Here's How Michigan Can Be a Top-10 Education State

05/19/2015 10:24 am ET | Updated May 19, 2016

We're facing a time of great promise in my home state of Michigan. After years of job losses, deep recession and budget cuts, our economy is finally starting to rebound. New businesses are opening from Detroit to Grand Rapids practically every month. New life is blossoming this spring across our state.

Our economy may be starting to turn the corner, but our recovery will never be complete if we continue to neglect the one area that will have the biggest impact on our state's future: our public school system.

Michigan's education system is broken. Our students have been slipping to the bottom of the national rankings for the past decade, and the results are impossible to ignore.

In fourth-grade reading achievement Michigan has gone from 28th in the nation in 2003 to 38th today. In fact, our fourth-graders read at lower levels today than they did 10 years ago. If we stay on this path, we'll be 44th in the country by 2023, playing catch-up with chronically low-performing states like Arkansas and Alabama.

The problem transcends geography, income and race. Michigan's white students are on track to perform 49th out of 50 in fourth-grade reading by 2030, ahead of only West Virginia. Our African-American students are among the lowest-performing black students in America, and our Latino students are also seeing drops in ranking in student achievement compared with their counterparts in other states.

Our children, and our state, deserve better than this.

That's why we at Education Trust-Midwest are launching a campaign to pull Michigan up from the bottom and into the nation's top 10 education states by 2030.

Michigan Achieves lays out a clear path for success that's backed by years of research and proven strategies for improving educational outcomes.

The good news is that we know how to become a top-10 education state. We've spent many months studying the success of the nation's top education state, Massachusetts, and leading improvement states like Tennessee and Florida, to learn what strategies and investments are key to success.

Since 2003 Florida's fourth-graders have gained an average of almost 10 points on the national reading assessment. That's a remarkable gain, equivalent to about a year of additional instruction.

And Tennessee, which not long ago performed lower than Michigan in fourth-grade reading, is now at about the national average. Tennessee's students and schools are improving so rapidly that it is one of the nation's highest-improving states for fourth-grade literacy and is on track to be 14th in the nation by 2030.

Based on their proven track record of success, we have identified four areas that, with the right attention and investment, can put Michigan into the top 10 states for student growth in the next five years.

If we focus on teaching quality, higher standards and accountability, and improving learning conditions -- such as teacher and student attendance -- we can get our kids back on track and put Michigan on the map for student improvement.

Turning around our entire public school system may seem daunting, but we owe it to our kids and our state's future to make the effort and get this right. We can't afford not to.

Michigan's current path, in which the vast majority of our young students are not proficient in reading by fourth grade, will mean higher dropout rates, higher unemployment and more reliance on government assistance for too many Michiganders.

But we have another choice. We can choose the Michigan Achieves path and make the commitment and investment required to ensure that more of our students are reading proficiently, graduating on time, and being prepared for success in a competitive, global economy.

The road may be long and bumpy, but with a recovering economy, an unabashed "tough nerd" as our governor and two of the greatest public universities in the country -- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and Michigan State University -- we can and must commit to creating a public education for today's economy.

We choose the Michigan Achieves path, and we're asking you to join us.

Find out how you can help at