DeVos approves Michigan's state education plan

Michigan’s state education plan, the Every Student Succeeds Act, was approved by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Tuesday.

Michigan’s state education plan, the Every Student Succeeds Act, was approved by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Tuesday. Buy this photo
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Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 5:15pm

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Tuesday approved Michigan’s state education plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act Tuesday afternoon. 

The act requires states to develop plans for accountability and standards while giving special help to struggling schools. Michigan first submitted its plan in April. In a press release, State Superintendent Brian Whiston wrote the proposal to make aims Michigan a top-10 education state within the next 10 years, and took into account the input of thousands of stakeholders.

U.S. News gave Michigan 42nd place in its rating of state education systems this year. The plan was slow to gain approval due to lackluster improvements in English-language learning and proper metrics. A study by nonpartisan research group Education-Trust Midwest projected Michigan would fall to 48th in nationwide reading levels by 2030 with current systems in place. Problems extend to physical structures too: in 2016, Detroit Public Schools teachers repeatedly staged sick-outs in protest of dilapidated school buildings and depleted salary funds. 

“Please accept my congratulations for Michigan’s approved consolidated state plan,” DeVos wrote in her approval letter to Whiston, according to a press release. “Thank you for the important work that you and your staff are doing to support the transition to the ESSA and most importantly to lead Michigan’s students to achieve at high levels.”

Whiston said the plan will implement a “whole child” focus, which means less student testing and more focus on academic growth. A Partnership Model will also be implemented, which is expected to improve low-performing schools and will give schools more flexibility in how they choose to improve.

Though supporters are excited about these changes, many, including Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, voiced apprehension in April. According to the Detroit News, Snyder requested more accountability in the form of letter grades for school ratings. 

Additionally, Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest, told the Detroit News Michigan wasted an opportunity to lead education by implementing the ESSA.

“Michigan had the opportunity — and the responsibility — to develop the statewide improvement systems that have been so hugely successful at raising student achievement in leading education states such as Massachusetts and Tennessee,” Arellano said in a statement. “That opportunity largely has been squandered — and that is a tremendous disservice to every Michigan student, but especially vulnerable children who need leaders at every level to insist on better outcomes for them.”