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Common Core: A Truly Shared Vision
May 14, 2013
By Harrison Blackmond, DFER MI State Director
In an unprecedented display of unity, business leaders, educators, and advocates have come together today to support the implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Michigan. The standards, which will ensure Michigan’s children are prepared to compete in a global economy, are set to go into effect at the start of the 2014-15 school year.
Despite bi-partisan support for the CCSS in our state, a radical group of CCSS opponents have been operating behind the scenes and using inflammatory rhetoric in an effort to halt implementation. They have succeeded in getting the Michigan House of Representatives to adopt an amendment to the Michigan Department of Education 2013-14 budget prohibiting the Department from expending funds to implement CCSS and the Smarter Balanced Assessment aligned with the Common Core. They are attempting to undo years of work supported by a broad array of organizations and parents designed to develop nationwide standards for an increasingly mobile student population.
Groups such as the Detroit Regional Chamber, Business Leaders for Michigan, Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of Public School Academies, the Education Trust Midwest, StudentsFirst, Democrats for Education Reform, and the Great Lakes Education Project, along with a score of other organizations, have come together to push back against the misguided and shortsighted efforts of a few ideologues to ensure our kids are college and career ready.
Read a copy of the letter here.
For more than 35 years, Harrison Blackmond has dedicated his life towards helping children achieve the education they deserve. Harrison has served a multitude of roles within Michigan's education system, including Chair of the Marygrove College Board of Trustees, President of the Business/Education Training Alliance, Vice Chairman and member of the Executive Committee of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, and President of the Detroit Black Alliance for Education Options. Read more about Harrison here.
DFER MI Warns Newly Introduced Legislation to Withdraw Michigan from Common Core Standards Will Harm Students
March 18, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Democrats for Education Reform Warns Newly Introduced Legislation to Withdraw Michigan from Common Core Standards Will Harm Students
Lansing, Mich. March 18th, 2013 - Democrats for Education Reform Michigan (DFER MI) released the following statement by State Director Harrison Blackmond urging lawmakers to reject House Bill 4276 (2013), slated for consideration this week by the House Education Committee. The bill, introduced by State Representative Tom McMillin, would rescind Michigan’s participation in Common Core State Standards (Common Core).
“This bill would hurt our students, leaving them unprepared for success in college and the workforce, and reduce their ability to compete against children from the 44 other states that adhere to Common Core.
“First, the standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and work, while allowing for state-by-state flexibility. A state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, Common Core enjoys strong bipartisan support nationwide for a reason.
“Second, it enables Michigan to compare student achievement across state and international lines, providing a benchmark for success. Because Common Core is based on the needs of the current workforce, tracking against its guidelines allows our state to attract higher-paying jobs, which in turn leads to more sustainable economic growth.
“Third, Common Core benefits teachers and administrators by establishing benchmarks that empower teachers to work collaboratively across state lines, and to develop effective teaching methods.
“An incredible amount of thought and research went into structuring Common Core. If we care about our students and our state, then Michigan lawmakers will reject House Bill 4276 (2013).”
January 25, 2013
“That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”
The Emancipation Proclamation, 1862
By Harrison Blackmond, DFER Michigan State Director
Over 150 years ago, with the stroke of his pen, President Abraham Lincoln legally liberated millions of African slaves from involuntary servitude. For over a century, millions of slaves in the US had been subjected to terror, degradation and all manner of brutality. Most slave owners understood that to maintain control over their human property, they needed to effectively treat them as less than human. They were deprived of their history and more importantly, of the means to learn and educate themselves through the written word.
One hundred and fifty years later we continue to work to correct this historical wrong and undo what seems to be a prevailing belief among some, including African Americans, that certain African American children and their families are responsible for their inability to learn and achieve at levels comparable to their cohorts in more affluent communities. The only solution to the problem of educating these children, they say, is to address the underlying causes of poverty, crime, familial dysfunction and addiction.
This belief has widespread implications. First, it lets educators and policy makers off the hook. The best they can do is to teach children who happen to be born into these circumstances to be satisfied with their lot and not cause trouble for those who have succeeded. Second, it sends a message to these children and families that, no matter how hard they try their circumstances have doomed them to be second-class educational and economic citizens.
