Great Lakes East Comprehensive Center


Great Lakes East and the Michigan Department of Education

A Look Back at Years 1-5

During Years 1−5, the Great Lakes East Comprehensive Center at Learning Point Associates provided assistance to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) as MDE built and put in place systems, structures, processes, networks, and partnerships in support of district and school improvement. The work of Great Lakes East focused on MDE’s effort to build the department’s capacity and the capacity of its key partners, including the intermediate school districts (ISDs) and their professional association (the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators [MAISA]), to provide technical assistance and other support to local education agencies (LEAs).

An integral theme within Great Lakes East’s scope of work has been fostering structures to promote MDE cross-office communication, coordination, and leveraging efforts to build coherence, reduce fragmentation, and improve efficiency in an era of diminishing resources and reduced staffing. One of the most important lessons learned during the previous years is the need to focus on alignment of policies, practices, and procedures at all levels of leadership and across structural silos. During Year 5, through a process of continuous inquiry, Great Lakes East was able to gain deeper insights into the kinds of political, practical, and conceptual leadership that will help engage people across all levels of Michigan’s educational system.

Great Lakes East’s work with MDE focused on three key areas during Years 1−5: teacher quality, high school, and statewide system of support.

Teacher Quality

In collaboration with MDE, Great Lakes East built capacity among MDE staff members and key stakeholders to raise the quality of Michigan’s teaching force. Years 1−5 focused on developing and implementing a statewide system of support for professional learning based on the state Professional Learning Strategic Plan. Through the collaborative efforts, Great Lakes East and MDE worked with key stakeholders to refine a comprehensive individual professional development plan process, create critical tools, and gather relevant resources for Michigan pretenure teachers. During the 2009−10 school year, the team field-tested the individual professional development plan process with a select set of new teachers and their mentors in a variety of schools representing the state’s ethnic, economic, and geographic diversity.

In Year 5, as part of the implementation of the state Professional Learning Strategic Plan, a team from Great Lakes East, MDE, and key partners examined all teacher preparation standards documents to discover gaps and overlaps and used that work to help inform MDE in drafting a comprehensive “Framework for Excellence in Teacher Preparation” and a “Teacher Preparation, Certification, and Professional Learning Continuum.” Also, as part of the implementation of the strategic plan, Great Lakes East assisted in the initial conceptualizing of a three-tier licensure system for teachers that will be incorporated into the Continuum.

At the request of MDE’s deputy superintendent, MDE and Great Lakes East formed a new cross-office team focused on professional development. The team began working to understand the current research on professional development, revise MDE’s professional development policy, and explore ways to ensure that all appropriate MDE requests for proposals reflect principles of effective professional development. All this work will continue in Year 6.

High School

Beginning with the graduating class of 2011, all high school students are required to meet the standards of the new Michigan Merit Curriculum in order to earn a high school diploma. In Year 5, Great Lakes East continued to build MDE’s capacity to help districts and schools as their students strive to meet the new requirement and increase achievement. Through the Office of Education Improvement and Innovation (formerly the Office of School Improvement), Great Lakes East worked with MDE to build coherence in the high school work and strengthen collaboration between MDE offices, ISDs, and key stakeholders. Effort was placed on leveraging the various high school activities and initiatives across MDE and drafting a “Michigan Framework for Reimagining High Schools” to provide schools and districts across the state with guidance for high school redesign. After the superintendent of public instruction issued a dropout challenge to all schools and districts in Michigan, Great Lakes East worked collaboratively with MDE and its partners to support this initiative. In addition, an MDE cross-office team on alternative high schools was convened to meet with an alternative education focus group that represented schools and districts across the state to identify and address key issues and concerns of alternative educators around the state.

Statewide System of Support

To support Michigan’s statewide system of support, Great Lakes East began working with MDE several years ago in order to address No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act responsibilities and help MDE provide an effective system of support for districts and schools in the improvement process, especially those in corrective action. 

During Year 5, Great Lakes East continued working with the Office of Education Improvement and Innovation (formerly the Office of School Improvement) to refine and strengthen Michigan’s statewide system of support. Great Lakes East reviewed data and provided formative feedback about the implementation of the expanded components of Michigan’s statewide system of support and assisted the state to increase alignment and coherence of the existing components of Michigan’s system. The original statewide system of support provided intensive interventions for schools in corrective action in Year 3 or above. Three new components were added to the statewide system of support for schools in corrective action in Year 1 and Year 2. These expansions to the statewide system of support include the following: 

  • Evidence-Based Interventions. School leadership teams were trained to select evidence-based interventions to increase student achievement.
  • Instructional Coaches. Instructional coaches were hired and trained to work with teachers in high-priority schools to build the capacity of teachers to implement with fidelity evidence-based strategies in the areas of English language arts and mathematics.
  • Data Coaches. Data coaches helped schools build a culture of using quality data suitable for decision making. Data coaches worked closely with school leadership teams to understand the data and to align school improvement plans to address identified needs.

