Governor Rick Snyder's Special Address on Education PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Revard   
Friday, 29 April 2011 21:25
In a special message to the Michigan Legislature on education policy, Governor Rick Snyder entreated the state to transform its education system. He noted that Michigan is underachieving in its education outcomes and hailed an improved education system as integral to Michigan's future. In the message Snyder delineated his reform proposal. For the sake of clarity, Mr. Snyders's proposal can be compartmentalized into four discrete measures: a comprehensive education system from early childhood development through post-secondary education, a performance-based system, school choice, and school protection.

The first measure of Mr. Snyder's proposal is a comprehensive education system.

The proposed comprehensive system would entail the integration of early childhood development programs, primary and secondary education, and even facets of post-secondary education.

The first integral component of the proposed comprehensive education system is the reform of Michigan's early childhood development programs. Mr. Snyder intimates that preparation for educational development begins at conception; e.g., prenatal health, malnutrition, and low birth weight are consequential variables in childhood development. Therefore, Michigan should "create a coherent system of health and early learning that aligns, integrates and coordinates Michigan's investments from prenatal to third grade." To achieve this goal, Mr. Snyder proposes the consolidation of Michigan's 84 early childhood development programs. The programs would be administered under a single agency responsible for early childhood development; this is intended to improve outcomes, reduce duplication, and eliminate inefficiencies. The new agency would be created by executive order and placed under the purview of the Michigan Department of Education. The new agency would be named the Michigan Office of Great Start - Early Childhood. It conjoins the Department of Human Services's Office of Child Development and Care with the Michigan Department of Education's (MDE) Office of Early Childhood Education and Family Services. The new agency would measure its outcomes against four criteria: 1) children born healthy; 2) children healthy, thriving, and developmentally on track from birth to third grade; 3) children developmentally ready to succeed in school at the time of school entry; 4) children prepared to succeed in fourth grade and beyond by reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

The second integral component of the proposed comprehensive education system is the increased integration of secondary and post-secondary education. This is essentially K-14 education policy; for additional information on K-14 education policy, read these articles on the Michigan Policy Network. In addition to including post-secondary education in Michigan's School Aid Fund, the proposal establishes a new "Degrees Matter" system. The new system facilitates Snyder's goal that students be able to receive a community college degree or skilled trades credential by their 13th year of school. It requires all public schools to offer as early as ninth grade college credit opportunities; the options include early college, dual enrollment, online college credit courses, direct credit, and other valid alternatives. Additionally, the proposal requires what it labels "three way multi-directional college credits." Essentially, universities will accept blocks of credits from community colleges and quality high school courses. Moreover, community colleges will be allowed to accept university credits toward the attainment of a student's community college degree or credential. Also, universities will accept blocks of credits from community colleges. In conjunction with improved early childhood development, the increased integration of secondary and post-secondary education is intended to create a longitudinal system where students seamlessly transition to each subsequent phase of education until they receive a diploma or skilled trade certification.

The second measure of Mr. Snyder's proposal is a performance-based system.

For additional information on performance-based initiatives, read this article on the Michigan Policy Network. A performance-based system would entail two components: performance-based funding and performance-based evaluation.

The first component of Mr. Snyder's performance-based system is performance-based funding. Presently, school funding is determined by attendance. Biannually, school districts experience "count days." The attendance figures from the count days determines the funding the school district receives from the state. While Mr. Snyder believes attendance is integral to determining funding, he also desires to include school performance as a funding determinant. Therefore, according to his proposal, a portion of a school district's funding would be predicated on the school's performance; specifically, a school district would receive a funding bonus if the school demonstrated student growth in reading, math and other subjects deemed pertinent by the MDE. Furthermore, the funding would be apportioned to districts for students who show an average of at least one year of growth per year of instruction.

The second component of Mr. Snyder's performance-based system is performance-based evaluation. Mr. Snyder stated axiomatically that teachers are essential to student success. Therefore, teachers must be afforded the tools to succeed. This process begins in training teachers. In an attempt at moral suasion, his proposal challenges Michigan's post-secondary institutions to transform their teacher education programs so new teachers may meet national Common Core College and Career-Readiness Standards. Additionally, he requests that the State Board of Education and MDE increase their respective standards for teacher certification tests. Furthermore, the proposal requests that the State Superintendent and State Board facilitate alternative certification to allow qualified professionals to teach. Also, he requests that the State Board and MDE ensure that all school districts effectively assess teacher performance. The central measure of the performance-based teaching component is Mr. Snyder's request that the state legislature reform Michigan's "antiquated" tenure law. He states that he will only support tenure reform legislation that:

1.) Awards tenure based on demonstrated, multiple years of effective teaching ability, instead of the current system that relies only on the number of years teaching. I propose that new teachers be given five years of probationary status, and teachers must demonstrate three consecutive years of effectiveness in order to be eligible for tenure.

