Tracking Michigan’s Success

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Darcie Birkett, MSBO President, CFO, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Ottawa Area ISD

birkettWe are at a crossroads of change. Fortunately, it sounds like our new governor has Road Maps…and Benchmarks…and Report Cards…and Dashboards. This is the language that was used to frame Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State address. The address, which I watched to get a sense of the direction his administration would take with Michigan schools, was broad and without details. What was clear however is that he is setting a course of action that calls for teamwork.

The Governor said that his administration, in partnership with the legislature, will focus on substance rather than form and will not continue the fighting that has resulted in rhetoric and paralysis (How about a benchmark on his dashboard to measure that one?) He also spoke about the need to measure Michigan’s progress in five key areas that include Economic Strength, Health and Education, Value for Government, Quality of Life, and Public Safety. These key areas and measurements will be part of what the administration is calling the Michigan Dashboard. The point of the dashboard, which can be viewed at, is to provide information at a glance. According to the administration, you don’t need to be an economist or scientist to understand it; however, the dashboard doesn’t provide enough detail for a meaningful analysis of whether certain policies are working or not working. The Health and Education tab on Michigan’s Dashboard includes information on third grade reading and college readiness. Currently, 90% of Michigan’s 3rd graders meet reading expectations; however MDE has recently recommended that MEAP cut scores be raised. If the new cut scores are implemented, that number drops to 39%. The statistic used to measure college readiness is Michigan’s ACT (American College Testing) scores. On the Dashboard, Michigan is ranked 46th in national and state scores for the ACT. However, there is a footnote with the college readiness annotation that states the ACT became a requirement for all Michigan 11th grade students in the spring of 2007. But, nationwide, only 47% of all high school graduates took the ACT in 2010 during high school. So how meaningful is this statistic? It’s my hope that the Michigan Dashboard develops into a tool that provides meaningful analysis that will let Michigan citizens know where we stand.

In his address the Governor proposed roadmaps for addressing major topics throughout the year, and education is included. The Administration’s education plan is to be unveiled in April in a special presentation to the Legislature. We aren’t sure what will be included in that roadmap, but what we do know is what Governor Snyder said last week - that it’s time to view Michigan’s educational system as P-20 and not just K-12. This special message on education could include legislative initiatives and budget priorities. This is only one of many presentations that the Governor will make to the Legislature this year. His first “special message” will occur in March and will focus on government reform.

One action to be taken up by the Administration this year will be the release of a timely Executive Budget. The governor said that his administration will follow self-imposed timelines, which include delivering his Executive Budget recommendation to the Legislature in mid-February, a month before the deadline, as well as providing a two-year budget, which he says will be based on outcomes and results. I’m sure all of us will welcome this as a positive change in Lansing!

We have all heard the rumor that the School Aid Fund may be used to fund community colleges and the continued concerns regarding consolidation. The release of the Executive Budget recommendations will be our first look at Governor Snyder’s roadmap. As the Governor has said – the years ahead will involve difficult but necessary decisions and sacrifice. They will also require that we do our part as school business officials and let our Senators and Representatives know the impact of legislation on Michigan’s schools.