Across the state, many Michigan schools are struggling to keep pace with national averages. The U.S. as a whole is struggling to keep up with other advanced countries.
It’s a major challenge, and in response, Michigan Superintendent Brian Whiston has announced the Top 10 in 10 Years plan. He aims to make Michigan one of the top 10 states for education within the next decade.
The plan proposes focusing on teacher quality and research-proven methods to improve Michigan’s public education.
Whiston tells us that before anything else, Michigan needs to develop a cohesive education strategy.
“One of the problems in Michigan and in many states is, we constantly change direction and where we’re heading,” he says. “We created these guiding principles of being a coherent, cohesive strategy, to have a student-directed learning process, to be driven by data and accountability, and to understand that poverty matters."
According to Whiston, Michigan ranked among the top education states in America as recently as 15 years ago. But as Michigan’s poverty numbers rose, its educational performance sank to the bottom.
“We have to understand poverty not as an excuse, but that we have to do some things differently in our classrooms,” he says.
Whiston believes that producing and maintaining high-quality teachers needs to be one of Michigan’s main focuses in fixing its educational system.
“If you were a teacher 25 years ago, students I think acted and behaved and had backgrounds as such that you could teach a certain way, and today I think we’re in a new world,” he says. “We have a teaching cycle that needs to learn and adapt to the new students and how new students are learning.”
Whiston wants to work towards a system that evaluates both teachers and students on an individual basis.
“The answer isn’t always money. Sometimes it’s just understanding where the students are performing and develop an individual plan for that student to be successful,” Whiston says. “When students take ownership of their learning, they understand where they should be. It helps them go a long way towards addressing and solving those problems.”
Brian Whiston tells us more about his Top 10 in 10 Years plan and how it could transform public education in Michigan in our conversation above.