Michigan Curriculums: Playing Catch-Up...

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Our Infographic - Michigan Curriculums: Playing Catch-Up...

"Overview" and "Detroit Taking Initiative" were done by Dylan Dorfman.

"Issues" and the graphics itself were done by Stevie Weingard. 

2. Persona and POV statement Persona (Done by Dylan Dorfman): Persona name: Taylor Smith Age: 14 School/occupation: Woodworth Middle School Location: Dearborn, Michigan   Quote: "I've never even heard of this before!!"   About:
  • Lives with his parents and 3 younger siblings in a two bedroom apartment
  • Works long hours after school to help support his family; as a result, doesn't get a lot of sleep
  • Studies very hard in school but never seems to do well on the State exams due to a lack of resources (books, additional practice exams, extra help)
Goals:
  • Help lift the financial burden his parents feel and make them proud
  • Get any kind of academic scholarship to private high school and/or college 
  • Receive better grades on the end-of-year state exams

 

POV Statement (Done by Stevie Weingard):
  • User: Taylor, a hard working and academically driven middle schooler...
  • Need: ...needs a way to get better grades at the end of the year...
  • Insight: ... because he wants to try and get an academic scholarship to lift any financial stress in his family but can't because he keeps (uncharacteristically) failing the State exams due to a lack of books, and a lack of standards for these books.

Our primary persona (click hyperlink): 

3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1 (Dylan Dorfman):

We can create a statewide petition in order to raise awareness of the lacking Michigan curriculums. The petition’s goal would be to influence government position holders, and to help them understand how wildly dangerous of a problem this is becoming. Petitions tend to have a positive impact on the intended cause, and this help is desperately needed. People statewide can sign this appeal and generate more support for this topic. With recognition of the issue, and being held accountable for this growing matter, they can implement a wide variety of changes in the Michigan curriculums. Even more so, they could help with having the state exams altered so that they are more focused on the material actually taught in the classroom.

SOLUTION 2 (Stevie Weingard): 

Another alternative solution we have discussed refers to the reallocation of funds; this would allow teachers to get the extra training they need to educate their students properly. Also, if funds were re-allocated more money could be directed towards getting students extra tutoring so that they do not need to pay for it out of pocket. If it weren’t possible to directly alter the curriculum, this would be a great alternative. Essentially, It would allow the students to get a better education than the one they currently receive.

SOLUTION 3 (Dylan Dorfman):

Another solution we have thought of is for Michigan to create day camps run by the school for the summer term. This would allow students to enjoy themselves at camp, but a portion of each day would consist of students being taught topics not covered during the school year. In this option, students would be able to cultivate skills/knowledge both in the classroom and outside of the classroom (for example, math and english as well as sports and theatre). Students could catch up academically, and learn in a more relaxed environment.

SOLUTION 4 (Stevie Weingard):

The last resolution we have come up with includes bringing in teachers from other states, or other successful Michigan districts, in order to help those struggling districts’ teachers and students get a better education. These teachers would set great examples for what’s expected of their profession; teachers that need this help can understand how they should execute the curriculum in a style that is both successful and engaging. Moreover, the students would benefit because then they would finally be learning the materials not being taught to them in the past. This could lead to better test results on the State exam. Although this idea may take more funding and be harder to execute, it will allow both teachers and students to catch up in areas they have been struggling to succeed in.

BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS Context

Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

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We were inspired by this Senate Bill because education is a topic we both are passionate about, and wanted to attempt to alleviate some stressors for Michigan students state wide. This bill acknowledges the flaw in Michigan curriculums state wide, which we address in our proposal. Yet, we took this one step further by narrowing down students' struggles as a result of insufficient and inadequate resources. Schools statewide are teaching the wrong curriculum, with outdated textbooks in terrible conditions. 

 

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

According to our research and conversations we've had, this proposal could impact all families state wide who have children in the Michigan public school system, or who work in these districts. Most obviously, the students will get a better education and do better on the State exams since they would have better textbooks, a more accurate curriculum, and more resources to help further enhance their schooling. Students will now be given more adequate resources to enhance their learning. The conditions of their books will be better and the content of these books will be more relevant to the education they receive. Teachers, district administrators, and parents would also be impacted: teachers would have more, and better, tools to make sure their students are learning everything the State requires of them, and parents could focus less on outside help (like PNC) and devote less of their time to their children struggling academically (without it being no fault of theirs). The students, families, and teachers who come from the more struggling areas will need more help, but they will also benefit greater and reap the same benefits. All in all, no one really loses from this proposal; there is always somewhere to grow and improve.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

Once we started to work at Peace Neighborhood Center, the both of us were immediately drawn to addressing an issue in education. How we stumbled upon this specific matter is a combination of similar passions between the two of us, and a Senate bill that directed this exact matter. Through further research, service hours, consultations, and conversation, we enhanced our knowledge and truly became passionate about this issue. 

