Make Michigan a Top Ten State for Education

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Senator Patrick Colbeck

Senator Patrick Colbeck

By Sen. Patrick Colbeck
7th Senate District

In December of 2015, the Michigan Department of Education released a statement of its goal to make Michigan a Top Ten State in Ten Years and establish Michigan as a “premier education state.” As a member of the Senate Education Committee, I share this goal.

Unfortunately, the data shows that we are not on a trajectory to achieve this worthy goal. According to a 2014 Competitiveness Benchmarking Report from the Business Leaders for Michigan, Michigan ranks 38th in fourth grade reading and 37th in eighth grade math. Our most recent M-STEP results revealed that only 50 percent of our third graders were proficient in reading while only 28 percent of our eleventh graders were proficient in math.

What put us on this trajectory? In June of 2010, the Michigan State Board of Education adopted Common Core Standards for math and English language arts (ELA) without any evidence to indicate that these standards would help to improve student performance. We are now almost six years into this Common Core experiment on our kids and the aforementioned results speak for themselves. The reasons for these results are many, but one of the most glaring is that more time is spent on testing to feed the data lust of central control advocates and less time is spent in the classroom on instructing students on the subject matter on which they are tested.

It is clear to any objective observer that the adoption of Common Core has resulted in a race to the “middle,” not to the “top.” The word “common” should have been a dead giveaway. In order to become a Top Ten state, wouldn’t it make sense to emulate the top education state rather than roll the dice with our kids on unproven standards?

The top rated state is Massachusetts. Massachusetts students have achieved first place or near first place on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests in reading and mathematics starting in 2005 through 2015. All demographic groups have improved during this timeframe. Massachusetts also participated as a country in Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2007 and 2011. In both years, they tied for first place with Singapore in eighth grade science and placed among the top six countries in eighth grade mathematics.

In spite of these successes, even Massachusetts adopted Common Core standards back in 2010.  Since then, Massachusetts has experienced a “leveling” of performance growth. The latest test results actually show a dip in their prior year performance.

Why then did states like Massachusetts adopt this race to the “middle” in the first place? It turns out that the federal government provided financial incentives via programs like Race to the Top to states if they were to adopt Common Core. Massachusetts received $250 million for their switch. Michigan received $0 for their switch but had obviously hoped for more.

The good news is that the recent passage of the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) removes the funding carrots that had enticed states to adopt Common Core. Michigan has an opportunity to take advantage of this new act by passing Senate Bill 826, which I introduced as a companion bill to House Bill 5444 introduced by Rep. Gary Glenn. The passage of SB 826 would repeal Common Core Standards in Michigan and replace them with the proven Pre-Common Core Massachusetts Standards. By doing so, Michigan would finally be on a proven trajectory to be a Top Ten state in education.

Sen. Patrick Colbeck represents the 7th Senate District, which encompasses the cities of Livonia, Northville, Plymouth and Wayne, as well as the townships of Canton, Northville and Plymouth.