Nesbitt Detroit News op-ed: MI Brighter Future plan will ensure students aren’t left behind

Nesbitt Detroit News op-ed: MI Brighter Future plan will ensure students aren’t left behind

By Sen. Aric Nesbitt
20th Senate District

As the Legislature continues to provide record funding for our schools, Michigan’s students continue to fall behind their peers in other states.

Michigan fourth graders rank 43rd nationally in reading, 11 places down from where they were in 2019, and just three out of every 10 are proficient in math. Our average SAT scores are the lowest on record, and we are ranked 43rd nationally in high school graduation rates.

The data is clear; Michigan is on the precipice of a crisis in education.

In fact, a Jan. 21 report by both Harvard and Stanford University found Michigan students lost almost half a grade level in reading and math between 2019 and 2023 because of the catastrophic and prolonged school closures enforced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s unilateral response to the COVID pandemic.

Yet, time and time again, the governor vetoed legislation put forward to support students who fell behind during COVID shutdowns, including measures that would have provided families with more choices, resources and opportunities to help their children overcome learning losses.

And despite troubling downward trends in learning outcomes, the Democratic majority in Lansing has spent the past year utilizing their new powers to sweep these problems under the rug by lowering learning and accountability standards for students and their teachers.

There is a better path forward, and Senate Republicans will not stand idly on the sidelines as Michigan’s children are left behind.

That is why we have put forward the MI Brighter Future plan to help students gain access to additional resources and learning opportunities, require proven training methods for educators, give parents more control over their child’s progress, reinstate accountability in teacher evaluations, and provide for performance-based bonuses.

The MI Brighter Future plan is held up by four pillars to provide students, parents and teachers with the help they need for success, and it will raise the bar for everyone.

The first pillar focuses on setting the bar high. We must work to strengthen key provisions of the state’s third grade reading law, require student progress to be part of every teacher’s evaluation process, and restore the A-F grading scale for parents to easily understand how schools are performing.

Next, we must make a concerted effort to put the best teachers where they’re needed most. Our plan would provide bonuses to highly effective teachers who take positions in schools where they can have the greatest impact.

The third pillar is to commit to giving every kid a chance. No student should ever be left behind because of their means or ZIP code. Scholarship opportunities will help families afford additional educational assistance and help cover the costs of summer or after-school reading programs.

And finally, we must focus on what is important and get “back to the basics.” Reading is the foundation of a successful education, but too many schools have gone away from teaching the basics and reading scores have plummeted. Our plan will ensure teachers are trained in proven phonics-based reading methods that have an established track record of success.

MI Brighter Future is a substantial step in the right direction and will help guide our path forward.

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