For years, Michigan was widely believed to have some of the strongest standards in the nation on paper, giving parents and schools the false impression that our students were doing just fine. In truth, Michigan students of all incomes, races and ethnicities were falling further behind their peers on national tests. This has been true of white students as well as African-American and Latino students, of low-income students and the more affluent. Michigan now ranks 38th of 50 states in 4th-grade reading and 42nd in 4th-grade math. In 8th-grade math, we rank 32nd and 37th in 8th-grade math. And less than 1-in-5 of our high school students are college or career ready. Other states, meanwhile, made huge improvements in national tests over the past decade.
A high school diploma is no longer enough. Now, nearly every good, family supporting job requires an additional credential beyond high school – whether it’s a technical certificate or a college degree. Jobs will go where educated workers can be found. Currently, far too many Michigan students graduate high school without the knowledge and skills required for success, closing doors and limiting their options after graduation. Michigan students deserve world-class standards that prepare them for college, the workforce and life. Parents deserve honest, comparable information on how their schools stack up with schools across the state and around the nation. If Michigan is to build on its economic recovery, we need to make sure our students have the real world skills that employers demand.
A First Step
The Michigan Career- and College-Ready Standards are clearer and more rigorous than Michigan’s old standards, and build on the strongest state standards in the nation. They focus less on memorization and more on critical thinking and problem solving; the real-world skills students need to excel in college and the workforce. The standards give schools and teachers more clarity to design curriculum and lesson plans to meet the needs of their students. In math, students will cover fewer topics but explore them more deeply. In English language arts, students will read more challenging texts and be expected to construct persuasive written arguments, skills that will be developed in other classes as well.