On May 23, Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, testified before the Michigan Senate Education Committee on how digital learning and the effective use of technology can help drive better learning for all students in Michigan regardless of their geography or socioeconomic status.
“We are at a crossroads and the next twenty-four months is a critical time to not only keep the wheels of progress turning, but to accelerate the rate of improvement through the effective use of technology,” Wise said. “It is time for those of us who are experiencing firsthand an emerging and ever-changing world of technology to ensure the nation’s education system is agile and flexible enough to offer its youth the high-quality education they deserve. By doing so, this challenging moment can be turned around by embracing common-sense progress in teaching and learning.”
During his testimony, Wise recognized Michigan’s “significant progress” in improving the educational opportunities for its students. Specifically, he cited Michigan’s move to promote online opportunities and offer professional development and data analysis tools for teachers. He praised Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) for his leadership in working with the legislature to pass a cyber charter bill expanding opportunities for online learning and pointed out that Michigan is one of forty-six states to adopt college- and career-ready standards known as the common core state standards.
Wise applauded the Michigan Department of Education and State Superintendent Mike Flanagan for leading the implementation of the nation’s first-ever high school graduation requirement that every student have an online experience. He expressed support for Flanagan’s efforts to move toward competency-based advancement through pilots and seat-time waivers and encouraged the Senate Education Committee to support Flanagan’s efforts in these areas.
While acknowledging the funding challenges that Michigan—like most states—is facing because of declining local, state, and federal revenues and a tight fiscal environment, Wise said that the state is being challenged to raise student performance for more and more children. “I had to balance budgets as a governor and it was never easy,” Wise stated. “It is going to require thinking outside the box to allocate resources in a way that makes state dollars more productive and effective.”
Wise urged the Senate Education Committee to consider how digital learning fits into the broader education reform landscape and the demand for higher student performance. “The nation must move school improvement planning processes from ‘technology optional’ to those that are ‘technology essential,’” Wise said. “The objective is not about having the latest technology, it’s about improving learning by implementing solutions that support teachers and empower students.”
Wise also discussed what he calls the “three Ts”—teachers, technology, and time—that are essential to developing a comprehensive digital learning strategy and rethinking education. He cited several examples of schools and districts from around the country that are successfully using the three Ts to improve student outcomes. For example, he said Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina implemented a digital conversion initiative in 2007 that shifted from print to digital content material and made an internet-accessible device available for every student and teacher. In the five years since, Mooresville’s graduation rate increased 25 percentage points and now ranks third in the state—even though Mooresville has one of the lowest per-pupil expenditures in the state, ranking ninety-ninth out of 115 districts.
Read Gov. Wise’s prepared testimony here.