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First step toward fixing Michigan schools is to figure out what a good education really costs

a man stands in front of a classroom at a white board
Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio
TeachingWorks, a national organization based at U of M, aims to develop a nationwide system for all teaching programs, so that teachers are prepared the minute they walk into the classroom.

Our state used to boast a pretty strong education system, but just about any measurement given these days suggests that’s no longer true.

Case in point: the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nation’s report card, finds Michigan is in the bottom third of all states in fourth grade reading, fourth grade math and eighth grade math.

Additionally, the non-profit group Education Trust-Midwest reports that Michigan’s student achievement rank has dropped in the last decade for all groups of students: white, African-American, Latino, low- and high-income.

The new state superintendent of schools is Brian Whiston, and his goal is to put Michigan in the top 10 states for education within the next decade.

Michigan Radio’s State of Opportunity team has been reporting on Michigan schools, and it's got some suggestions for Superintendent Whiston.

According to Jennifer Guerra, it’s all about the money.

“We really need to figure out how much money it takes to educate a child in Michigan,” Guerra says.

She and others on the State of Opportunity team have spent time in schools of varying socioeconomic student populations around the state. Guerra says the discrepancy in funding between the richest and poorest schools in Michigan is as large as $5,000 per student.

Guerra says the state is starting to perform an adequacy study to determine the overall cost of education per student, and thinks we’ll hear their findings in March of next year, but “we don’t have that magic number yet.”

Jennifer Guerra tells us more about the relationship between school funding and test scores in our conversation above.

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