We don't need NCLB, Race to the Top, or any other alphabet soup to improve K-14 education in Michigan. Here's my simplified wish list of changes:
1. Limit the federal government's role to strictly setting national learning standards and return 90 percent of all federal taxes previously used to fund the department of education and its numerous grant programs to the states.
2. Abolish the state department of education with the exception of the state superintendent's position and limited administrative staff.
3. Limit the role of the state superintendent to serving as chair of a state-wide council on K-14 education consisting of all intermediate superintendents; this council will provide oversight to the K-14 system.
4. Place community colleges under intermediate school districts.
5. Fund all school districts equally based on pupil enrollments. Mandate that per-pupil state aid be increased annually based solely on CPI.
6. Legislate that districts use an established minimum percentage of its general fund revenues strictly on instructional expenditures, without exception. A starting point would be 65%.
7. Provide a state-wide sinking fund that serves to equalize the per-pupil SEV in each school district to provide a more equitable basis for school maintenance and construction.
8. Outlaw the use of graded school systems by 2016 requiring that all schools develop a system of instruction and advancement based solely by demonstrating mastery of learning standards.
9. Prohibit the use of all multiple-choice testing systems by 2016 and require that the majority of assessments used to determine mastery of learning standards for each student be by demonstration.
10. Fully fund and require by 2014 that mobile technology be used by secondary students in grades 6-12 during at least 50% of all instructional time; expand this to all K-12 students by 2018.
11. Eliminate all Carnegie unit and seat time requirements.
12. Legislate a restriction that schools may not close for more than 4 consecutive weeks at a time during a calendar year and provide additional state funding for costs associated with this mandate.