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Improving Michigan K-12 results begins with "public awareness of the severity of the problem"

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The Economic Club of Grand Rapids hosted an education panel this week. The topic: "Michigan Lagging Behind Nationally." WGVU spoke with one forum participant, the president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan.

“People feel there may be a problem with our education system but not their school.”

The data says otherwise. Doug Rothwell is president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. He explains regardless of demographics, statewide K-12 education is failing.

“We’re below average in 4th and 8th grade reading and math scores. We’re below average in terms of the percentage of our kids that are deemed to be either college or career ready when they graduate from high school. Below average in the percentage of our kids that are getting some level of technical education compared to other states which is important in this very technological society that we’re in. We have a below average percentage of our kids in terms of the overall education attainment level that they achieve in their lives. And as a result we have below average per capita income in this state.”

Rothwell says that should be a strong case for upgrading the level and amount of education and training.

“We’ve got to raise public awareness of the severity of the problem, the crisis that we face if we don’t deal with it. Companies in Michigan are going to grow. If they can’t fill those jobs here they’re going to do it somewhere else. We don’t want to see that happen. And then finally is, can we all rally around some common actions that we can sustain over a long period of time? You mentioned test scores and testing that we do in Michigan, perfect example of how we’ve not sustained something. We set a test in place. We see some of the results. We don’t like the results so we change the test. We get different results. We don’t like those. We change the test. We can’t run our education system that way. We’ve got to stick to things and sustain them over a long period of time if we want to see positive results.”

Patrick Center, WGVU News.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.