New learning standards spur debate in Michigan

Educational goals being implemented in Michigan schools have sparked a contentious debate in Lansing, pitting Republican Gov. Rick Snyder against the Republican-led Legislature that is taking steps to halt the standards.
AP Wire
May 27, 2013

 

In 2010, Michigan's State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards benchmarks in reading, writing and math, which 44 other states have adopted. The standards, developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, are designed to provide clear goals for teachers, boost student performance and allow for educational cooperation and comparison among states.

But some Michigan lawmakers and residents say the standards could lead to a federal takeover of the state's education system by stripping power away from the Legislature and school districts to make decisions about what goes on in the classroom.

Rep. Tom McMillin, a Rochester Hills Republican, is backing legislation that would prohibit the state from implementing the standards and the test that goes with them. Meanwhile, the state House recently passed a budget bill for the Department of Education that includes language blocking the department from spending money on developing and implementing the standards. A budget passed in the Senate includes similar language.

That could change in the coming days as lawmakers work to approve the final budget. Jan Ellis, the department's spokeswoman, said in an email that they will "continue to work with both the House and Senate to build better understanding of the importance of the Common Core Standards for the students and the future of Michigan."

Snyder recently defended the standards during a visit with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, calling them a "really important opportunity" for Michigan.

"Unfortunately, it's been too much about politics," he said. "It's being viewed as the federal government putting another mandate on us ... it was the governors of the states getting together ... to say we want a partner at the national level and all levels to say, 'Let's raise the bar.'"

Meanwhile, many teachers in Michigan schools are beginning to use the benchmarks. The goal is for all districts to use the standards by the beginning of next school year.

"This train has already left the station," said Michael Yocum, executive director of learning services for Oakland Schools, the county's intermediate school district. "We are so far down the road now." Yocum is overseeing the implementation of the standards throughout the county's school districts.

One of the biggest changes the standards will bring is a greater focus on writing, he said. He said teachers using the standards in Oakland County are pleased with gains they've seen.

In math, students will learn fewer topics each year but go more in-depth. The goal is for students to master a topic, instead of repeating it every year, said William Schmidt, a professor and co-director of Michigan State University's Education Policy Center. In middle school, students will learn more algebra and geometry, rather than just arithmetic. Research Schmidt conducted on educational systems in the top achieving countries was used as the basis for the Common Core math standards.

The fight against Common Core has sprouted up in legislatures across the country, from Alabama, to Utah. In Indiana, lawmakers recently passed a proposal to halt the full implementation of the standards until they can study the costs and hold public meetings. While some states have chosen not to adopt the standards, no states have successfully banned them. But opponents say they have momentum.

"You're seeing the bubbling up of something that's not going away," McMillin said.

Melanie Kurdys, an education advocate and former local district board member, is one of the people leading the charge against Common Core in Michigan. She and other opponents recently spent a day at the Capitol urging lawmakers to stop the standards.

"Of course, the Michigan Department of Education has a role, but really the Michigan Constitution calls for parents to have the primary responsibility for the education of their children," Kurdys said. "So by cutting the Legislature out of this process, you really have cut the parents out of the picture."

President Barack Obama's administration wasn't involved in creating the standards but encouraged their adoption by tying the standards to some Race to the Top funding, which some view as the federal government trying to mandate a national curriculum.

"The law says the federal government cannot dictate the curriculum," McMillin said.

Snyder's administration is fighting back. In an email to reporters in response to an op-ed McMillin wrote attacking Common Core, education department spokesman Martin Ackley said the State Board of Education is elected by a statewide vote and represents Michigan citizens.

Supporters say that the benchmarks will provide consistency, ensuring that all students — no matter where they live — have the same learning opportunities.

"Why should what mathematics our children study vary by district?" Schmidt said. "Why should Lansing's math coverage be any different from New York City and Los Angeles?"

That will allow Michigan students to be better tested against their peers in other states, he said. It also will mean that teachers across the country can share ideas on improving student performance, he said.

"In so many ways, the opposition seems more concerned about ideological issues, the kinds of games adults play," Schmidt said, "and less about the impact of this for our children, our kids."

