The Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity (MPEO) is a diverse statewide coalition focused on advancing opportunity and improving learning outcomes for all of Michigan’s students, particularly those who are the most underserved, including Black, Latino, and Arab-American children, those living in concentrated poverty and rural districts, students with disabilities, and multilingual learners. MPEO envisions that Michigan will be a Top 10 education state in public education, a place where all children achieve at high levels. We must act urgently to transform our education system so that Michigan’s students have the same opportunity for success as students in leading education states. To that end, we must invest in transformative change in the following areas:
Principle #1: Equitable School Funding
Every Michigan student deserves equitable opportunities for success in school and life, starting with a well-resourced, effective school that is staffed by effective, supported committed educators. Fair and equitable school funding is a powerful factor in creating the conditions in which students succeed and thrive. That’s not been the case in Michigan, which has long been among the worst in the nation for resource gaps between wealthy and low-income school districts, with tragic consequences for student learning outcomes.
Money especially matters for students from low-income backgrounds. In fact, increases in spending have been shown to improve educational attainment, lead to higher wages and reduce poverty in adulthood, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds. Researchers estimate that funding systems should provide at least 100% more funding for students from low-income backgrounds than for students from higher income backgrounds.
Our recommendations below – informed by the top education state in the country, Massachusetts – are designed to ensure all Michigan students have access to opportunities to reach their potential and excel. Massachusetts prioritized equity over adequacy through its 2019 Student Opportunity Act with funding weights of up to 100% for students experiencing poverty to close persistent opportunity and achievement gaps.
We recommend Michigan should:
- Expand its existing Opportunity Index to account for differences in need among students and communities by increasing the top weight in the index to 100% by 2030.
- Provide weights of at least 80 to 100 percent more funding for English Learners (ELs) by 2030.
- Provide full funding to support students with disabilities.
- Provide each student with the full funding for all categories of need (at-risk, special education, EnglishLearner) for which the student qualifies.
- Commit to raising at least $6 billion in new annual revenue for public education by 2030. New dollars shouldbe invested in equity before other areas of the state budget. Additional funding for equity should prioritize thetwo most disadvantaged bands of the Opportunity Index first and foremost, with an additional emphasis onEnglish Learners and students with disabilities in those highest poverty districts.
Principle #2: Fiscal Transparency and Accountability
Clear and transparent expenditure data allows stakeholders to better understand whether schools serving high concentrations of certain student groups, for example, students from low-income backgrounds or students of color, are receiving equitable funding. School-level transparency is especially important for ensuring that targeted investments in student groups with high needs are carried through to the school level to reach students in the classroom.
California learned this lesson the hard way through the implementation of its Local Control Funding Formula. California failed to put strong enough fiscal accountability and transparency systems in place, leading to concerns that increased equity investments are not reaching the students for whom they are intended. The California State Auditor has found that the new funding system in California has failed to ensure that billions of dollars targeted for children from low-income backgrounds and other students reached those students. School districts in California were, on average, directing only 55 cents of every dollar of extra funding from the Local Control Funding Formula to the schools that students with greater needs who generate the money attend.
Michigan parents and the public deserve to know that investments in public education are being spent wisely, responsibly, and that dollars intended for specific groups of students are actually reaching the schools where those students attend. The following recommendations mirror the actions that leading states around the country have already begun employing to ensure honest, accurate information about their finances.
- State leaders should require that districts spend 75 percent of dollars received for students from low-income backgrounds and English Learners at the schools where the students attend, beginning in FY 25, and report expenditures for these equity-targeted funds at the school level. This will ensure that when a district receives dollars specifically for these students, the dollars reach the school where the student attends.
- Michigan must put a stronger fiscal transparency and accountability system in place to ensure that dollars targeted towards equity actually reach historically underserved students, who include students from low-income backgrounds, English Learners and students with disabilities. Dollars should be tracked and reported down to the school level.
- Michigan should institute financial reporting procedures for districts and schools that are aligned with the funding formula, and involve local communities and parents in the design, implementation and evaluation, so that it is clear how much of the weighted funding is being spent on the education of the students for whom itis intended. That would ensure that the district’s actual expenditures can be mapped back easily to the state’s target spending goals.
- Michigan should create an interactive, up-to-date, public reporting tool which:
- Makes resource allocation more readily accessible and understandable to schools and stakeholders
- Empowers districts and communities to assess and improve equity
- Allows districts and communities to gain a better understanding of the relationship between studentoutcomes and financial resource allocation decisions
- Enables districts, schools, and ISDs to identify evidence-based best practices and opportunities andfoster innovation for peer-to-peer learning
- Michigan must ensure dollars are used well to improve student experience and outcomes and require districts to report publicly on aligned metrics.
Principle #3: Access to Rigorous, Nationally Benchmarked College- and Career-Ready Coursework for All Michigan Students and Public Reporting about this Access
When students graduate without the necessary fundamental skills, they are ill-prepared for both the workforce and post-secondary education. All Michigan students should have access to rigorous college- and career-ready coursework to prepare them for a competitive global economy in which skills often must be continually updated. Statewide, we should strive to expand access to and increase student success in advanced coursework, not to limit access or erect barriers to student success.
To that end, our recommendations are designed to ensure access for all students – no matter their familial background or zip code – and to ensure all parents and families have access to honest information about their child’s performance against nationally benchmarked college- and career-ready standards.
