Michigan's school improvement plan gets OK from DeVos

The Michigan Department of Education — two months after being told its plan for improving schools in the state was "insufficient" by the federal government — got good news Tuesday: 

Michigan native Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education, announced that she has now approved the plan after forcing the state to revise its initial submission.

"Michigan's plan meets the statutory requirements. As such, I have approved it," DeVos said in a news release.

Venessa Keesler, deputy superintendent for the MDE, said department officials are "very excited to have final approval ... We appreciate the U.S. Department of Education working with us to get to this point."

The plan outlines how the state will comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, the law governing elementary and secondary education in the nation. Congress approved the law and President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2015.

As part of the plan, states were required to show how they're going to identify schools for improvement and how they're going to hold schools accountable. Michigan initially had planned a an A-F grading system — one that would have assigned a single letter grade to each school based on a number of factors, including test results. 

But the MDE has scrapped that plan in favor of a transparency dashboard that will give parents and the community a host of data on every school in the state. MDE officials have said they plan to make those dashboards available to the public in early 2018.

DeVos made it clear in the news release that the state isn't done. She said Michigan must not view the plan "as a ceiling, but rather as a baseline upon which to build, strengthen and expand."

"All Michigan students deserve an education that prepares them for success in the 21st Century. I urge Michigan's leaders to continue to find new and innovative ways to help students succeed."

Keesler said the department has already been moving forward with the steps outlined in that plan.

"This plan is one of our vehicles for becoming a top 10 state in 10 years," she said. "With final approval, we can lock down the decisions and move toward implementation."

The MDE and the State Board of Education have been working to transform the state into a top 10 performing state academically in 10 years, reversing years that have seen achievement on a national exam slide toward the bottom.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Michigan House and Senate have been holding hearings for more than a year, gathering their own ideas for improving schools.

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© 2017, Detroit Free Press


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