 

Comments

Lanivan

Apparently the decline is not as widespread, nor caused by the reasons you promote...http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes...

Also, your blanket statement regarding educational funding is a bit off the mark as well. The amount of total spending as a percentage of the Federal budget has steadily gone down, from 18% in 1970 to 13% in 2013. By comparison, corporate after-tax profits are more than twice as high as their peak under Reagan, growing 171% under Obama. Presumably, a hefty percentage of these soaring, unprecedented profits can be attributed to an educated, productive labor force.

This indicates to me a pretty good rate of return on our educational investment. Of course, there is always room for improvement; read SmallBusinessOwner's lament. Is Common Core, as yet another school reform that attempts to tie federal funding to educational gains and national standards, a government conspiracy to record and control all vital information? Hardly.

As for bossy, brassy Ivy Leaguer Ted Cruz, whose family came to the US from Canada illegally,...I am not entirely unsympathetic to his immigration reform amendments. Although my reasons probably do not coincide with your (presumably) approval or his motivations.

Wingmaster

"Ted Cruz....whose family came to the US from Canada illegally,...care to provide proof on that statement from more than a liberal rag?

Lanivan

You will have to define "liberal rag". I suspect it's anything you don't like reading.

The story is that Ted's father taped a $100 bill to the bottom of his foot when bringing his family over the border via Customs from Canada to the US, and did not declare it, which is illegal.

Wingmaster

Really, dirty rotten scoundrel, well ok then I recommed he is stoned and put on public displayed in the public square....now I have a question about a birth certificate, story goes....

Lanivan

Birth certificate?! Ok, that's it. As punishment, please write 210 times on the blackboard, "I am sorry, Lanivan, for telling stories out of school".

Wingmaster

After you my dear!

Lanivan

Took only 4 minutes this time to get stupid! Btw, how's progress on that blackboard writing?

Wingmaster

You introduced stupid with your Ted Cruz comment. Think of my comments as a mirrow of you. When serious comments a on most topics ensue, you often times turn to, not serious comments (rather PC don't ya think) when someone runs you off the cliff because you run out of facts. Sorry, thought I should point it out. Don't complain to me about stupid! Like Forrest said " Stupid is what stupid does"

Lanivan

First of all, "mirrow" - do you mean "mirror" or "minnow"? Second, I turn to "not serious" comments (you ARE PC) because, although I can be very serious, I always fight a strong tendency to be silly, tease, and joke around, and can easily be led astray. Although you seem to be dissing me for it, I think it's your best suit. Third, a confession: on this forum, I have never felt like I was run off a cliff because I ran out of facts, because I believe that what I say is factual and correct. Now, am I joking or not?

Wingmaster

Dang smart phone with a mind of its own and failing eyes.

I'm out so you can focus Dory...I mean Lan on Vlad's arguement;-)

Lanivan

Speaking of Vlad, I should point out that he was the one to start on the stupid thing in a fit of derision...it's all his fault....

Vladtheimp

Although it is difficult to discuss an issue with someone who has labeled my position as "banal, trite, and simplistic" I'll give it a shot without getting my panties in a wad. This graph shows that average education expenditures per pupil (for fall enrollment) rose from $3,400 in 1965 to $8,745 in 2001. http://www2.ed.gov/about/overvie... It has other interesting information as well, such as how much we are spending on mostly minority Title I schools, racists that we are.

As far as Common Core, see http://blog.heritage.org/2013/05... and focus on the issues raised regarding Mathematics and English.

I am convinced that Senator Cruz is motivated to clean up the immigration mess we have now in a manner that will not harm the United States, nor our economy, nor our millions of unemployed and meets the requirements of the Constitution. If you are aware of other motivations, please share.

Lanivan

I saw your 2.ed.gov link as well, but felt it didn't accurately convey the bias in your comment regarding the "breathtaking" increase of federal education spending. The entire budget has increased, yes, but the percentage of that budget earmarked for education has decreased.

