When WIll Parents Have A Clear Understanding Of The Michigan ESSA Plans

Where are the good schools?
How do we know it’s a good school?
What defines a good school?

These seem like basic questions, but you’d be surprised how hard it is for Michigan education officials to answer. For parents, it’s even harder.

Hadasha and Patrick Green began looking for their child’s school before he began walking. I can recall Hadasha explaining to me the differences in curriculum and graduation rates among schools. She knew what she was looking for and I was impressed. This 24-year-old had planned her son’s educational path and when it was time for school she enrolled him in the lottery for her #1 pick, he and his sister still attend Merit Academy which goes to 8th grade.

Now, ten years later, the Greens have started to seek a high school for their now-6th grader and want to know where the good schools are. But it’s harder this time around. Today’s education landscape is so much more complex.

Yes, data is available, but do most parents know where to find it? And if they can find it, can they decipher it, and make sense of it all? This is where the new federal education law, also known as the Every Student Succeeds Act or “ESSA”, should come into play.

The law says every state has to come up with an education plan. One main requirement in the plan is to come up with a way of helping parents (and everyone else) know how schools are doing. It also has to identify the lowest performing schools so we can make sure they get help. Ideally, the plan should also give parents the tools to make apple to apple comparisons of school quality. ESSA ranking systems, if clear to parents like the Greens, would tell them which schools not only make the grade but:

• How many students are truly prepared for post secondary education.
• How culturally diverse a school is
• What the suspension rates are
• How and why schools will be ranked in the bottom 5%

If you haven’t heard already, let me be the first to tell you: Michigan is struggling.

We were one of the first states to submit our state plan to the federal government back in April. But the plan we sent fails in so many ways. It said each school could choose one of three different ways to report school info to parents which means schools would be really hard to compare. Just last week we found out that something fell through, and now everyone will be on one system (which is good), but the state doesn’t have any details of that system figured out. Remember, we already submitted the plan, yet we still don’t know what we’re going to do. We don’t know how we’re going to measure schools.

ESSA is supposed to be beneficial to families and help them make better choices. Why, then, is Michigan so far behind in identifying how schools will be ranked?

Michigan’s families deserve a strong plan for school accountability and not just in Detroit. Ann Arbor parents are seeking out schools and don’t know what to choose. Valentina Korkes is a resident and has conversations with families about selecting school “ Parents want to know what they should be looking for. I’m currently in the process of looking for a home (yay!) and despite my literal masters degree in education policy, it is NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to tell whether the schools are any good in the neighborhoods I’m looking in.”

Brian Love, who has lobbied for education reform, found it difficult to find a school for his rising 9th grader last year. He chose a school without full buy-in. His choice has worked for his daughter; however, parents want and deserve to know more.

According to Fordham’s review of 17 states who submitted ESSA reports so far, Michigan is the only state that fell short in every category. The Greens deserve better. All our parents deserve better. We want to know what Michigan’s plans are, not just a guess at what you hope the ideal plan will be.

So we ask you again,
Where are the good schools?
How do we know it’s a good school?
How will we help struggling schools?
And For the sake of Michigan students, when will you complete our ESSA plans?


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