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Both of us are completing our service hours at Peace Neighborhood Center, where we get to experience and observe first hand how these schools are failing their students. Many of the children that come into PNC for tutoring are several reading levels behind where they should be, and are also behind in reading comprehension, mathematics, and other basic learning fundamentals. Fortunately, PNC helps tackle this problem, yet if proper resources were available in the first place, these students would be at a much better place than where they are currently. We also got to really take in how big of a deal this issue is especially because Ann Arbor is one of the stronger school districts compared to others. After seeing first hand how the lack of proper resources can truly affect one's education, it seemed unfathomable to take our proposal anywhere else but education. 

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Our Infographic - Michigan Curriculum's: Playing Catch-Up...

"Overview" and "Detroit Taking Initiative" were done by Dylan Dorfman.

"Issues" and the graphics itself were done by Stevie Weingard. 

Consultations

Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1:

We spoke to Mary Ann Johnson from the Peace Neighborhood Center in Ann Arbor. She runs the tutoring aspect of this community center, which (partly) provides tutoring to children who struggle in schools of surrounding communities-possibly because of the outdated curriculum.  When we asked her thoughts on the struggling students’ and the lack of resources in these schools, especially in Ann Arbor because this is where her knowledge comes from, she was first in shock; she said kids come all the way to Ann Arbor for a better education, so if these curriculums are behind, it must be far from this area. She then relayed that the students she encounters often go into kindergarten not even being able to read, which is already far behind. Imagining other areas where education is worse is a frightening thought. Lastly, she explained to us that she actually thought the curriculum in Ann Arbor was too advanced as so many kids are behind and advance at an extremely slow rate. In reality, this is a result of a lack of resources, a strong curriculum, and inadequate funding.

CONSULTATION 2:

The second consultation we had was with Barry Fishman. Mr. Fishman is a professor at both the School of Information and the School of Education at the University of Michigan. His main focus is how to use technology to enhance learning nationwide, for both the student and the teacher. He is wildly reputable in the field of education and we were lucky to get his opinion for our proposal. After explaining to him our intended purpose and our thoughts, the most important feedback he gave us was to narrow down the scope of our topic even more. With this advice (as well as the advice from Mr. Kupperman and Mr. Fahy), we narrowed down our proposal to only focus on books and their lack of standards in schools. Mr. Fishman explained to us that there are no mandates to deem how old a textbook must be before schools get new ones. Students state wide are using textbooks that were created in the year 2000, so clearly they wouldn't be suffice in teaching children what they need for the State Exams. A question on the exam could ask about the 2016 election or the new data surrounding DNA testing, but students could have no real insight because their textbook doesn't even come close to addressing this new era. Mr. Fishman highlighted that new laws need to be created in order to set a maximum "age" of these textbooks, ensuring that students get new resources every "x" amount of years. Another (partial) solution he encouraged us to promote is asking the teachers what they want. Often, teachers aren't given a voice and therefore cannot invoke change; asking teachers what they need is the best way to obtain accurate information as they are the ones closest to the problem. 

CONSULTATION 3:

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For our third consultation, we reached out to the President of the Michigan Education Assoication, Paula Herbart. We thought reaching out to the group responsible for 1100 local school districts (K-12) would be a great way to gain some more insight on our proposal, and hear another perspective on what they think the ideal solution would be. In our email, we highlighted the overall purpose of Michigan Student Caucus, our proposal we intend to present, and what we think some solutions could be. We explained to her our idea of mandates being implemented to prevent students from having out-dated textbooks, which she thought was a strong solution. She gave us the number "eight," to denote how often new textbooks should be adminstered to the state. She also told us that although this is ideal, it would be hard to implement because a lot of schools do not have the funds to buy new books every eight years. Another potential solution she helped us see would be to rethink the Michigan Department of Education's core academic standards; we went to the MDE website and saw they value: Argument & Reasoning, Solving Problems, Technology & Tools, and Communication & Collaboration. While these four standards are imperative to a successful education, a suggestion would be to add a fifth value reflecting the need for adequate, proper resources. This would help prove the necessity of our idea, and would allow for this concept to be more incorporated into schools statewide. Overall, Ms. Herbart told us we were off to a great start, and our proposal is one of importance; she did say that the issue we are addressing is very difficult to solve, and that just because we have great solutions doesn't mean we could expect strong resiults.    Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