2.) Requires that the annual evaluations of teachers be based on multiple measures, but must include in its determination of effectiveness at least 40% based on student achievement growth.

3.) Requires that ineffective teachers, as determined by annual evaluation, enter a probationary status. If such teachers receive a second consecutive ineffective rating, they should forfeit the rights and privileges secured by tenure. Ineffective teachers should then be dismissed or given a third year at the option of the local district.

4.) The tenure appeal process needs to be reformed so that ineffective teachers who have been unable to improve their performance can be dismissed in a more timely and cost-effective way.

As a corollary to the perform-based measure of his proposal, Mr. Snyder seeks to increase transparency in school outcomes and teacher performance. Therefore, he unveiled the "State of Education in Michigan" dashboard. The dashboard concept is predicated on providing current information on a myriad of metrics relevant to a particular topic. For example, during his State of the State Address, Mr. Snyder announced dash boards pertaining to the state's public safety, economic, and quality of life outcomes. The education dash board relays information on metrics ranging from the percentage of schools meeting federal adequate yearly progress to community college retention rate. Click on this link to access Michigan's education dashboard.

The third measure of Mr. Snyder's proposal is school choice.

It should be noted that Mr. Snyder is not advocating private school choice or vouchers. Rather, he is attempting to facilitate public school choice. This includes increasing charter schools and reducing barriers that inhibit school choice across school district borders. This measure is predicated on the notion that additional competition will impel failing schools to succeed.

The first component of school choice is increasing the quantity of charter schools. Mr. Snyder considers charter schools integral to improving Michigan's education outcomes. Therefore, he seeks to remove caps on the quantity of charter schools in districts with at least one academically failing school. Additionally, in an effort to recruit prominent charter school operators, Mr. Snyder proposes abrogating the rule that charter boards can only administer a single school. Conspicuously, Mr. Snyder omits mention of removing the cap on the quantity of charter schools that a university may authorize.

The second component of school choice is to remove the barriers between school districts. Essentially, school funding would be predicated on where a student learns. Funding would follow the student across various districts. This new program would be named the "Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace" program. Additionally, all public school districts would be required to offer alternative "schools of choice." Moreover, school districts would be prohibited from rejecting students outside the school district.

The fourth measure of Mr. Snyder's proposal is school protection.

Fundamentally, this proposes the implementation of anti-bullying legislation. Mr. Snyder intimates that school bullying has a deleterious effect on student outcomes. Therefore, he concludes that bullying is an education issue. He entreats the legislature to pass legislation requiring all school districts to implement an anti-bullying policy. Conspicuously, Mr. Snyder refrains from revealing his stance on enumerated groups. The inclusion of protected groups in Michigan's anti-bullying legislation has been most controversial. Verily, it has proven to be the primary impediment to anti-bullying legislation. The sticking point has been whether to delineate sexual orientation, in addition to race, ethnicity, etc., as a protected class. For additional information on the effectiveness of anti-bullying legislation and Michigan's attempts to pass it, read this article on the Michigan Policy Network.

Reaction to the special message has varied. Iris K. Salters, President of the Michigan Education Association, lauded Mr. Snyder's appeals for early childhood education and anti-bullying legislation. "It's encouraging that he supports our views on early childhood education, anti-bullying and the need for administrator certification, all of which we outlined in our A+ Agenda earlier this year," she stated in an MEA press release. Conversely, other aspects of the message received condemnation. Regarding the second measure of Mr. Snyder's proposal, Salters stated, "taking resources away from struggling schools that need those funds to reduce class sizes, improve teacher training and restore programs to help students succeed isn't a sound investment strategy."

Additionally, Douglas Newcombe, Superintendent of Bay City Public Schools, viewed the message positively. "We're all about improving student achievement," Newcombe stated. "From what I've seen, everything that's in (Snyder's plan) talks to improving student achievement and ways to do that." His only reservation pertained to Mr. Snyder's proposed "Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace" program. "I don't have any real concerns with the plan other than I'm not quite sure about the flexibility in the days and hours," he stated. "I want to be careful there because I want to be sure kids are in school. In some cases, I feel kids aren't in school enough."


A Special Message from Governor Rick Snyder: Education Reform

Michigan Education Association - Snyder school budget cuts cast shadow on today's education address

School Bullying Council - Snyder calls for anti-bullying legislation in education address

The Bay City Times - Bay City school chief pleased with goals of Gov. Rick Snyder's education reform plan


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Andy Chou and Andrew Revard are Education Policy Correspondents for the Michigan Policy Network. Andy is a first-year student in Economics at Michigan State University. Andrew is a senior in Political Science at MSU.

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