Parents are counting on A-F School Grades, state must deliver

This column originally appeared in the Midland Daily News.

While lawmakers wrap up their summers, they and their staffs are constructing the reforms and priorities that will dominate their discussions once they return to Lansing.

Ensuring parents get report cards from their kids’ schools — a school transparency requirement under the state’s critical new A-F grading system for schools — should top their list. Lawmakers’ action is needed, because the state’s Department of Education is only days away from violating state law and abdicating its requirements for accountability to families.

Last winter, the Legislature approved critical reforms that would empower students, families and teachers by giving every public school in the state letter grades — A, B, C, D or F — in five key areas. The grades are to be based around student proficiency and growth in reading and math, and are set to go into effect in the upcoming 2019-2020 school year.

The first school report card is required by law to head home to parents just over a month from now.

Our students bring home report cards each year so parents can monitor their progress. Families deserve the same level of transparency and accountability from their children’s schools. Unfortunately, many of our schools are failing our students in critical subject areas like reading and math, but empowering parents with more information will drive improvement across the state. Where schools are succeeding, they deserve the credit.

That’s why lawmakers last December approved a new reform to hold the state’s schools as accountable to parents as our schools hold students for their work.

It’s an innovative approach to school accountability, and it’s designed to foster transparency and spur local growth. Parents count on our schools to prepare their kids for college, careers, and a brighter future. They also pay for the privilege, pumping thousands of dollars per pupil each year into our public schools.

Families deserve to know how their schools are performing.

The truth is, we’ve all got our work cut out for us. According to the National Assessment for Education Progress, Michigan ranks 35th in the nation on fourth-grade reading and 38th on 4th grade math. The numbers aren’t much better in 8th grade, where the state ranks 33rd in math and 30th in reading. Michigan is last among Midwest states in every category. Improvement can only begin with an understanding of how each school performs for our kids.

It is important to understand that this isn’t just a problem in our urban or economically disadvantaged communities. This is a problem across Michigan, including our “good” suburban school districts. Parents deserve the truth about school performance and with that information can demand better results for their students.

Each year, the state has pumped millions more into the school aid fund. USA Today recently ranked Michigan as one of the top states in America to teach, with public school teachers the 9th highest paid in the nation.

That investment is great, and more may be needed, but parents deserve to know what it’s producing. School report cards are a critical new transparency tool to empower parents and spur growth, but now at the eleventh hour, the Michigan Department of Education is standing in the way.

The Department is required by law to develop the system for assigning and delivering the grades by Aug. 1, a month ahead of their due date to parents. That deadline is only days away, and thus far, the Department has dragged its feet. Without quick action, parents will be kept in the dark.

Parents and reformers across Michigan are demanding the Department comply with state law, and provide parents with the transparency they deserve. As lawmakers work through the summer, we’re encouraging them to hold the Department accountable, as well.

Beth DeShone is the executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project

Appalling: State Board of Education Blocks $47 Million Obama-Era Grant for Public School Text Books, Classroom Equipment, School Programs

Board Votes to Block Funds Already Secured by Michigan Department of Ed, Approved by State Lawmakers

LANSING—In an appalling attack on Michigan teachers and their students, the Michigan State Board of Education last week voted to block a $47-plus million federal grant for Michigan public schools designed to provide new text books, classroom equipment and supplies, curriculum materials, and program design in many Michigan public schools.

The new five-year grant, which would pump $14 million worth of supplies, books, and programming into Michigan public charter school classrooms for the first school year alone, is part of an Obama-era grant under the Every Student Succeeds Act, and was secured last year by the Michigan Department of Education.

The State Board of Education blocked the grant after learning the funds were designed under former President Barack Obama to provide supplies specifically to public charter schools to expand opportunities for all students, particularly traditionally underserved students, to meet challenging state academic standards.

Public charter schools are one-hundred percent tuition free Michigan public schools, are open to every student, and are led in every classroom by highly qualified, state certified public school teachers.

“The Board of Education’s callous decision to block federal funds for text books and classroom supplies for many of the Michigan public school students who need them most is an attack on students, an attack on parents, and an attack on Michigan public school teachers,” said Beth DeShone Executive Director of the Great Lakes Education Project.  “The Board is holding public school teachers and their classrooms hostage because they dislike an Obama-era grant designed to help underserved public school students.  They should be ashamed, they should reverse course immediately, and they should stop standing between public school teachers and millions of dollars’ worth of text books and classroom supplies.”