To assist the Office of Education Improvement and Innovation in this redesign, Great Lakes East worked collaboratively with the Center on Innovation & Improvement (CII). They guided MDE through a self-assessment process to identify strengths and weaknesses of the current system to begin the process of redesign. Great Lakes East and CII identified and studied current research on statewide systems of support and other states’ designs and processes for improving the current Michigan system. 

To address the needs of Michigan’s student subgroups, especially its English language learners (ELLs), Great Lakes East provided support to MDE in developing and refining an ELL five-year strategic plan, which defines priority state issues, needs, and action plans. With guidance from the five-year plan, work began to build a strong infrastructure of support for Michigan’s ELL students and their teachers. In Year 5, Great Lakes East worked with MDE to update and extend the strategic plan for an additional three years. To further enhance this initiative, Great Lakes East continued to codesign MDE’s statewide ELL Advisory Committee’s quarterly meetings and facilitate the Committee’s work in support of strategic plan implementation. Also, the work continued through MDE’s cross-office ELL core team composed of MDE office directors and staff from throughout the department and facilitated by Great Lakes East. Great Lakes East assisted state ELL leaders in the development of professional development plans based on the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) model that meet the needs of each of their respective regions. This additional support strategically expanded technical assistance for the statewide ELL strategic plan. 

During Year 5, Great Lakes East also began working with MDE on response to intervention (RTI). MDE was eager to provide support and guidance to districts and hoped to encourage all districts to look closely at RTI as a core piece of the school improvement puzzle. With assistance from Great Lakes East, MDE formed a cross-office team consisting of staff members from the Office of Special Education and Early Intervention Services, the Office of Education Improvement and Innovation, ISDs, higher education, Great Lakes East (and its partner RMC Research Corporation), and the National Center on Response to Intervention (NCRTI). The team’s purpose was to develop a statewide framework and guidance resources for RTI implementation. As they drafted the framework and guidance resources, the team worked to align the Michigan Continuous School Improvement Process with the emerging RTI system.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009

In Year 5, Great Lakes East continued to align its efforts in Michigan to ARRA’s assurance areas. Although the work touches on all four assurance areas, the bulk of support that Great Lakes East is providing to MDE is in the assurance areas focused on effective teachers and support to struggling schools. Addressing teacher quality, Great Lakes East has been assisting MDE in the following regard:

  • Developing a three-tier licensure process
  • Revamping teacher preparation program approval guidelines
  • Drafting guidelines for the state’s to-be-established alternative preparation programs
  • Creating an individual professional development plan process for teachers
  • Revising MDE’s professional development policy
  • Integrating principles of effective professional development into all MDE initiatives, including the agency’s requests for proposals

Great Lakes East also is supporting struggling schools by assisting MDE and its partners as they redesign Michigan’s statewide system of support. Great Lakes East’s contributions to this effort include the following activities:

  • Striving for coordination and coherence across the numerous components
  • Sharing examples, models, and learnings from other states
  • Developing an operational manual and action plan for program redesign
  • Cofacilitating and designing core team meetings
  • Creating and implementing a comprehensive electronic data, record keeping, and artifact storage site (SharePoint) for MDE and its partners
  • Generating formative feedback for a key MDE partner and helping them take action based on the data

Great Lakes East has supported MDE as it worked through the process of submitting their Round 1 Race to the Top application by hosting the participation of key MDE staff in a regional ARRA forum on November 19, 2009, cohosted by Great Lakes East, the Great Lakes West Comprehensive Center, REL Midwest at Learning Point Associates, as well as the North Central Comprehensive Center and REL Central. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Education made presentations and responded to questions from state education agency (SEA) members representing 10 Midwestern states. The forum focused on building coherence across ARRA funds and enabled staff to clarify some questions they had regarding ARRA funding. Great Lakes East facilitated Michigan’s team and assisted the team in creating a structure for organizing their Race to the Top proposal effort. The leaders of the internal MDE ARRA team also have participated in the periodic ARRA Web conferences hosted by Great Lakes East and Great Lakes West.

Summary of Year 5 Goals and Evidence of Capacity Building

The technical assistance goals codeveloped with MDE strongly align to NCLB as well as ARRA priority areas, as described below under each Year 5 goal (see Tables 1–7). The overarching goal of MDE’s work with Great Lakes East during the past five years has been to improve the performance of all Michigan students, with a particular focus on lower performing student subgroups and to strengthen cross-office collaboration within MDE.

Photo of teacher with student.

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