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Launch Michigan publicly releases framework, sets foundation for work ahead to transform public education

The state’s leading PK–12 partnership is collaborating on proposed policies to completely reinvent Michigan’s education system

Lansing, MI – Michigan’s educational system is delivering the results it was built to deliver. If we want different outcomes, we must start rebuilding.

Using that simple premise, a diverse group of statewide leaders in business, education, labor, parents, and philanthropy today joined forces to reveal a series of recommendations that better prepare Michigan’s children for success. The Launch Michigan Framework is designed to be a foundation for transforming Michigan’s educational system to equip students for a world economy that is increasingly remote, automated, and global.

Launch Michigan was formed in 2018, originally seeded by Business Leaders for Michigan, the Michigan Education Association (MEA), and The Skillman Foundation. Since then, a steering committee representing a broad cross-section of education stakeholders has tapped the knowledge and expertise of both its members and state, national and global experts in educational research and policy. Most recently, the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a group with a reputation for being the best education system transformers in the United States, reviewed Launch Michigan’s work to date, helping to guide its next steps and helped connect the dots between education and the economy.

The framework released today coalesces around three interconnected areas of focus:

Reinvention: Michigan will adopt a clear and rigorous college and career readiness standard, aligned to international benchmarks, to establish a ‘foundation’ to be part of each student’s graduation requirements. Part of the proposal includes amendments to the state’s “Read by Grade Three” law and continuous support to ensure students – no matter where they come from – can meet high standards in a variety of ways.

Resources: Michigan will adopt and adequately support a new funding system that provides a strong foundation for all and focuses on providing equitable resources to students with the greatest needs. The ideal funding system will include both an increase to the foundation allowance and weighted funding to support students with greater need. Rethinking existing expenditures and securing new revenue must be part of the solution.

Responsibility: Michigan must evolve its regulatory structures to ensure greater effectiveness, alignment, and accountability from all education stakeholders, including having the Governor appoint the State Superintendent. Improvements to both the capacity and governance of the Michigan Department of Education are necessary, as are changes to the educator evaluation system and school performance measurements.

“Michigan’s kids simply do not have the same opportunities to learn and succeed as their peers in countries with which Michigan’s economy competes. Our state’s educational system was designed for the mid-20th century, and it hasn’t undergone a true reinvention since,” said Launch Michigan President Adam Zemke. “Our world changes daily, and we must empower our kids to succeed by making better, smarter investments in their classroom experience that prepares them for a global 21st-century economy.”

“Until we act to create an educational system that gives kids the knowledge and skills to succeed in an economy that’s increasingly advancing on a global scale, we will lag behind other states and nations and outsource the opportunities that should belong to our youngest residents,” said Jeff Donofrio, Launch Michigan co-chair and President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. “To ensure future opportunities will exist for our kids, we have to invest in the educational system capable of producing them.”

“As Michigan works to make these essential changes, it’s particularly important that all students can reap the benefits, regardless of their differing abilities and needs,” said Punita Dani Thurman, Launch Michigan co-chair and Vice President of Program & Strategy for The Skillman Foundation. “Our K-12 system requires changes in policy, funding, and ultimately, in practice to prepare young people to be the leaders they’re meant to be. We have deeply embedded equity and justice and know the true measure of success will be to see today’s most underserved kids reach a vibrant and prosperous tomorrow.”

“When it comes to boosting Michigan’s educational outcomes, there is absolutely no time to lose,” said MEA president Paula Herbart, who also serves as a Launch Michigan co-chair. “Our priority is to ensure we start filling in the gaps we know exist, so we can begin changing children’s lives and futures as quickly as possible. Michigan’s educators are dedicated to our students, and this framework is an important place to start providing them with the tools needed to change the course of our kids’ futures.”

“Michigan’s future depends on small business, and the success of small business depends on the outcomes of our education system,” said Brian Calley, President and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan and a Launch Michigan co-chair. “Inaction is not an option here. We will continue working together until true transformation becomes a reality for Michigan students.”

To solidify and formalize its efforts to effect change, Launch Michigan will transition its organization to that of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the coming months. In addition, NCEE has recommended that Michigan’s leaders come together to develop both a shared economic vision for the state, and recommendations connected to that vision on how to create a world-class education system.

“Like all frameworks, today’s release is a starting point, not a final product,” Zemke said. “Using the framework as a foundation, Launch Michigan is asking broad groups of stakeholders and practitioners to be fully engaged in further work to make these ideas a reality.”

The full Launch Michigan Framework is available at www.LaunchMichigan.org/Framework.

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Launch Michigan is an unprecedented partnership of business, education, parents, labor, philanthropy, and civic leaders, all of whom care deeply about education and our state’s collective future. That is why we are crafting a new, high-quality, student-centered system for Michigan–one that helps every student succeed in school, in their careers, and in life. We understand implicitly that a strong, thriving public education system is the cornerstone of successful kids, prosperous communities, and a strong economy.

Learn more about Launch Michigan at LaunchMichigan.org.