www.mybaycity.com July 15, 2018
Columns Article 11314

MI TOP 10 IN EDUCATION? We See Democratization as Vital

July 15, 2018
By: Dave Rogers

Michigan aspires to be a top 10 state in education, according to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Right now there is a lot of work to be done to get even close to that lofty goal.

USA Today had this to say about the state of education in Michigan:

"Rank among states - 33. Michigan

"High school graduation rate: 79.7% (11th lowest)

"Public school spending: $12,765 per pupil (21st highest)

"Eighth grade NAEP proficiency: 28.5% (math) 31.8% (reading)

"Adults with at least a bachelor's degree: 28.3% (16th lowest)

"Adults 25-64 with incomes at or above national median: 49.6% (23rd lowest)

USA Today comments further: "Few state school systems report worse achievement metrics than Michigan. The share of fourth graders in Michigan public schools who are proficient in reading fell by 2.5 percentage points between 2003 and 2015, even as the share improved by 4.9 percentage points nationwide over the same period. "Today, only 28.6% of fourth graders in the state are proficient in reading, well below the 34.8% share nationwide. Both fourth and eighth graders in Michigan are less likely to be proficient in math and reading than the typical American public school student in the same grades.

"Improved mastery of basic skills would likely go a long way to improve graduation rates in the state. Currently, only 79.7% of high school students in Michigan graduate with a diploma, well below the 84.1% U.S. graduation rate."

We are among the few observers who consider democratization of education the first priority; theorizing that elitism ends up disenfranchising about one of every five Michigan students.

It is our contention that the bottom 20 percent -- high school non-graduates -- are the flaw in Michigan's educational foundation. Non-grads who don't value education are likely to spawn children in the same, or worse, position. They also are likely to fail to provide the support children need to become successful at school.

We see a high school diploma as essentially the students' ticket to training for jobs, the passport to community college and the military that are otherwise blocked.

Fulfillment of the American Dream should not be limited to just the top students whose success often is linked to the incomes of the parents.

The leadership with uber academic goals for the state's children may be doing much damage to the overall educational system in Michigan.

It is a well-accepted precept among those favoring democratism of education that continual raising of educational standards and dedication to achieving higher and higher test scores pushes out the bottom 20 percent.

We are advocating for a program of STEM Apprenticeships to more fully engage students, especially problem learners, in education. Emerging research supports this thesis. And, the movement for increased vocational education is gathering speed.

Apprenticeship programs don't only benefit employers looking for the adaptable skills they need in their workforce.

They can remarkably transform the science, technology, engineering and math industries by providing underrepresented minorities the technical and leadership skills they need to succeed in STEM, educators and employers said at "The Return of the Apprenticeship," a recent session at the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference.

An apprenticeship is a form of experiential learning where students use knowledge and concepts to solve real-world problems. Instruction takes place in the classroom and at a job, say officials at Corning.

An apprentice learns science, technology, engineering, and math theories in a school setting. They apply those academic concepts in an entry-level job until they become skills proficient. A mentor works on-the-job with the apprentice, helping them connect the worlds of school and work. Some apprentices earn money and receive pay increases as their technical and work aptitudes develop.

The state fails in its mission big time by allowing cap and gown academic elitists to rule the K-12 landscape. We see high school graduation by whatever measure the ticket to success in life. Without more students of every level the college attendance rate will continue to languish.

The "education is a right" adherents see the current system that favors the elite students and sidelines the mass at the bottom as destructive to the entire process. Breaking this pattern is difficult as generations of low-level learners compound the problem.

We need only to look at Kalamazoo, where an anonymous donor put up millions of dollars to allow every student who completes high school to attend college free. despite that fabulous incentive, Kalamazoo's high school graduation rate still languishes at 73 percent. Dropouts persist, about 27 percent.

What these statistics seem to tell us is that the hardcore poor, unemployed and uneducated class is a stubborn problem that is defying the efforts of academics pushing and hauling in attempts to make them all into Einsteins.

Gov. Snyder is finally getting the message -- none too soon-- that vocational training is vital to the development of a workforce that doesn't need to qualify for Harvard to be a success.

It appears the Kalamazoo Promise is an unfulfilled dream much like Michigan's yearning for high academic status unless the thinking of school, legislative and business leaders embrace democratization of education.


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