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Time to row in same direction for schools, says Michigan business group

The most obvious question about the latest report on Michigan school reform is also the easiest to answer.

Why is a business group writing about education?

For Business Leaders for Michigan, “it’s about building the talent right here at home,” BLM President Doug Rothwell said. “We want to hire Michigan students – yet we can see first-hand that too many younger workers lack the basic skills they need in literacy and math to succeed in the workforce.

“That’s why we engaged in this study; to prompt an important dialogue about how to improve student outcomes.”

Related: College funding cuts in Michigan have led to fewer students, greater debt
Related: Michigan income growth hindered by lack of college graduates 
Related: Demand for Michigan workers is very high, but many have given up looking

The business group’s latest report, “Business Leaders’ Insights: Leading Practices in K-12 Education That Can Improve Student Outcomes in Michigan,” surveys the best practices of leading education states and makes recommendations for changes that could help turn around Michigan’s flagging K-12 system.

Detroit conference: Getting past politics to give Michigan the schools it deserves
Grand Rapids conference: West Michigan leaders join chorus for state education reform

The BLM education report, released Tuesday, calls for:

  • High, consistent standards. Michigan changes its standards way too often, according to the report.
  • Investment in professional development for teachers and school leaders, by giving them better access to data and recognizing top performers.
  • Money spent on policies that are proven to be effective, and making those strategies uniform across the state.

“Some of these ideas are not new, but they have not been adopted consistently in Michigan like they have in states with high student outcomes,” Rothwell said.

The business leaders plan is the latest in at least a dozen education reform reports published by various groups in Michigan in recent years.

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

“We have talented people spending countless hours trying to fix our education system,” states the BLM report, “but their efforts are rarely coordinated.”

Rothwell said he hopes that changes now.

“The states that have been successful have had a group of business, education, foundation and philanthropic organizations aligned behind concerns about student performance and putting forth a consistent and unified effort to improve outcomes,” Rothwell said.

“Today, we are announcing the beginning of a group of Michigan organizations committed to working together toward better student outcomes.”

Included in that group are: Business Leaders for Michigan, Detroit Regional Chamber, The Education Trust-Midwest, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Skillman Foundation, the Small Business Association of Michigan, Talent 2025, Traverse City Chamber of Commerce, and Tom Haas, Grand Valley State University President and Chair of the Governor’s 21st Century Education Commission.

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