Got 6 minutes? Highlights of a dozen studies on Michigan schools

You could read through more than 800 pages of studies on how to reverse Michigan’s educational decline. Or you can read this cheat sheet.

If the size of a problem is measured in pages, Michigan has a big problem with its schools. Here are quickie summaries of 12 reports written about Michigan education reform, with links (if you have time) to the fuller reports.

Related Michigan education news:

TITLE: Business Leaders’ Insights: Leading Practices in K-12 Education that can Improve Student Outcomes in Michigan

PRODUCED BY: Business Leaders for Michigan

RELEASED: March 2018

LENGTH: 44 pages

WHAT IT SAYS IN ONE SENTENCE: Don’t be afraid of high, consistent standards and accountability, and be open to spending money in different ways.

QUOTE: “Michigan does not have a culture that demands the highest quality of education at every level in the system. As a state, we have grown accustomed to accepting excuses for our K–12 outcomes, rather than holding ourselves 100 percent accountable.”


  • Strong and consistent standards
  • Money for teacher training
  • Meaningful and easily-understood school accountability

Related: Michigan is failing its students, as state test scores keep tanking
Database: Check out your Michigan school and district M-STEP scores
Related: M-STEP results trouble for most struggling schools in Detroit, statewide

TITLE: Costing Out the Resources Needed to Meet Michigan’s Standards and Requirements

PRODUCED BY: Michigan School Finance Research Collaborative

RELEASED: January 2018

LENGTH: 358 pages

WHAT IS SAYS IN ONE SENTENCE: Not every student costs the same to educate.  

QUOTE: “This is not just an educational crisis – it’s also an economic one.”


  • Base per-student funding should be $9,350. The base amount now is $7,631, but some districts get more than that.
  • More money for students in special education, career tech or who are English language learners or low-income families.
  • More money for districts with high transportation costs.

TITLE: Marshall Plan for Talent

PRODUCED BY: Office of Gov. Rick Snyder

RELEASED: February 2018

LENGTH: 11 pages

WHAT IT SAYS IN ONE SENTENCE: It’s time to transform our educational system to align with growing job fields, including many that don’t require a college degree.

QUOTE: “Technology is rapidly transforming the workplace yet we develop talent the way we have for the past 200 years.”


  • Partnerships between business and schools to create classes teaching skills for high-demand jobs.
  • Certification/credential programs within high schools.
  • Incentives for current teachers to gain certifications in areas like physics and career tech.

TITLE: The Best Education System for Michigan’s Success

PRODUCED BY: 21st Century Education Commission (for Gov. Rick Snyder)

RELEASED: February 2017

LENGTH: 146 pages

WHAT IT SAYS IN ONE SENTENCE: The world has changed, and our schools need to change with it.

QUOTE: “Our education systems, structures, and supports that were designed to propel the next generation forward are no longer strong enough to meet the demands of a changing economy.”


  • More high school grads with post-secondary education of some kind.
  • More funds for at-risk students.
  • Better teacher preparation.
  • Universal pre-K for 4-year-olds.
  • Eliminate the State Board of Education.

TITLE: Top 10 in 10 Years

PRODUCED BY: Michigan Department of Education

RELEASED: February 2016

LENGTH: 43 pages

WHAT IT SAYS IN ONE SENTENCE: Stop fiddling around the edges

QUOTE: “Michigan can no longer think of the education system as being K-12 schools. Education starts at birth and extends beyond the secondary schools into college, career and graduate education.”


  • Publicly funded pre-K available to all 4-year-olds by 2020, and all 3-year-olds by 2025.
  • State- and district-level professional development for teachers.
  • Increase high school counselors
  • Different state spending for different students and communities.

TITLE: A Path to Good-paying Careers for All Michiganders: Improving student outcomes from education, birth to college


RELEASED: June 2017

LENGTH: 35 pages

WHAT IT SAYS IN ONE SENTENCE: Forget that Gov. Snyder Marshall Plan stuff about career tech; the most reliable path to a good-paying career is a bachelor’s degree or higher.

QUOTE: “Michigan will not have a mass middle class again until we transition to the knowledge economy that is the path to prosperity in the 21st Century.”


  • Access to high-quality early childhood education for low-income families.
  • Hold school districts accountable for how successful former students are in college rather than standardized tests.
  • Increase school funding.

TITLE: Top Ten in Education: Not by Chance; From Stalled to Soaring: Michigan’s Path to Educational Recovery (second report here)

PRODUCED BY: Education Trust-Midwest

RELEASED: February 2018 and April 2014

LENGTH: 48 pages (2018); 32 pages (2014)

WHAT IT SAYS IN ONE SENTENCE: Two reports with one drumbeat: Other states have got this figured out – let’s learn from them

QUOTE: “Decades of research tell us that Michigan’s economic future and cultural vitality depend on the quality of our educational system.”


  • More coordination to use research-based strategies to improve early literacy.
  • More teacher training.
  • Master teachers who mentor younger teachers.

