Last in the Nation: Moving Past Negative Reports

Stacy Bogard

By Stacy Bogard, CAE, MASB Assistant Director of Communications, PR & Marketing

DashBoard, Nov. 8, 2017

Last week’s article on the Annie E. Casey Foundation report, 2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, may have felt like another punch in the gut. One more strike against our state in how we’re caring for and educating our children. That reality continues to be a hard pill to swallow when compared against all of the positive stories we hear about what is happening in our public school districts and the efforts being made by those in education-related fields.

So instead of focusing on what’s wrong, what steps are we taking to move our state ahead? There are a few recommendations in the Race for Results report that the Michigan League for Public Policy noted in addition to several of their own. Elements of the Michigan Department of Education’s Top 10 in 10 strategic plan also look to get at the heart of these issues.

In the first Race for Results report in 2014, they “offered recommendations on connecting all children to opportunity that included disaggregating data by race to help shape investments and policymaking, implementing promising and evidence-based programs and encouraging economic inclusion practices.” They now suggest that these proposals be extended to children of immigrant families. This would entail immigration policies and enforcement practices centered on a child’s well-being. Additionally, encouraging states to consider public education funding formulas that better serve neighborhoods/districts that are low income. Lastly, developing programs and policies that provide opportunities for parents, particularly those in low-income families, as their success has a great impact on a child’s healthy development.

MLPP agrees with these assessments and recommendations. "We have to really target our resources and our policies in a way that's going to start eliminating racial disparities, because Michigan will be a much stronger state when we take care of all of our kids, and not leave anyone behind," said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan Project Director at MLPP.

Warren also says the state needs to recognize that people in some ethnic groups need more help than others. “We really need to be thinking about how we can target our policies in a way that doesn’t take a colorblind approach, and does recognize the rational disparities that exist, and target our policies in a way to undo some of that.”

MLPP is encouraging local governments in Michigan to join networks like the Government Alliance on Race and Equity. Some, like Grand Rapids and Washtenaw County, already have.

According to MLPP, and as noted above, “Michigan policymakers in Lansing and Washington should embrace the following policy recommendations to address the low scores for child well-being and drastic racial disparities for kids of color identified in this report:

  • Use a racial and ethnic equity lens in evaluating and developing public policies, like the Raise the Age effort to keep kids out of adult prisons;
  • Keep families together and in their communities;
  • Increase economic opportunity for all parents, especially immigrants and people of color; and
  • Provide a quality education to help all children meet key developmental measures.”

Strategy Goal 4 of MDE’s Top 10 in 10 plan is to “reduce the impact of high-risk factors, including poverty, and provide equitable resources to meet the needs of all students to ensure that they have access to quality educational opportunities.”

To achieve this goal, MDE has outlined seven approaches:

  • Focus investment on implementing evidence-based, independently evaluated, results-driven Integrated Student Supports (whole-child) provided in collaboration with community partners who place staff in schools to facilitate access to community resources for clothing, nutrition, physical, behavioral, social-emotional, mental health, post-secondary access, career readiness, tutoring, mentoring and other supports necessary for students to stay in school, be promoted and graduate on time.
  • Support extended learning opportunities and activities that are coordinated with other learning programs as part of the P-20 system.
  • Provide and promote evidence-based practices to create efficiencies at the local administrative level to focus more resources in the classroom.
  • Develop and promote models to address the differential cost of providing high-quality education to students and target resources accordingly.
  • Develop a system to ensure that all students have equitable access to Career and Technical Education and Special Education resources regardless of where they live and which school they attend.
  • Modify funding formulas to better align revenues and costs for districts facing declining enrollment.
  • Implement an assessment and accountability system that reduces the impact of high-risk factors while helping ensure equitable resources.

All of this translates into a number of resources for your district over the next decade on top of the efforts your students, teachers, principals, superintendent and others are already making. So keep on keeping on with the positive impact you are having on student achievement and let MASB know if there’s anything we can do to help, or to simply share your story. We love to hear from you!

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