44 applicants vie for state superintendent job

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
Forty-four applicants are vying to become Michigan’s next state superintendent, state education officials said.

Lansing — Forty-four applicants are vying to become Michigan’s next state superintendent, state education officials said.

Officials with the Michigan Department of Education said 44 applicants filed by the March 11 deadline for the top education post, which opened last spring after the death of state Superintendent Brian Whiston

The State Board of Education hired the executive search firm Ray & Associates to conduct the search, said state education officials.

"The search firm is reviewing the applications to determine whether they have met the requirements in the posting," state Department of Education spokesman Martin Ackley said.

The firm will bring the applications to the state board meeting on April 5, Ackley said, when the board will open its meeting, go into closed session to discuss the initial group, and return to share their thoughts.

"It is expected that the State Board will pare down the list of 44 applications, then proceed with its process. All future meetings and discussions from that point will be open," Ackley said.

The eight-member board, which appoints a state superintendent, will select candidates to invite for public interviews.

The state superintendent is responsible for the day-to-day management, supervision and leadership of the Michigan Department of Education. The post pays $216,000.

As state superintendent, Whiston set a priority to make Michigan a Top 10 education state in 10 years, working with educators, students, parents, businesses and policy leaders in Michigan.

Sheila Alles has been the interim state superintendent since his death in May 2018.

The next superintendent will have to deal with Michigan's Read By Grade Three law, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to overturn.

The controversial third-grade reading law allows educators to retain struggling third-graders beginning next school year if they read a grade level behind on the state's reading assessment.

“I think it's destructive, actually this policy, and that’s why I am going to do everything I can to support kids so they are successful and work to get rid of that law,” Whitmer said earlier this month during an MLive Citizen Roundtable in Grand Rapids.

The law, adopted in 2016, stops third-grade students from moving to the fourth grade — with some exemptions — if they read a grade level behind on the state's English Language Arts assessment, which measures reading, writing, listening and language.

The reading assessment is part of the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, is better known as M-STEP. A majority of Michigan's third-grade students — 55.6 percent or 56,850 students — scored less than proficient on the 2018 M-STEP in reading.

Michigan lawmakers created exemptions in the retention law. 

According to a report by researchers at Michigan State University, Michigan ranks “dead last” among all states in revenue growth for K-12 schools since voters approved property tax and finance Proposal A in 1994.

The MSU findings are another blow to an increasingly dire educational outlook for Michigan. According to analyses of national testing data, Michigan students are performing among the bottom 10 percent of states.