TITLE: Early Literacy Task Force Report

PRODUCED BY: Michigan State Board of Education

RELEASED: August 2002

LENGTH: 12 pages

WHAT IT SAYS IN ONE SENTENCE: Sixteen years ago, the state board sounded an early alarm about early childhood learning.

QUOTE: “Learning to read starts long before a child enters school.”


  • Increase awareness of the importance of early learning
  • Develop pre-K literacy benchmarks
  • Money for early literacy intervention programs.
  • More literacy training in early childhood teacher certification.

TITLE: The Road toward k-12 Excellence in Michigan: How an Upgraded Financing System Can Better Support Enhanced Student Achievement

PRODUCED BY: Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

RELEASED: May 2015

LENGTH: 70 pages

WHAT IT SAYS IN ONE SENTENCE: We need to change how, and how much, we spend on education.

QUOTE: “It is time to stop trailing competitor states, and to do so will require resources.”


  • Change state funding structure to give more money for at-risk students
  • Money given for specific programs shown to improve learning.
  • Allow school district to request local millages to raise money

TITLE: Building a Brighter Future: Recommendations for How to Improve Michigan’s Education System

PRODUCED BY: Public Sector Consultants

RELEASED: May 2015

LENGTH: 32 pages

WHAT IT SAYS IN ONE SENTENCE: If we want to reverse our downward trend in student achievement, we need to rethink how we invest in education, from cradle to career.

QUOTE: “Michigan does not just need good policy ideas … It needs good ideas and a strategy developed and supported by the business community, school leaders and educators.”


  • Invest in pre-K education
  • Invest in teacher training
  • More funding for needy students
  • More high school counselors
  • More college credit opportunities in high school

TITLE: Recommendations for Change to Michigan School Organization and Finance

PRODUCED BY: Michigan State Board of Education

RELEASED: December 2014

LENGTH: 9 pages

WHAT IT SAYS IN ONE SENTENCE: Our schools’ problems aren’t all about money, but we definitely need to “spend smarter.”

QUOTE: “The vast majority of traditional public school districts must manage the fiscal effects of having less non-retirement funding to operate.”


  • Differential funding based on the costs for different schools and students.
  • Expand early childhood education opportunities.
  • Better teacher prep and more teacher training.
  • Consistent school funding to help schools plan.

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Mary Fox
Wed, 03/21/2018 - 10:03am

You will not solve school problems until you let teachers teach. All the testing accountability is a waste of money unless you attract and KEEP teachers. How are you doing that? What working conditions are you creating for them? How are you paying them? Why would anyone want the job? It's not rocket science. It's basic. You will NEVER solve your outcomes, till you provide schools with resources and talent. Quite frankly, Republicans with their "business" model have driven away more good teachers and destroyed education in Michigan. Schools don't work on competition, kids aren't widgets to be sold or customers to be scammed. It isn't an assembly line that can be scripted.

Paul Jordan
Wed, 03/21/2018 - 10:45am

Something crucial has been overlooked in all of these supposedly learned studies. If Michigan expects to have a first-rate educational system, it must employ first-rate teachers. Although excellent training is vital, Michigan can never provide enough training unless its schools retain those well-trained teachers.
This means that Michigan schools must pay--and Michigan taxpayers must pay--enough in pay, fringe benefits, and retirement to attract and retain excellent career-oriented teachers.
In addition, Michigan schools must provide an atmosphere that is attractive to professional teachers. This means that we voters must stop the dunces in the Michigan legislature from continuing to shift all the responsibility for educational success from their shoulders to those of the teachers. (Have you marveled, as I have, how much the capital dome resembles a dunce cap?)

George Moroz
Wed, 03/21/2018 - 12:02pm

The reason the Marshall Plan worked in helping rebuild Europe after the war was that it comprised both a short-game (addressing immediate needs) and a long-game (preparing for a sustainable, but not fully foreseeable future). Michigan's current Marshall Plan plays only a sort-game---focused skills training for jobs available right now and (expected) in the near and foreseeable future. Michigan needs a long-game strategy that will prepare students to navigate an ever accelerating evolution of the very concept of "work," some of which we can imagine (e.g., more robotics, AI, etc.) and some of which, today, is not yet imaginable. Adaptability, creativity, imagination, innovation are the skills that will best serve in that uncertain future.

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 5:52pm

Politicians have demonized the teaching profession and made it unattractive to many people as can be seen in the alarming drop in the numbers of people in Michigan who are training to be teachers. I suspect many current teachers are fed up and just going through the motions which can happen in a job where the legislature takes away as many benefits and perks as they can. A system cannot move ahead if people feel disrespected.

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 10:29am

Thank you John for your thoughtful comment. If we had well developed leaders, who knew how the best organizations in the country are successful, they would know care and kindness of their employees is the only way for them to be successful.

I worked in healthcare for many years and the issues there are no different. Employees (especially nurses) are objectified and "tolerated", not recognized that they are producing the product (nursing care). This attitude is systemic in Michigan (businesses are now reaping the karma they have created, unqualified workers).

Daniel L Vicary
Wed, 03/28/2018 - 5:21am

spell check your page here.
I found error