What we say vs what we do

There is currently a bill on its way to the Governor’s desk in Michigan to require 3rd graders to pass a literacy test in order to move on to the 4th grade. On the surface, that sounds like something you can get behind. We want to make sure that kids can read, what could be bad about that?

Well, in Michigan, where the State went to court to prove it has no responsibility for quality education and won, you want to look just a little below the surface. Indeed it would be wonderful if we were supporting children to read and advance. But there is nothing in the bill that allows for that. All there is is the punitive step to hold you back. That’s like saying we won’t license you to drive until you can pass the test (sounds wise) and then not allowing you to see the information that you will be tested on (not so much).

We have to realize that supporting quality teachers (the exact opposite of the recent efforts of the State and the Michigan Department of Education) is the only way to get kids to where they need to be. Let’s take a quick guess at where this guideline will have the most impact? Quick, look up in the UP where poverty is spread out over great distances. Then take a look at urban areas where too many schools are already in the hands of privateers and emergency mangers looking to destroy futures. Because the new law allows parents to petition the state on individual cases, parents of low achieving children in wealthy districts will move on anyway. Who gets punished? The poor kids again. Why? Because we still choose to see poverty as a crime as opposed to a condition.

We need to ask more of people who are currently pretending to be in a leadership position. We need  processes and direction and collaboration and money to move kids forward, not a ruler to smack hands with. You can’t complain that children of poverty are unprepared for the world of work if they never have the opportunity to get better.

And just as a final note, if you are reading this and are feeling defensive because you do a good job with your kids and wonder why people are attacking you, stop it, you missed the point, this isn’t about you. But if you remain silent, it could become about you.



  1. Joshua Raymond · September 22, 2016

    I believe we should look at competency-based education. As students master each subject, they move on. It is frustrating for a student who has not yet mastered single-digit addition and the class moves on to double-digit addition. It is equally frustrating when a student has mastered double-digit addition but the teacher is still instructing the class on single-digit addition. Instead of forcing students to fit the curriculum, tailor the curriculum to each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Competency-based education has been used effectively in many districts and several states.


  2. kathyafinch · September 22, 2016

    As a high school teacher, I truly appreciate the intent. It is frustrating to continually receive students as 9th graders who read at a 3rd grade level. But we need some true help for those K-3 grade teachers, to make sure those students are receiving all the support they need. Class sizes are a HUGE issue for elementary teachers. No more than 20, 17 is better!

    It can be done. The question is does someone have the political will to see to it that the children in MI, and across the country, have the best opportunity for learning. Some one needs to put their money where their mouth is. Well, someone other than the teachers!!!


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