- All schools – including urban, rural, high-poverty schools and schools with high concentrations of students of color – should have coursework of the future and the resources, capacity and supports to help students achieve nationally-benchmarked college and career readiness. This should start with the full implementation of the Michigan Merit Curriculum for all students, and leverage strategies and new investments to ensure all schools have the equitable resources needed to fully implement the Michigan Merit Curriculum.
- All students should have access to a rigorous Michigan Merit Curriculum, as originally envisioned by lawmakers, as well as to a broad range of advanced coursework, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate (IB), dual credit coursework and other options. State leaders need to expand these offerings, as well as implement strategies that have successfully expanded such access in other states. Michigan should report regularly on equitable access to advanced coursework for all schools.
- Ensure Career and Technical Education options are rigorous and connected to in-demand job opportunities.
- Michigan’s academic standards and practices should emphasize accelerating students up to appropriate grade level content and providing opportunities for students to advance beyond them. Additionally, schools and districts must continue to provide extended learning opportunities outside traditional school hours and consider adopting Balanced Calendar approaches to maximize flexibility so that students who are behind, whether due to the pandemic or other reasons, have ample opportunity to catch up and accelerate.
- College and career readiness begins in kindergarten. Academic standards and plans should build on one another from kindergarten to graduation, meaning that what students are learning, and the assessments used to measure that learning as early as kindergarten are developmentally appropriate and aligned with what they will need to know to be college and career ready in high school.
- In the spirit of transparency and comparability across states, Michigan should continue to ensure its annual assessment is part of one of the national assessment systems that provide honest information annually about how many students are reaching national college- and career-ready standards and report that information to parents every year.
Principle #4: School and District Accountability
Standards-based accountability, when done well, does not put the blame or responsibility on students. When schools perform below standard, it creates incentives for the system to act to improve performance, particularly in closing opportunity gaps for students who have been historically disadvantaged. Accountability systems themselves don’t close gaps or improve achievement; only the hard work of educators and students can do that. But done well, these systems can set clear, meaningful, ambitious goals around which everyone can rally. Strong accountability systems also provide honest information to parents, educators, and community members about how schools are doing as well as prompt and support improvement where it’s needed. Such systems also play an important role in protecting taxpayer investments in public education.
Our students deserve to be evaluated regularly to determine their level of learning and provided with the appropriate instructional supports, remediation and resources to meet their unique learning needs. This is not only true for students who are behind but also for students who need and are ready for acceleration. It is critical for parents to know how their children are performing compared to their peers across the state and, when possible, across the country. Comparative data is essential for policymakers to target future interventions and investment and to truly push Michigan forward, following in the footsteps of leading education states, to become a Top 10 education state.
Recommendation 1: Michigan’s systems of transparency and accountability should collect and report on student subgroups to the greatest extent possible. For state reporting purposes, this should include the addition of a Middle Eastern / North African (MENA) demographic category.
Recommendation 2: Michigan needs a single, easily accessible system of transparency and accountability using common measures for various education stakeholders and must meet, at a minimum, federal law.
- Guideline 2A: Stakeholder groups may value various data differently. Michigan’s system should report on a wide range of measures that are important to each of these groups, even though only a subset of data is appropriate for school accountability purposes.
- Guideline 2B: Data used for school accountability should include metrics that are comparable, valid, reliable, statewide measures that can be disaggregated by subgroups and that make equity a top priority. Summative assessment data must be aligned with national college- and career-ready standards and reported to all stakeholders in a timely way. This will ensure transparency and comparability across states and help prevent the lowering of cut scores on state assessments.
- Guideline 2C: The purposes of making school, district and state-level data publicly available should be transparency and improvement. Schools and districts cannot improve if data are not easily accessible and understandable.
Recommendation 3: What happens outside of the classroom impacts what happens inside the classroom. To improve student learning, Michigan should measure and report on a range of factors that impact the ability of students to succeed in school.
- Guideline 3A: Educator preparedness, diversity and effectiveness matters. Data should be collected and publicly reported on these measures and how investments are furthering these critical aims.
- Guideline 3B: Learning can happen outside the classroom and support the academic achievement of students. Michigan’s data systems should collect and report on extra-curricular offerings, career and technical offerings, AP / IB / dual enrollment and success, and help stakeholders understand how investments are used to ensure equitable access to these important offerings.
- Guideline 3C: The social and emotional well-being of students, and the climate within the school contribute to the level of support a child feels as they attend. Understanding whether children feel safe, cared about and supported, and whether there are disparities between groups of students will help education stakeholders understand the broader context of attending school and direct action where groups of students feel unwelcome, unsafe, or under-supported.
Recommendation 4: Students cannot learn when they are intentionally excluded from school. The collection and reporting of exclusionary discipline data must be more clearly defined, standardized and made publicly available by demographic group.
- Guideline 4A: Regardless of how a school defines exclusionary discipline (sending kids home, placing them in an alternative setting, requiring a transition to virtual school or removing them from class without services), transparency should be provided. In addition to expulsion data, state systems should collect and report on removals of less than 10 days, removals of 10-59 days and frequency of short-term removal, all disaggregated by race. Additional information about restorative practices is required by law and should be made publicly available.
Recommendation 5: Any move toward K-12 competency-based educational standards must only occur alongside a new rigorous system of regulation, which should also include accountability and transparency for virtual and in-person learning opportunities.
- Guideline 5A: Placement of students into virtual settings must include parental consent for virtual education, a robust appeals process and safeguards which allow parents to remove their children from virtual learning at any time.