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High standards and a coherent education strategy are critical

Over the last two years, our organization has studied leading education states to share these lessons with Michiganders about how we can raise student learning in our public schools. We’re glad that Bridge is working to share many of these lessons across the state.

Here are some of the takeaways from our research:

We can do better

It’s a Michigan myth that state and local political and education leaders can do little to raise student learning. Leading states prove this over and over again. We can do better, and we must for our students’ sakes.

High standards are essential

In all of the leading states that we have studied, raising standards for teaching and learning was one of the first steps toward progress. High standards are a foundation for practically every other educational improvement strategy, whether it’s a local school strategy or a statewide effort.

Every state has its strengths and weaknesses

Even high-performing states such as Florida have their strengths and weaknesses. That’s why we need to go far beyond the data to look at best practices, policy frameworks and long-term impact on children when we look for model education states for Michigan.

Florida, for example, has done terrific work in raising literacy rates. However, its charter school sector is a mess. Recently an investigation by the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel found that virtually anyone can open or run a charter school in Florida, spurring corruption and other problems. It’s no model for Michigan charter schools.

Minnesota is another good example. While the state is strong in fourth grade, its African-American students perform poorly in eighth grade reading and math and the state has large achievement gaps.

No state is perfect, though Massachusetts is as close as it gets.

Strategy and leadership are critical

A research-based, coherent, aligned state strategy that brings together best practices around public policy, investment, leadership and educational practices can be truly transformative.

As Tennessee shows, sustained state- and school district-level commitment to a research-based agenda is key. Without that, a great agenda will not be funded or implemented with fidelity and consistency.

To read more on the Education Trust-Midwest’s findings on leading education states, go here.

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