The coming week marks the return of all Michigan students to schools, following the Labor Day weekend. The momentous occasion is marked by the announcement of yet another year of declines in student learning attainment. The state released the scores from the spring 2018 round of the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, showing scores rose only slightly in six of the 18 subject areas tested in grades three to eight and grade 11, and dropped in 11 subject areas.
The one ray of light in the report is some evidence that Michigan’s focus on pre-kindergarten early learning initiatives may be the reason for even slight improvement in the third-grade reading levels; those deemed “proficient” increased from 44.1 percent to 44.4 percent.
Michigan student declines have been the source of grave frustration for business leaders, most especially those in West Michigan where they have been at the forefront of several initiatives — particularly those of the Early Learning programs. West Michigan Whitecaps CEO and managing partner Lew Chamberlin on Sept. 5 will help launch the Kent County Ready by 5 early childhood proposal millage campaign, which will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. The proposal would establish a dedicated, stable source of funding for early childhood services and programs.
The West Michigan Policy Forum on Sept. 24, which draws more than 500 regional business leaders and others, also will focus on education topics for a good portion of the afternoon. Autocam President and CEO John Kennedy will welcome former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to discuss Florida’s education story “A-F Policy for School Buildings.” Kennedy authored a guest column in the Aug. 27 issue of the Business Journal, offering some likely topics of discussion and forum attendee voting.
Kennedy wrote, “We need to ensure our children have access to excellent education and that our families have the quality of life they deserve. Already, we are seeing results from dedicated investments in early childhood learning, but the work is not over. But, while more money is often the political refrain, we should question what focus will help our kids. Michigan ranks in the top 10 for education spending but in the bottom 10 for results. This is unacceptable. Just as we pursue efficient and effective improvements in our careers, we need to ensure money is spent wisely and our professional teachers have the tools and support needed to prepare our children for their success tomorrow.”
As the academic year begins again with failing student attainment grades, there may be no more important a topic for business discussion.