Our topic Coordinator, Jillian Goldstone, provided very helpful advice regarding our persona/POV statement. She said that there were mixed characteristics of our person, Taylor, because he is hard working, driven student who cares about helping his family wherever he can but he still manages to not do well on the State Exams. Jillian pointed out that typically those from struggling homes aren't motivated to do well in school, and also that it seems Taylor is smart/successful enough to be able to pass the exams even though he lacks all of the resources. We then adjusted this aspect of our project to make it clear that he is not failing the State exams because of trying to do too much (AKA: making extra money, trying to get a scholarship, helping out at home) or because he isn't motivated enough, but because he has inadequate/insufficient books, practice exams, and extra help. I appreciated the feedback she provided, as it made sense and improved the quality of our Persona/POV Statement.

Research process:

Our research process was quite the experience. We started off with the idea that the entirety of Michigan curriculums were lacking. However, after doing loads of research, we realized we couldn’t accurately resolve a problem as big as that. Even more so, Jeff Kupperman, Michael Fahy, and our topic coordinator all told us our proposal was too broad and needed much more specifying. From this point on we looked into the most inferior parts of the Michigan education system to conclude where the students had the most issues, and why. We found that dropout rates were high, graduation rates were low, and student morale was even lower due to consistent failing grades on state exams. After continuous research on how students study for their state exams and the largest factors that impact exam grades, we were lead to textbooks (and the lack there of). This trend became even more obvious after Barry Fishman and the President of the Michigan Education Association both acknowledged and confirmed this issue. Many schools lack updated textbooks, which makes it very hard for students to study the content they are being tested on during these State assessments. Moreover, a multitude of scholarly articles found online further confirmed this issue. While we know that funding for Michigan education is scarce, schools providing adequate textbooks is one of the more cheaper options in rectifying these failing scores. Once we were given the stamp of approval by the Caucus directors and two of the three people we consulted with, we decided to stick with this idea as the basis of our proposal. We have now found that textbooks should be updated every 8 years, in order to stay up to date with research, politics, and other studies. We are continuing to put the finishing touches on our proposal, as we believe it will continue to grow and come together over time.

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

This entire project was split one hundred percent evenly between the two of us. While we both have our own strong suits with different parts of the project, we were together for every submission and both agreed to everything the other had published. For the first step, our infographic, this was wildly easy to split up. Stevie is much more skilled in graphic design, and I am more skilled in research/putting our thoughts into words. The "Overview" and "Detroit Taking Initiative" were done by me (Dylan) because that's where a lot of our research came from and that was my strong suit. Stevie did the graphics, the spacing of the artifact, and the "Issues" section. We came up with our entire POV/Persona Statement together, and simply just decided who was to do the Persona (me) and who was to do the POV Statement. Again, we came up with all four of our solutions together and wrote everything side by side, just I drove the idea behind Solutions 1 and 3, while Stevie did for 2 and 4. In each step of the way, we edited the others work and made sure we liked how everything "came off" before publishing. I would say that I offered more of the language/editing/logic behind our project, while Stevie provided the real graphic/creative/thinking outside-the-box component that our proposal needed in order to be successful. We split the entire "formal proposal" up evenly as well, again supporting and agreeing with everything the other person published. I did the first three "where as" examples, while Stevie did the last three. Similarly, I did the first two operative clauses while Stevie wrote the other two, even though we came up with all four clauses together. Stevie finalized the three counter arguments, while I finalized the costs/funding portion of the proposal.  FORMAL PROPOSAL

The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS....  an educated workforce is wildly important both socially and economically, and one is currently acking in this state as many workers have either dropped out of high school or did not have a post secondary education.

WHEREAS.... Michigan schooling systems are at an all time low for enrollment rates-declining consistently since the 1950's-with only 1,476,450 students K-12.

WHEREAS.... many schools do not have enough (text)books to adequately educate their students. A school in Warren, Michigan was only given $500 for their school library, and was only able to purchase thirty books. Clearly, 30 is a wildly insuffient number of books to provide for all 1800 of the students.

WHEREAS.... textbooks statewide are outdated and provide information that is outdated and no longer a main focus on the state exams. Textbooks as old as 15-25 years are clearly insufficient in providing/supporting a successful education for any student, leading to the low scores on the Michigan state exams (comparative to other states).

