Opinion: Proposal will improve student outcomes

Brian Whiston

Michigan students, teachers and schools are more than just a single test on a single day each year. That is what policymakers have been hearing for over a decade. Yet, that is what the old federal No Child Left Behind law prescribed.

We absolutely want every child to be reading at grade level by the end of third grade and beyond, and we want them to know math — from simple addition and subtraction to higher-level math.

Our kids also should be allowed to be curious; to be problem solvers, critical thinkers, good verbal and written communicators, able to meet high academic standards in science and social studies, and develop the skills to get good-paying careers.

A true focus on the whole child and the aspects of a well-rounded education include academic subjects like fine arts and physical education, as well as areas related to safety, health, school culture and climate, food and nutrition, early childhood, postsecondary transitions, and social-emotional learning.

We ensure quality educators by improving their training, providing them mentors and paths to grow, and supporting them throughout their careers.

Local schools should have the flexibility to design how they meet the comprehensive needs of their students with tailored strategies for student and educator success, with less focus on compliance to federal requirements.

And, in the event schools struggle to succeed, we should help them diagnose their needs across that whole-child spectrum, identify evidence-based practices, and implement a plan that will improve their outcomes.

The Partnership Model puts a broad spectrum of technical expertise and resources in the hands of the struggling school district, and allows local districts to use community and state-level support systems to identify challenges and improve.

The ultimate benefit is to regenerate a struggling school to be one that helps students and teachers achieve at higher levels.

These all are key components in Michigan’s proposed plan to the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act that replaced No Child Left Behind.

Michigan’s plan now is before Gov. Rick Snyder. The plan is a culmination of nearly a year’s worth of broad stakeholder and public input from around the state. It builds upon the goals and strategies outlined in the Top 10 in 10 initiative and the Governor’s 21st Century Education Commission.

At its core, Michigan’s ESSA plan centers on Michigan’s children: their opportunity to learn; to access excellent educators and meaningful supports; and to successfully transition to career, college and life.

It is the proper course and best direction for education in Michigan.

Brian Whiston is state superintendent for the state of Michigan.