Michigan's 21st Century Education Commission Report: Weak on a Continuous Improvement Paradigm

In early 2016, Michigan’s Governor Snyder created a 21st Century Education Commission to address improving the education system for the children in Michigan. Recently, the Commission generated its report of recommendations. Information on the Commission and its reports is available at http://mieducationcommission.com/

The Detroit Free Press published this article that summarizes the recommendations of the Commission’s work.

8 Takeaways from Snyder’s Education Commission


The takeaways include:

·        Michigan’s children are falling behind and Michigan needs to invest more in education

·        Free Pre-School and Community College.

·        Abolish the elected State Board of Education

·        Schools need to involve parents more

·        Help with facility funding for charter schools and schools in low-income areas

·        Expand choice options

These are good strategies assuming Michigan can find the budget to implement them.  Free pre-school and community college tuition would help Michigan’s families, and improve the success rate of students in being academically ready for college, and graduating with an associate degree. There are many STEM-related jobs that only require an associate degree; later community college graduates can go on to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher.

For a different perspective, the Center for Michigan published this guest commentary on the state of education in Michigan

Lesson one for Michigan’s schools: We’re doing it wrong


Where is the focus on Continuous Improvement Strategies?

I am speaking next week at the Carnegie Foundation Summit for Improvement of Education , a conference that places emphasis on the improvement science and improving education, including through continuous improvement strategies for student success. In reading the executive summary of Michigan’s 21st Century Education Commission, “The Best Education System for Michigan’s Success”,  I found few references to continuous improvement. In fact, when I did a search on “continuous improvement”, I found only one reference:

Improve data reporting—Michigan must collect, analyze, and share quality data to hold all stakeholders accountable for performance outcomes. It is equally important that timely and relevant data are available to help educators, parents, practitioners, and policymakers make data-driven decisions in pursuit of continuous improvement. “

Referring to the full report, it also only includes a reference to continuous improvement for data reporting. This is a good start, but not sufficient. I would like to suggest that the Commission revisit the paradigm of continuous improvement in its next steps for improving Michigan’s education system.  The paradigm of continuous improvement can be very powerful in empowering both students and teachers in their learning and teaching.  

The Commission’s reports include no reference to using Lean Six Sigma or Baldrige thinking to improve education. Both Lean Six Sigma and Baldrige have a successful track record in continuous improvement strategies for K12 education.  It is time for Michigan’s education improvement program to include these strategies.

My previous blog discusses the Carnegie Foundation’s Summit on Improvement in Education and my session.  If you will be attending the conference, my session M2 is on Tuesday March 28 at 9 a.m.  

Cindy Veenstra, PhD, ASQ Fellow

E: cindy@veenstraconsulting.com