Superintendent Rice to update Michigan education plan

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

State Superintendent of Instruction Michael Rice announced Tuesday his department will update Michigan's state education plan to add metrics and clarify the document.

Michael Rice, who's been on the job 41 days leading the Michigan Department of Education, told the State Board of Education during its monthly meeting in Lansing that he and the board will be working with external stakeholders over the next several months to update the state's Top 10 in 10 plan.

Michael Rice

The plan, which was implemented in 2016 by former state superintendent Brian Whiston, outlines the state's vision for education and ten goals to drive student achievement in K-12 schools.

Goals include creating a sustainable preschool-through-college system to educate all children, meeting and support the learning needs of all children, empowering parents to participate in their child’s education and developing an educated and highly skilled workforce.

"The Top 10 in 10 strategic plan has served us well for its first three and half years," Rice said. "We appreciate its guidance. At the same time, many of us are familiar with strategic plans that are annually reviewed. It’s time for a review of ours."

Rice, the former superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools, said the review and update are not intended to discard "the terrific work" already embedded in the plan.

"But rather to update, to streamline, to clarify and add metrics to that work," Rice said. "Because if we inspire to be a Top 10 in 10 state, it is important to have a common understanding, not just within the board and the department but broadly as a state, as to what we want to be 'Top 10 in 10' in."

Rice said he expects to get feedback over the next few months and the state will have an updated plan in the spring.

Education experts have said that Michigan is not on track to become a top-performing state in K-12 education and won't be any time soon. Recent data showed nearly 55% of third-grade students failed the state's reading test with only a slight improvement in scores statewide.

According to 2019 results of the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress released last month, 54.9% of third-graders — or 55,336 students — scored less than proficient on the English language arts test. That's a modest improvement compared with 55.6% last year.

In May, the Education Trust-Midwest released its 2019 annual report examining the state of K-12 education in Michigan, saying the state ranked 35th in fourth-grade reading and 33rd in eighth-grade math in 2017 and is projected to drop further in the rankings by 2030 — to 45th and 37th, respectively — if stays on its current education course.

The state board adopted the initial Top 10 in 10 principles and goals in 2015. Workgroups of education stakeholders offered specific recommendations and worked for two months to refine the targeted strategies.

Board president Casandra Ulbrich said she supported the review on Tuesday.

"I agree it's time for us to kind of re-evaluate the Top 10 and see if it makes sense," Ulbrich said. "It was never fully understood what the Top 10 was and what we are comparing ourselves to."

Chris Wigent, executive director of the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, said the group supports a thorough review of the plan.

"We also support an appropriate prioritization of the plan’s goals that are the most attainable and realistic," Wigent said, "as well as a focus on clear and measurable outcomes for those goals that will have the greatest impact on improving instruction for all children."