For more information about the $47,222,222 public school grant from the U.S. Department of Education being brazenly blocked by the Michigan State Board of Education, please visit


Governor Whitmer will fail students

Elimination of the state’s early literacy law will be a detriment to Michigan students

LANSING, MI – The Great Lakes Education Project Advocacy Director Beth DeShone today issued the following statement on Governor Whitmer’s call to eliminate the state’s 3rd grade reading law.

“Michigan’s Third Grade Reading law is an evidence-based policy that lifts Michigan’s students up to thrive. We owe it our children to give them the best and this starts with the skill of reading. Period. Governor Whitmer’s plan to eliminate reading intervention services for the students in Michigan who need them most is a slap in the face of Michigan children and their teachers. Instead of cutting support services that exist to help young students read, the Governor should demand the Michigan Department of Education work with local districts to ensure all aspects of the law are being followed – screenings, interventions, parental notification, individualized reading plans and, in the most difficult situations, possible retention in a different classroom. Studies prove students must learn to read by third grade so they can read to learn for the rest of their career. We cannot return to social promotion so that career politicians can coddle those who prioritize adult feelings over student needs.”


GLEP Endorses in 70 Races for 2018 House and Senate Districts

Leading education advocacy group makes campaign endorsements

Lansing, MI – The Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) today announced endorsements for candidates in 70 races for the Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate in 2018. This includes 34 incumbent endorsements.

“GLEP is pleased to support these champions for students.  It is not easy to run for public office and buck the status quo, but these candidates have shown that they will ensure the first priority in education is each individual Michigan student.  I look forward to working with each of them in the future,” said Beth DeShone, GLEP Advocacy Director.   Candidates and incumbents endorsed today by GLEP include the following:


  • District #2: Adam Hollier (Detroit)
  • District #7: Representative Laura Cox (Livonia)
  • District #8: Representative Peter Lucido (Shelby Twp.)
  • District #10: Mike MacDonald (Macomb)
  • District #12: Representative Jim Tedder (Clarkston)
  • District #15: Representative Jim Runestad (White Lake)
  • District #16: Senator Mike Shirkey (Clarklake)
  • District #19: Representative John Bizon (Battle Creek)
  • District #21: Representative Kim LaSata (St. Joseph)
  • District #22: Representative Lana Theis (Brighton)
  • District #24: Representative Tom Barrett (Charlotte)
  • District #25: Representative Dan Lauwers (Brockway)
  • District #28: Senator Peter MacGregor (Rockford)
  • District #29: Representative Chris Afendoulis (Grand Rapids)
  • District #30: Representative Daniela Garcia (Holland)
  • District #33: (Former Representative) Rick Outman (Six Lakes)
  • District #34: Representative Holly Hughes (Montague)
  • District #36: Senator Jim Stamas (Midland)
  • District #37: Senator Wayne Schmidt (Traverse City)
  • District #38: Mike Carey (Crystal Falls)


  • District #2: Willie Bell (Detroit)
  • District #3: John Cromer (Detroit)
  • District #17: Representative Joe Bellino (Monroe)
  • District #20: Representative Jeff Noble (Plymouth)
  • District #21: Darian Moore (Canton)
  • District #30: Representative Diana Farrington (Utica)
  • District #32: Representative Pamela Hornberger (Chesterfield Township)
  • District #36: Karen Potchynok-Lund (Shelby Twp.)
  • District #38: Representative Kathy Crawford (Novi)
  • District #41: Doug Tietz (Troy)
  • District #42: Ann Bollin (Brighton)
  • District #43: Andrea Schroeder (Clarkston)
  • District #45: Representative Michael Webber (Rochester Hills)
  • District #47: Representative Hank Vaupel (Fowlerville)
  • District #51: Mike Mueller (Linden)
  • District #52: Teri Aiuto (Chelsea)
  • District #56: Representative Jason Sheppard (Lambertville)
  • District #57: Representative Bronna Kahle (Adrian)
  • District #58: Representative Eric Leutheuser (Hillsdale)
  • District #61: Representative Brandt Iden (Kalamazoo)
  • District #62: Dave Morgan (Battle Creek)
  • District #64: Representative Julie Alexander (Hanover)
  • District #65: Sarah Lightner (Springport)
  • District #66: Representative Beth Griffin (Mattawan)
  • District #67: Leon Clark (Mason)
  • District #70: Representative James Lower (Cedar Lake)
  • District #73: Lynn Afendoulis (Grand Rapids)
  • District #74: Mark Huizenga (Walker)
  • District #77: Representative Tommy Brann (Wyoming)
  • District #78: Brad Paquette (Niles)
  • District #80: Representative Mary Whiteford (South Haven)
  • District #81: Kenneth Nicholl (Yale)
  • District #85: Representative Ben Frederick (Owosso)
  • District #86: Representative Thomas Albert (Lowell)
  • District #87: Representative Julie Calley (Portland)
  • District #89: Representative Jim Lilly (Park Township)
  • District #91: Greg VanWoerkom (Norton Shores)
  • District #94: Steven Gerhardt (Saginaw)
  • District #97: Representative Jason Wentworth (Evart)
  • District #98: Annette Glenn (Auburn)
  • District #99: Representative Roger Hauck (Mt. Pleasant)
  • District #100: Representative Scott VanSingel (Grant)
  • District #101: Jack O’Malley (Lake Ann)
  • District #102: Representative Michele Hoitenga (Manton)
  • District #103: Representative Daire Rendon (Lake City)
  • District #104: Representative Larry Inman (Williamsburg)
  • District #105: Representative Triston Cole (Mancelona)
  • District #106: Representative Sue Allor (Wolverine)
  • District #107: Representative Lee Chatfield (Levering)
  • District #108: Representative Beau LaFave (Iron Mountain)

