Letter: We don’t protect status quo, schools chief says


If you want innovative thinking and positive reformative action in education, look no farther than the Michigan Department of Education and its partners.

Working together over the past two years, great strides have been made with a commitment to making Michigan a Top 10 education state within 10 years.

A recent editorial in the Detroit News (“Copy best practices to improve schools,” Dec. 7) labeled the Department of Education as a “protector of the status quo.” Nothing could be so far from the truth.

Working with broad stakeholder input, a strategic plan was developed for the Top 10 in 10 goal. This strategic plan was informed by the education reform work done in Massachusetts and Tennessee, and national education reformer Marc Tucker’s “9 Building Blocks.”

The reforms in the Top 10 in 10 plan were the underpinnings of the study, discussion, and innovative recommendations of the Governor’s 21st Century Education Commission and the Michigan Career Pathways Alliance.

Basic to all of these innovations and reforms is providing every student with the opportunity for a quality early childhood education that carries through to explore multiple career paths during their secondary education journey. It’s about the reforms taking place to improve teacher training, induction and mentoring so our educators are motivated, supported, and driven to improve their craft — and improve student achievement.

The innovations and reforms taking place are concentrated to close the achievement and talent gaps. Executive Directives that I put into place this summer at the Department of Education fracture the status quo, as do bills going through the state Legislature now to expand Career and Technical Education programs and the education force across the state.

The number of Early/Middle College programs has jumped from 26 to 91 over the past three years, offering high school and post-secondary credentials to students in every corner of the state.

The Department of Education and local school districts are finding success advancing innovative instructional models like Competency-Based Learning to develop critical thinking skills by students across the spectrum.

We have given struggling school districts new hope and support to build strong partnerships within their communities to help reverse their course of low academic achievement. New strategies and accountability of Partnership Districts will drive improvement.

Some of those who now are critical of the reforms that are moving forward were involved from the beginning in these discussions and conversations. They now seem to be resisting the fact that we are NOT protecting the status quo.

We are setting ambitious, yet attainable, goals that will challenge schools in Michigan.

Michigan’s plan is dynamic, innovative, designed to have rigorous standards, greater assistance to struggling schools, more opportunity for all students, and has more informative transparency for accountability.

So much more work needs to be done to get Michigan to become a Top 10 education state in 10 years. Work continues with local school districts, business and community partners, parents, educators, and positive relentless leaders in our state.

Michigan cannot be deterred or derailed from the momentum to provide every child with a high-quality education and multiple pathways for success.

Brian Whiston, superintendent

Michigan Department of Education