I can't comment on Common Core specifically, as I have no background in school reform whatsoever. I do have the ability to discern the difference between an honest attempt to critique (perhaps the Heritage link), and the hysterical rantings of Michelle Malkin who shamelessly infers that Common Core was created to gather up our most private family information for some kind of conspiratorial underground government data-mining bank.

Which brings me to your first sentence. As per your admonishment of a few articles back, I have, with all due respect, decided to be honest with my observations. Too often, you respond to many complex issues with a simple and predictable placement of blame on: (1) the government, (2) Obama, (3) liberals, (4) everyone/thing other than far right conservatives. I just call it as I see it.

I would like to think young Ivy Leaguer Ted "the Republican Obama" Cruz is motivated by the ideals you provide. Time will tell.

Vladtheimp

Please, let's not obfuscate - the per pupil spending has exploded since our " golden era of US education" with few demonstrable results. I was referring to a "breathtaking increase" because the feds hadn't stuck their noses or dollars in education when I was in public school. Department of Education - established 1979.

I guess I can now refer to your fearless leader as the "young Ivy Leaguer" even though neither of us have any idea of how he qualified for that moniker.

Lanivan

I'll try my best to respond despite being accused of obfuscating. As an anti-federalist, I'm sure, in fact positive, you think the whole federal budget has "exploded". In that context, I question your reasoning for not acknowledging the fact that the percentage of federal education spending has gone down in relation to the total. And by the way, your opinion that there have been "few demonstrable results" is a gross and unfair exaggeration. On a personal level, I feel my family received a superior public education, and I have many friends who are exemplary teachers at all levels. Let's not obfuscate the facts with your personal opinions.

What was the federal government doing between 1867 and 1979? Oh well, it doesn't matter - you want it abolished regardless of rationality.

The young Ivy Leaguer moniker was inspired by you, by your repetitively references to Obama as young, and your lamentations of how all the elite Ivy League liberals are always telling us what to do. Enter Ted, much younger than our fearless leader, an Ivy Leaguer through and through, scripted, staged, groomed, and cloned after the original Obama. But Ted's qualified, according to the Book of Vlad.

Vladtheimp

Since there was virtually no federal spending to support our "golden era of US education" as you yourself described it, of course federal spending has exploded since then - that is your obfuscation by talking about the federal share.

Do you really think kids today are receiving the quality education we received? If so, I don't understand your earlier comment.

If Obama was qualified to attend Columbia and Harvard, why the desperate effort to keep hidden his high school and college records? More problems with transparency?

Lanivan

My original argument was based on the relationship between education and income inequality, not education and federal spending. While of course federal education spending has increased along with all other federal spending, the percentage of the total budget has decreased. If you want to compare education spending with GDP, it reached it's zenith at 6% under BushII with No Child Left Behind (were you flipping out then or what?) and is now going down under Obama to 5.7%. Compare that to the steadily increasing degree of wealth/income inequality over a similar time period - the growth in the ratio of corporate profits to GDP= 4/5%-6/7% to 11% in 2012.

By "trite, banal, and simplistic", I am taking issue with your reducing every issue into one of blaming government only. Yes, our school years were golden, but everything has changed since then. China was virtually an unknown alien country to the US back then. Now the world is flat. Of course, students receive top notch education within the system all the time - let's not denigrate every teacher and look down on every educational experience as being a waste of taxpayer money just because it is different from ours.

I'll never understand how seemingly intelligent people feel a need to question Obama's identity, faith, values, birth, education, family, heritage, experience, and the air he breathes. http://www.factcheck.org/2012/07...

Speaking of constitutional issues, any thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling on DNA swabs?

Vladtheimp

Predictably, I concur with: "Today’s judgment will, to be sure, have the beneficial effect of solving more crimes; then again, so would the taking of DNA samples from anyone who flies on an airplane (surely the Transportation Security Administration needs to know the “identity” of the flying public), applies for a driver’s license, or attends a public school. Perhaps the construction of such a genetic panopticon is wise. But I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection. I therefore dissent, and hope that today’s incursion uponthe Fourth Amendment, like an earlier one will some day be repudiated.

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