This Week & Next (April 11, 2014)

As the Legislature is still on their spring recess, let’s catch up on some education reform issues here in Michigan and across the country.

Teacher Evaluation Bills Make Progress
GLEP participated in a legislative workgroup meeting held yesterday with Rep. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage) and Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor), sponsors of HB 5223 and HB 5224, to create a teacher and leader evaluation system. Our previous concerns – that the bills potentially “turn back the clock” on teacher tenure reform and that language in the bills would promote or prohibit a specific student assessment – are being addressed by the sponsors. Once we’ve seen final language here, GLEP intends to support the bills and communicate our support to members of the House Education Committee and the full House of Representatives.

70 West Michigan School Districts Announce Reading Now Network
Reading NowRecently, a group of 70 school districts in 13 West Michigan counties announced formation of the Reading Now Network to improve early literacy for students. The Network includes three initiatives: a Field Study to identify proficient readers; a Summit in the fall to share the field study results; and a Symposium in 2015 focusing on reading techniques and classroom. But wait, there’s more!! Participating West Michigan school and business leaders also signed a Commitment Board, emphasizing their dedication to help all children in the region become excellent readers.  So there you have it. A field study, summit, symposium and a commitment board. It’s too bad so many 3rd graders can’t read the commitment board!


While one could be encouraged by the recognition that only 62% of 3rd graders reading proficiently is embarrassingly low and that these districts are doing “something” to address the issue, GLEP continues to support passage of HB 5111 and 5144, sponsored by Rep. Amanda Price (R-Holland) and Rep. Thomas Stallworth III (D-Detroit), which will improve early literacy through a comprehensive approach including early screening, intervention, parental notification and potential retention (as a last resort). These bills have passed in the House Education Committee and are pending on the floor of House of Representatives.

State Board of Education Continues to Examine School Funding
In the continuing process of inviting stakeholder commentary on school funding issues, the State Board of Education entertained presentations this past Tuesday from the Education Trust-Midwest (see last week’s blog post for their new report), and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Audrey Spalding, Mackinac Center, pointed out that increased funding doesn’t necessarily lead to improved performance, and that Michigan’s investments have risen dramatically while performance is stagnant.  Click here to download Ms. Spalding’s presentation.

New Online Tool to Evaluate Schools – But Does it Work?
Parents in Detroit may have been provided another online tool to help them navigate nearly 350 K-12 school options in the city – but will it do more harm than good?  The site is a product of Excellent Schools Detroit, and is to provide in-depth profiles on K-12 schools in the city and nearby suburbs, including state and national data and ratings.  Here’s a random rating header for a school in Detroit:

Great Schools

From looking at this graphic, one could assume this school is either Very Good, Average or Poor. Is this meaningful information when trying to make a school choice decision? We believe the confusion and complexity of having so many different school rankings and reporting systems (Top-to-Bottom Ranking; Rainbow Report Card; Priority/Reward/Focus schools; ESD; Mackinac Center, Bridge Magazine; Great Schools.Org, etc) actually does a disservice for parents and families trying to make informed choices about where to educate their child.


That’s why GLEP supports the A-F Letter Grading accountability system for schools, since it is a simpler and more meaningful system that focuses on academic proficiency and student growth.  This bill (HB 5112) has passed in the House Education Committee and is pending on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Michigan Ranks 44th for African American Children
A provocative new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, titled “Race for Results,” concludes that white and Asian children are far better positioned for success than black, Latino and American Indian children in the United States. In fact, the report ranks Michigan as 44th in terms of providing an environment of success for African American children. The foundation is urging drastic action to bridge the racial gap in education in order to improve child well-being in the country. Here’s a national media story from MSNBC on the report. GLEP believes that quality educational choices for all children – especially at-risk children trapped in chronically failing schools – is the key to closing the academic achievement gap and ending the cycle of poverty.

Cal Thomas Hits the Nail on the Head
According this awesome column by Cal Thomas, “Parents want choice, students want choice. Only the unions and certain politicians stand in their way.” We couldn’t agree more. Mr. Thomas’ column was used to promote the fact that the Friedman Foundation has just released their “ABC’s of School Choice” 2014 report.

GLEP Endorsements Coming Soon!!
Next week, GLEP will start announcinDonkey-and-Elephantg our PAC endorsements in key State Senate and State House primary campaigns. Based on past voting history, responses to our candidate questionnaire and personal interviews – GLEP is proud to support those candidates who stand up for choice, quality and accountability in public education.

Please click here if you’re a candidate for State Senate or State House and would like to be considered for an endorsement from GLEP in the 2014 election cycle.  Our deadline for submission is May 1, 2014.

Next Week

The Michigan Legislature is not in session (it’s called an “in district work period”) through most of the month of April. We’ll add calendar items when they return.

Do you support what GLEP is doing to improve education in Michigan? Please consider making a donation to help us continue our efforts, and all contributions are very much appreciated!!

Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director