost in all of this Education Reform from No Child Left Behind to Race to the Top to ESSA. The kind of Education Reform that Mr. Powers and the Chamber of Commerce is pushing is more of the same.

duane
Sun, 04/08/2018 - 11:36pm

Three ways to look at the testing; it is practice for testing of any kind, it is a none event and just time away from the classroom participation, or it is a stressful event. Each is determined by the individual teachers. Since it has no impact on learning or grades it is a non event for our grandkids. For their parents it is a non event for the same reasons. It only seems to matter to the school system adults since nothing changes no matter the scores

Such standardized testing in many other countries is more personal and influences the students future college selection. Without such impact on the students here the testing doesn't matter to the students and not much more to the parents. If they really wanted to change the performance on the tests they should make it more personal for the students such as the students that score in the top 10% for every test are guaranteed admission to the college of their choice, they could add a bonus to the school they selected. Until the students have a reason to do well on the test the results will be of questionable value in measuring anything.

The other reality is that in many of the countries around the world have additional classroom time, after regular school hours or on weekends, to cram for such testing, because the impact the testing can have on those kids that want to be in school and go on to post high school. It is simple, it you want to improve performance reward those who do well, make it personal and immediate.

Jacqueline Sproles
Thu, 03/29/2018 - 12:52am

Agree The schools are not the problem it's a building, created from the forces within nor are the children the problem but when the children are taught from old settings and run down classes. It can affect a young childs mind. I mean , ask the adults how they would feel if they were in an environment with no voice.