Michigan Governor signs education reform, enters race to the top

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed into law yesterday, a sweeping five-bill legislative package reforming Michigan’s education system and entering the state into competition for up to $400 million in federal Recovery Act funds through the Race to the Top initiative.

The reforms allow the state to intervene in low performing schools and even close some low performing charter schools that don’t meet new standards for performance included in the legislation. Rules for certification were also included, forcing administrators to be certified as well as creating new paths for teacher certification.

“These education reforms will make it possible for children throughout Michigan to receive the first-class, 21st century education they need to compete in a global economy,” Granholm said.

The legislation also gives the state the support it needs to join and compete for funds in the Race to the Top program. The initiative, put forward by the President earlier this year, gives states the chance to compete for grant funding designed to reform and improve state education systems. Michigan and several other states are working to finalize their applications which are due on January 19.

According to the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a press release outlining the program, states that are given grants from the $4.35 billion fund will have shown that they are ready to initiate reform projects around some core benchmarks:

  • Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals;
  • Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices; and
  • Turning around our lowest-performing schools.

Governor Granholm aims to make Michigan competitive more competitive by laying the groundwork for meeting these benchmarks, “These reforms make it clear that improving student achievement will be the driving force in Michigan’s education system,” Granholm said. “We will make student academic growth a key part of how we evaluate teachers, principals and schools, and in the process, enable Michigan to successfully compete for federal Race to the Top funds.”