Addressing Michigan’s Achievement Gap
The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and the Michigan State Board of Education are committed to closing academic achievement gaps in the state. Their initial focus is on rapidly improving academic outcomes for African-American young men, the persistently lowest achieving demographic subgroup in the state.
Task and Approach
MDE requested Great Lakes Comprehensive Center (GLCC) support as it developed and implemented a statewide strategy to close the achievement gaps in reading and mathematics. As MDE formulated its approach to addressing the achievement gap, GLCC provided access to resources on adopting an “equity lens” approach across MDE and support in building cross-state relationships to learn from successes in other districts. GLCC is currently serving as a strategic partner as the department implements the state strategy.
- Using data to inform strategy. GLCC coled a committee that took a national look at state-level approaches to closing the achievement gap. GLCC also coled the data subcommittee responsible for compiling and analyzing Michigan’s data and national data to provide a deeper understanding of the achievement gap in the state.
- Improving MDE’s organizational structure through equity analysis. GLCC teamed with the Great Lakes Equity Center (Equity Center) to help MDE examine its policies, practices, and structures through an equity lens to improve the department’s ability to address the achievement gap. The operational equity analysis is a modification of the Equity Center tool developed to engage school communities in critical reflection on policy. The Equity Center provided training to a core team at MDE; GLCC then worked with MDE to continue the process by having each office at MDE identify a policy, practice, or structure to examine through an equity lens. This process involved MDE leadership and contributed to a new organizational approach to problem solving.
- Stakeholder engagement. GLCC coplanned the full-day Achievement Gap Summit. The summit focused on establishing an understanding of the achievement gap in Michigan, introducing MDE’s achievement gap strategy, soliciting feedback from stakeholders, and engaging stakeholders in concrete action. Approximately 150 stakeholders attended, including MDE staff, school and district staff, professional organizations, intermediate school district staff, and community organizations.
- Achievement gap pilot. GLCC worked with MDE to identify research-based strategies for closing the achievement gap. Each school in the pilot chose to implement one climate and culture strategy and one intentional instruction strategy. MDE provides ongoing support and progress monitoring as schools implement these strategies. GLCC is working to integrate the new MDE model policy, code of student conduct, and implementation supports for alternatives to suspension and expulsion into the achievement gap work.
- Cross-state collaboration. GLCC helped establish a working relationship between the MDE Principals Academy and the Indiana Merrillville Community School Corporation. Merrillville is an award-winning district in Indiana with exemplary results for African-American male students. GLCC brought Merrillville leaders to an MDE Principals Academy event, and a cross-office MDE team visited Merrillville. The relationship between Merrillville and MDE is ongoing.
- Quarterly meetings for pilot schools. GLCC coplans and facilitates quarterly face-to-face professional learning meetings for teams from achievement gap pilot schools. The purpose of these meetings is to build local education agency capacity to implement research-based strategies to close the achievement gap.
- Student focus groups. GLCC introduced the idea of including student focus groups as part of the strategic process of closing achievement gaps. It coplanned focus groups with African-American male students to gather student-level input regarding their experiences and concerns. MDE now conducts student focus groups in all achievement gap pilot schools. Data from the focus groups are shared with the school, providing important student perspectives on achievement gap initiatives, including what is working and possible barriers that impact student achievement.
- MDE developed a state strategy to close the achievement gap through a process that engaged all key MDE leaders and stakeholders. GLCC identified research-based practices and facilitated MDE’s collaboration with partner organizations to finalize the strategy.
- MDE designed an achievement gap pilot, to be implemented in 27 priority and focus schools statewide, that will test research-based strategies for closing the achievement gap. GLCC is now leading quarterly meetings with these pilot schools.
- MDE held the Achievement Gap Summit with 150 stakeholders to review its draft strategy for eliminating the achievement gap and to commit follow-up support for the initiative. GLCC coplanned and provided support for the MDE-sponsored event.
- A group of select Indiana schools that have demonstrated success in eliminating the achievement gap is now sharing promising practices with MDE. GLCC is facilitating an ongoing arrangement among MDE, these schools, and an Indiana district to continue exploring effective strategies for improving the achievement of traditionally low-performing subgroups.