The last three weeks have been among the most challenging in the history of Michigan’s public education system. The COVID-19 public health crisis has turned life on its head and changed the way we think about health and safety. It’s also changing the way Lansing thinks about education.
Three weeks ago, Governor Gretchen Whitmer closed Michigan schools for two weeks to combat the spread of COVID-19. Late last week, she made that order permanent, ending in-person classroom education for the remainder of the school year.
Now, parents, teachers and reformers are left to pick up the pieces. They’re exploring exciting new educational models, they’re equipping kids with more technology, and they’re considering changes that would benefit students over the next two months – and in every school year that comes after.
Parents and teachers are doing the heavy lifting, and they’re proving themselves heroes every day. We’re inspired by them daily and working hard to support them at the state Capitol.
We’re working with state lawmakers and the administration, and we’re working with teachers and reformers to empower kids to learn anywhere, to focus education on mastery, not arbitrary seat time requirements, and to force the Michigan Department of Education to prioritize student learning, not union politics.
We’re confronting this challenge the way we confront every challenge – with a crystal-clear focus on finding solutions that put Michigan students first.
Executive Director, Great Lakes Education Project
WLNS Lansing TV: Educators, state leaders prepare to adapt to distance learning
“Our academic priority needs to be sure that every student can regain the lost learning that has happened over the past few weeks,” says Beth DeShone of the Great Lakes Education Project, “and that they will be able to recoup any lost learning that will continue in these new circumstances.”
“Public school teachers, parents, and students have worked incredibly hard, night and day, to ensure learning and classwork continues even in the face of a public health crisis,” DeShone said. “MDE just told them to stop trying. Teachers’ and parents’ efforts should be commended, celebrated, and – most importantly – counted, not coldly discounted by bureaucrats in Lansing.”
The Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) Executive Director Beth DeShone asked Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the state legislature to take extraordinary measures to ensure Michigan students receive a full year of learning before being advanced to the next grade.
Meeting the needs of students in the midst of – and following – a global health pandemic will require meaningful change in the way public education happens.
The Governor late last week issued an executive order closing all school buildings for the rest of the school year, while encouraging teachers and districts to find new ways to deliver instruction in the weeks and months to come. GLEP supports the Governor’s decision to promote the option of moving to a balanced calendar and a push for online learning.
However, because the order waives attendance and measurement requirements, too many kids may be missed, and parents will not have the opportunity to fully understand the specific education gaps their children face this Fall.
That’s why GLEP urged Michigan to move to mastery-based education to ensure every child receives the education they need and deserve. Mastery-based education would allow students to demonstrate their mastery of subject areas through any of a variety of assessments – from portfolios to testing and showing knowledge through regular assignments.
Michigan’s public education system exists to educate students and prepare them for the future, and with bold leadership and a move to mastery-based education, our schools will be better equipped both this year and during any future crisis. Now is the time to embrace meaningful changes that put the unique needs of students first, by making comprehension of content a priority instead of focusing on an arbitrary calendar or seat-time requirements. Allowing for a balanced calendar and online learning will support this move to mastery, but we need to also ensure that every student receives the education they need and deserve during this crisis and for the years that will follow.
Instituting mastery-based education before the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year would empower districts to identify education gaps created during the COVID-19 crisis and address them to ensure students learn the material, content, or skills needed before moving to the next subject – on a timeline that works with their unique needs.
It’s hard keeping track of all of the COVID-19-related news happening in Lansing. When it comes to news about your schools and your kids, GLEP is working night and day to help you keep up.