WHEREAS.... schools in Michigan lack mandates that require new textbooks to be bought every __ years, ideally eight. This allows for schools to get away with providing textbooks that are in terrible condition and are wildly outdated.

WHEREAS... graduation rates at Michigan schools statewide are extremely low. This is partly due to the fact that students are constantly failing their state exams, due to old and worn out textbooks that lack the relevant, important information students need to pass.

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1. Implement mandates that require schools in Michigan to purchase new textbooks every eight years. This will allow for all course curriculums to stay up to date. Eight years is the perfect amount of time to allow all new innovation, research, and politics to be added into the new textbooks. New books will make it much easier for every student to study year round, and specifically enhance their knowledge for the state exams. These constant updates will make education for all students much more efficient, as the content reviewed would finally match up to the content expressed on the exams.

2. New textbooks will allow for students to excell on their state exams like never before. This immense incline in grades will boost the morale of all Michigan students. Considering that Michigan schools have contunially been known as "dropout factories," a large increase in grades on state exams will give students a reason to not only stay in school, but to want to come back to school. By a simple mandate being implemented, an improvement in student education and test scores could result in many people coming back to school to enhance their education and become more knowledgeable.

 3. With more success in school, and a better overall education, more students will stay in school until their graduation. Students enjoy doing well and get more excited about the future when they see academic success, which would encourage them to stay in school until graduation even more. From these new textbooks and better test scores, more people will graduate and go onto bigger and better things. This would yield a flourishing economy as (high level) companies could hire more students with higher education degrees. Recently, Detroit has put $3,000,000 into their curriculum and has found their overall state exam grades rising, which was followed by an incline in graduate rates. The ideal goal is for all Michigan highschools to have a graduation rate of at least 65%; currently, the majority of them are at 30% or lower.

4. Teachers should be given updated curriculum books as well so that they are informed of exactly what their students are expected to know on these state exams. Teachers would be able to conclude how long they should focus on each topic based on its occurance. These books would be cheaper to obtain and be needed in much smaller numbers (much fewer teachers than students), so ideally schools would purchase them every one to three years. 

 Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. There is no reasonable way to move these funds around to better the Michigan curriculum. The Michigan budget is extremely tight and therefore funds are very scarce. We have no place to get more money from.

2. Although funding would allow for better books, a better education experience, and maybe a few computers, it would take years to catch Michigan students up. The time it would take to catch up the students who fell so behind over the years would be immense, and they would most likely have graduated (or dropped out) of high school by then.

3. We have only seen the direct effects of this lacking curriculum in some of the schools, and are unknowledgeable about other schools. Some schools could be much worse, and would need much more funding and attention to ameliorate the current issues at hand. 

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

The first thing that needs to be changed to help improve Michigan curriculums is how much money is being spent on each specific student. We found that $4.39 are spent on each student in Michigan, meanwhile, $23.09 are spent on each student in New Jersey. This shows how much more money needs to be put into Michigan education and each individual student. We believe our proposal will cost somewhere between $3 billion and $5 billion. In the research we have done, we have found that to purchase new reading and math materials it may cost somewhere around $1-3 billion; in order to improve all aspects of the curriculum, we would double that amount. In the past, federal money has been used to help improve education, so we believe a good amount of funding can come from here. The rest of the funding could come from specific school's populations, considering many believe the funding from property tax rates is innefficient. State officials may oppose the idea of dedicating resources toward fixing the curriculums as they have other, "more important" places to put this money. They may believe the money could go towards more housing in Michigan as well as more basic community building infrastructure. However, we hypothesize that these state officials will agree with us on the importance of our issue once presented with the cold, hard facts and support us in our endevours for more funding.

References:

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

https://www.mlive.com/news/2012/09/108000_michigan_students_have.html

https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2018/03/08/the-detroit-school-district-has-been-using-a-curriculum-thats-an-injustice-to-the-children-of-detroit-but-its-not-alone/

https://www.bridgemi.com/guest-commentary/how-fix-michigans-outdated-education-system

https://www.educationdive.com/news/michigan-governor-promises-bold-school-funding-formula-changes/548456/

https://www.mlive.com/news/2017/04/the_50_michigan_public_schools_1.html

https://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,4615,7-140-28753---,00.html 

Barry Fishman (School of Information and School of Education, University of Michigan)

Paula Herbart (Michigan Education Association)

Mary Ann Johnson (Peace Neighborhood Center)

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Total votes: 21