As Michigan considers what to do with what has been previously called its “persistently lowest achieving schools” (now called Priority Schools), it has to face the question of whether it’s possible, given social and economic circumstances, to educate children in these schools at high levels. Priority Schools are Michigan public schools identified in the bottom 5% of the statewide Top to Bottom ranking and any high school with a graduation rate of less than 60% for three consecutive years. In 2011 Michigan had 146 such schools as well as 358 Focus Schools, which are the 10% of schools that have wide achievement gaps between various student populations.
In 2009, Michigan enacted legislation (HB 4787) that would identify the lowest achieving 5% of schools and place them under the supervision of a state school reform/redesign officer. The legislation also created a “single State School Reform/Redesign School District.” The district was made up of all the persistently lowest achieving schools whose redesign plans had been disapproved or whose plans were not achieving satisfactory results. (HB 4787 was sponsored by Democrat Tim Melton and passed by a Democrat majority in the House of Representatives.)
DFER MI Urges Lawmakers & Districts to Act on CREDO Data Showing Gains in MI Charter Schools
January 15, 2013
Democrats for Education Reform Urges Lawmakers and School Districts to Act on Latest Data from Stanford Showing Student Gains in Michigan Charter Schools
Lansing, Mich. January 15, 2013 - Democrats for Education Reform Michigan (DFER MI) released the following statement by State Director Harrison Blackmond urging lawmakers and school districts to act on findings released yesterday by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) showing students in Michigan public charter schools, on average, achieve larger learning gains in reading and math than their traditional district school peers.
“Overall, the study clearly demonstrates the promise of charter schools with proper oversight and accountability to transform the way we educate our children. Michigan and our school districts have a responsibility to review these data—which place Michigan among the highest performing charter school states CREDO has studied—closely and use it to guide our education policies.
“However, the study also reflects the performance of charter schools under the old Michigan law which limited the number of charters that could be issued. Without proper oversight, the new law—a law that does not limit the amount of charters that may be issued—must be closely monitored to ensure competition and performance don’t decline.
“Furthermore, the study's focus on averages may hide disparities in charter school performance. For example, the data indicate that a quarter of the charter schools studied have very low achievement and student growth. After nearly two decades of state policy that has given little consideration to quality, it's clear that charter school expansion alone will not improve our state's education system or close our achievement gap.
“There are many successful charter schools in our state, but there are also poor performers. We should not support the ones that are not meeting the needs of our students. Charter operators with records of consistent failure should not be allowed to expand. We need quality charter expansion that builds on what we know is working, to ensure that every student in Michigan and across the country has access to a world-class education.”
The Fight for Reform: The Education Achievement Authority
December 10, 2012
By Harrison Blackmond, DFER MI State Director
For the past two weeks, the Michigan legislature has been debating the establishment of a statewide reform district, the Education Achievement Authority (EAA). The EAA legislation, modeled on the Louisiana Recovery School District, has promise. But only if legislators prioritize the interests of students and hold adults accountable.
EAA is designed to respond, with swift and decisive action, to the urgent need for reforms in the lowest achieving 5% of Michigan schools. Students in our state’s most chronically low-performing schools can’t put their lives on hold. If change depended on the same adults who have overseen low-performing schools for decades and who have an interest in maintaining the status quo, we might have to wait at least another generation or two for the political stars to align. Meanwhile today’s schoolchildren, just like their parents and their parents’ parents, would fail to get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and the workforce.
Essentially, EAA will operate as a school district except that schools in EAA would span the entire state. The governor would appoint a seven-member EAA board based, in part, on input from both the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House. Free of contractual entanglements, a debilitating culture, and a bloated bureaucracy, the EAA is intended to demonstrate how traditional districts can push resources, control, and accountability down to the building level and set the stage for innovative instructional approaches such as blended learning.
EAA currently exists as a public body corporate created by an agreement between Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and the School District for the City of Detroit (DPS). The legislation under consideration would make the EAA a part of Michigan’s system of public schools. By establishing the EAA in statute as part of the Michigan Revised School Code it would have authority over low-performing schools in and outside of DPS.
Opposition to the EAA and the legislation comes from a variety of sources. School board members, administrators, teachers unions, and citizens lament the loss of “local control.” Those who make this argument conveniently ignore the fact that these schools became “persistently low achieving schools” while under the same system of local control they want to maintain.
Some opponents also insist that until we eradicate poverty, crime, and parental neglect, we will never be able to change the quality of education in these low performing schools. Ignoring the fact that the Louisiana Recovery District has been in operation since 2003, they’ve tried to paint the EAA as a new, untried experiment that is sure to harm children. Despite their concerns over the bill, not one opponent has offered an alternative to the status quo!
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