By JASMINE WATTS
Capital News Service
LANSING – Some lawmakers want to change the standards for preparing students for college in hopes of raising Michigan’s education rankings.
But critics say they are lowering the standards.
The state now falls under the national Common Core standard where schools work with a state’s four-year public university system to certify that students will not need to take remedial coursework in college. Standards are based on what students must know at each grade level to graduate from high school and college to be career-ready.
Some lawmakers are sponsoring legislation that would end the Common Core standard and move to a new assessment based on one that Massachusetts used to use.
The Senate Education Committee recently passed the bill by a 4‐1 vote.
Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton Township, introduced the bill. All of the sponsors are Republicans, including Sens. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton and Dale Zorn of Ida Township.
“We need to take another look at education,” Colbeck said. “Fifty percent of our third graders can’t read.”
“All of the supporters and opposers of the bill have the same goal, to make Michigan a top ranked school in education,” Colbeck said. “The key is to emulate states that are in the top 10.”
Massachusetts had been number-one in education but started to drop after changing its 2008-2009 standards, he said. Those are the standards he wants Michigan to copy.
Michigan ranked 38th in reading and 37th in math in a report by the Business Leaders for Michigan, Colbeck said. That report assesses Michigan’s economic competitiveness compared to other states.
But there is significant opposition.
More than two dozen education associations, business organizations and school districts oppose the bill. They include the American Federation of Teachers, Education Trust, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, Michigan Association of State Universities, Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards, Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Education Association, Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, Michigan Science Teachers Association, Michigan Small and Rural Schools Association, Middle Cities Education Association and West Michigan Talent Triangle.
Their concerns are that changing the standards will make Michigan less competitive.
“Michigan students need rigorous career and college-ready expectations and deserve consistency and certainty within their classroom,” said Brian Gutman, director of public engagement for the Education Trust-Midwest, a nonprofit organization that promotes scholastic achievemen,t especially for students of color and low-income students.
The Education Trust is committed to helping students and teachers improve, but this bill would stall progress, he said.
“Over the past several years, there has been tremendous change within Michigan education, including the challenging work of implementing much more rigorous academic standards,” Gutman said. “While these changes have been difficult for our school and teachers, they have been absolutely necessary for preparing our students to succeed in the next grade, and eventually in careers, college and life.”
The Michigan Association of State Universities says the bill would make Michigan education move backwards.
The Massachusetts 2008-09 assessment was replaced with the Common Core. Why should Michigan move to an outdated standard? said Dan Hurley, chief executive officer of the association.
“One of the most critical indicators of whether a high school student will enroll in college following graduation and remain enrolled through to degree completion is whether he or she completed a rigorous core curriculum while in high school,” he said, “the type of curriculum that is integrated into the current Michigan Academic Standards in mathematics and language arts.”
By JASMINE WATTS