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Republican candidate for governor lays out plan to improve Michigan reading scores

Mar 15, 2018

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette reads to a small group of toddlers during story time at a public library in Livonia.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,” a woman wearing a foppish hat with a large feather sang to a group of distracted toddlers and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette this morning in Livonia.

Schuette was there to be a guest reader during the library’s story time. The Republican candidate for governor also shook hands with a few parents and talked about the dismal state of Michigan’s third grade reading scores.

A new report ranks Michigan at the bottom nationally for third grade reading scores. In fact, Michigan’s third grade reading scores have fallen in recent years, despite the state spending $80 million to try and improve.

“If we want a stronger Michigan, we need to make sure Michigan’s children read,” Schuette told reporters after he finished reading to the children. “We’re failing Michigan’s children when we are at the bottom, the bottom of the heap.”

Schuette has a ten-point plan to address the problem.  

  1. Create a Michigan literacy director
  2. Place specialized reading coaches in elementary schools
  3. Provide individualized student support
  4. Help teachers by cutting red tape
  5. Prioritize local control
  6. Engage our universities and colleges
  7. Reward progress
  8. Reading scholarships and summer reading camps
  9. Public-private partnerships
  10. Create a culture of reading

Schuette’s "Great Readers on the Way" plan does not include more money for reading programs, but "reprioritizes" funding from what the candidate describes as “wasteful or unsuccessful” programs. 

In a recent interview on Michigan Radio’s Stateside program, Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, encouraged state leaders to look into investing in “research based strategies that actually move the ball.”  

“It is not just about putting more money into the system to improve it,” she said. “It’s also about becoming more effective.”

Arellano said Michigan needs to focus on what’s happening inside the classroom, whether it’s a traditional, charter, or other school environment.

“We don’t know if we’ve hit bottom yet,” she added.