Lack of Member Insight vs. Lower the Standard

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Those attending the MASSP Summer Retreat received the inside scoop as to the legislative directions the association is going. We put it right up front, it's not wise of an associaiton of school principals to support legislative attempts that will create a headline that reads - Principals Support Lower Academic Standards. We have made significant inroads within the Department of Education and Legislative and Policy leaders to redirect the benchmarks to essential skills creating a priority for teacher and giving them much needed direction.

Upon my return my "In-Box" had two member emails from members who did not attend the Retreat. They accused me of poor leadership for the association. And, not being insightful of the members needs. The next day this editorial was in the Grand Rapids paper. I believe it gives the insight that we all must become aware.
Michigan's educational motto? Dumb it down
Posted by Susan J. Demas | Capitol Chronicles | Analysis June 27, 2008 07:28AM

It wouldn't be a campaign stop without the requisite hard-luck story. And Stephanie Baker stepped up to the plate at Barack Obama's town hall meeting in Taylor last week.

She wanted to know what Obama would do to help her daughter maintain her financial aid even though her GPA had slipped.

What was his mealy-mouthed, bleeding-heart liberal response?

"There is no excuse. She's got to keep her grades up. She's got to work harder. I'm willing to bet she's probably watched some TV in the past couple of months, went to the movies, hung out with her girlfriends," the presumptive Democratic nominee said. "She's got to keep her grades up so she can keep her financial aid."

Amen to that.

Perhaps Stephanie's met Cindy Timmons, whose high school freshman son just flunked five classes. Cindy trekked down from Grayling to Lansing last week to plead with a House panel to spike tougher class requirements so her boy could graduate.

Nobody told her to hire a tutor. Nobody told her the cold, hard truth: That it really doesn't matter if her son drops out or graduates high school - he'll be looking at minimum-wage jobs and double-digit unemployment either way. Increasingly, the only road to a middle-class life is a college degree - or two or three.

Three years ago, a commission chaired by Lt. Gov. John Cherry issued a stellar report on the state of education in Michigan and what to do about it. Among the 19 recommendations was doubling the number of college graduates by 2015 and beefing up high school graduation requirements to prepare kids for the knowledge-based economy.

The world and its economy are changing. The Mitten State can change with it or our students can be left behind. I suggest that Stephanie and Cindy make the Cherry Commission report required reading for themselves and their children.

Fortunately for them, there are pandering politicians armed with quick fixes. God bless election years.

State Reps. Joel Sheltrown, D-West Branch, and Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, are on mission to muck up Michigan's education system even more, as though slashing higher education spending for years hasn't done enough.

Their motto for the state? Dumb it down.

The GOP-led Legislature admirably passed in 2006 some of the toughest high school graduation requirements in the country, which included two years of foreign language, four of English and three of math. Kids who take high-level math in high school, for instance, are much more likely to go to college.

Sheltrown says it's time to give up already and hand out consolation prizes to the non-college bound, an easier "general diploma curriculum." That and a couple bucks will buy you a cup of coffee (though not at Starbuck's).

He amusingly passed out a pop quiz on Algebra II to lawmakers last week, which most flunked.

Well, duh. Anyone who watched the budget debacle last year knows that math ain't legislators' strong suit. Let's set the bar a little higher for our children, folks.

While Sheltrown tries to hobble our high schools, Jones wants to stunt our world-class universities, especially the University of Michigan.

Jones, best known for holding nonstop press conferences and proposing legislation to "save Christmas," tells his own sob story about a rural teacher whose students just can't get into the UM.

I knew that as a personal responsibility kind of guy and former sheriff, Jones would dole out the tough medicine. Kids need to study harder. Parents have to get more involved. The school needs to change its teaching requirements and curriculum pronto.

Nope. "That's not fair!" cries Jones, an alleged conservative, who should probably chat with Obama.

Under his legislation, public universities would be required to accept the top 10 percent of all Michigan high school classes. In other words: Let's reward mediocrity.

You've got to be kidding me. When our college graduation rate is an abysmal 25 percent and college remedial classes are already crammed, this is the last thing we need. Our 15 universities are some of the only bright spots in our state, clouded by 8.5 percent unemployment and a decaying auto industry.

Universities compete on a global scale. If we dilute the talent pool in Michigan schools, those in California, Texas and India will inevitably gain.

Weakening his case further, Jones rails about the U-M accepting so many Red Chinese instead of red-blooded Michiganders. He's teamed up with a self-described "disgruntled employee," UM Professor Bill Kauffman, who ventures into conspiracy-theory land about Chinese students stealing national security secrets, citing YouTube videos as evidence.

Let's face it: Some high schools are better than others and do a superior job of preparing students for college success. The beauty of the Michigan Merit Curriculum that Sheltrown is trying to dismantle is it attempts to hoist all schools to a high standard, which in turn, increases students' odds of being accepted to U-M and other colleges.

Look, there are no easy answers to Michigan's educational quandaries. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to get elected.