Compared to the National Assessment of Educational Progress achievement levels in 2009, Michigan’s state proficiency standards for both reading and math were classified as Below Basic. Many believe the solution to education reform lies in the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, but that may not be the best solution for Michigan.

The Michigan State Board of Education adopted the standards in June 2010. Districts across the state are in the process of implementing the Common Core in the hopes of improving state education. However, not all agree with the shift of standards. Local reading specialist Valerie Ifill is not opposed to the Common Core standards, but believes there are other issues that need to be addressed first before the standards can be considered effective. She believes a lack of resources is the biggest issue facing schools. According to Ifill, “If the resources were there, then (the Common Core) could possibly be a good thing because it would raise the bar and American kids would be taught more effectively.”

Every Michigan child deserves an adequate education. From Ifill’s experience, teachers are overwhelmed with “too much work, too much paperwork, and not enough resources, and too many kids.” We cannot adequately reform education without addressing these concerns first.

According to Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution, implementing the Common Core standards will not significantly affect the performance of Michigan students compared to students in states that have not adopted the standards. The state’s focus should not be on changing standards, but on changing school conditions so teachers can teach more effectively. “Changing the curriculum every five minutes, that’s really hard on the system,” Ifill stated. Continuing to implement the Common Core standards may only make things worse for education in Michigan.

Susan Todd is a first-year Master of Social Work candidate.

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