“As GLEP Chairman, I have witnessed the positive impact of education policy that supports the unique learning needs of each individual student.  These endorsed candidates are examples of thought leaders that will promote a continued focus on student centered educational opportunities,” said Jim Barrett, GLEP Chairman.

GLEP’s endorsement process includes past voting records, personal interviews and results from a candidate survey. Priority issues for GLEP include school choice, accountability and early literacy, while endorsed candidates may hold various positions on K-12 funding, curriculum standards, assessments, etc.

This Week & Next (3/3/17)

Trump pushes school choice to Congress
On Tuesday, during his first formal address to Congress, President Trump (R) joined previous Presidents George W. Bush (R) and Barack Obama (D) when he identified education as the “civil rights issue of our time.He asked lawmakers to “pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious, or home school that is right for them.” While details are thin at this point in time, education stakeholders have been writing about various possibilities here, from directly funding a federal voucher program or creating a federal tax credit scholarship program, similar to what has been done in a dozen states. This will likely be the “cornerstone” education program of the Trump presidency, and we’ll have more details as they become available. President Trump and Secretary DeVos are also visiting a private school in Florida today. Continue reading

The Truth About Charter Schools and K-12 Education in Michigan

Remarks by GLEP’s Gary Naeyaert at the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy at Albion College | February 27, 2017

  • Despite $14 billion/year investment in K-12, academic performance is lacking
    • Less than 50% of students are proficient in any grade or any subject on M-STEP
    • Less than 20% of high school juniors are “college and career-ready” per ACT
    • One of few states where 4th Grade reading proficiency has DECLINED in 10 years

Continue reading

This Week & Next (02/24/17)

Governor Delays Action on Failing Schools
Yesterday, Governor Rick Synder put out a press release announcing that the State Reform Office, run by Natasha Baker, would be postponing until May any formal announcements about the fate of the 38 schools identified as chronically-failing.  The SRO was in the midst of a 30-45 day review period, where announcements were expected in early March. As a result of public pushback, and lawsuits against the state filed by Kalamazoo Public Schools and Saginaw Public Schools, the Governor would like the State Reform Office to work more closely with Superintendent Whiston and the MDE on researching and communicating various intervention options to local school districts. The Governor reiterated his understanding that absent closure, major restructuring and interventions will be needed in at least these particular schools.   Reaction to the Governor’s announcement was mixed, and GLEP continues to advocate that chronically failing schools must be replaced or closed. MLive has published an interactive map showing other school options nearby the 38 chronically-failing schools in the state. Continue reading

This Week & Next (2/17/17)

Legislative subcommittees start FY ’18 school aid budget work
Both the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on School Aid held initial hearings this week to discuss the Governor’s proposed $14.3 billion School Aid Budget for FY ’18.  As mentioned last week, some of the key issues in the proposed budget are:

  • Increasing the minimum foundation grant by $100 to $7,611 per pupil and increasing the basic foundation grant by $50 to $8,279 per pupil, reducing the funding equity gap to $668 per pupil through the 2x formula;

Continue reading

This Week & Next (2/10/17)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Takes the Helm
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted 51-50 to confirm Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Education Secretary. All GOP members (except 2) voted YES and all DEM members vote NO, requiring Vice President Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote. The following are a few media stories and editorials from this past week: Continue reading