Some schools have beaten the odds. They’ve made significant strides in narrowing the achievement gaps, attained proficiency levels that significantly exceeded the averages in their states, or improved student performance at an especially rapid pace. Follow the links below to read about the teachers, principals, and others who have made this possible.

     Some of these schools are truly exceptional. To inspire and encourage other educators in the gap-closing movement, The Education Trust each year at our national conference honors these high-performing schools with Dispelling the Myth Awards.

     These schools don’t offer simple answers or easy solutions, but several common strategies emerge from their practices. They provide a rich curriculum coupled with strong, focused instruction. They have high expectations for all students. They use data to track student progress and individual student needs. And they employ purposeful professional development to improve teachers’ skills.

     These stories and more have been collected in book form in It’s Being Done: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools (2007) and How It’s Being Done: Urgent Lessons from Unexpected Schools (2009). Contact for prices for single books and bulk orders. You can read about Dispelling the Myth Award-winning schools and others by following the links below.

Following is a list of all Education Trust-Midwest publications. Stop by the website for Ed Trust’s national office to learn more about national education equity issue.

All Education Trust publications are available as free downloads.

Stalled to Soaring: Michigan’s Path to Educational Recovery

ETM's 2014 State of Michigan Education report -- “Stalled to Soaring:  Michigan’s Path to Educational Recovery” -- is the result of months of research and a year of Ed Trust-Midwest’s efforts to monitor where Michigan is making progress on improving public education. 

Publication date: 
April 3 2014

Supporting Michigan's Teachers: Smart Implementation of High Standards, Training, and Educator Evaluation

Michigan students continue to fall behind their peers in other states in learning. According to 2013 national assessment data, an appalling 69 percent of Michigan fourth-graders cannot read on grade level – an indicator of future academic success. Neither our students nor our state's economic future can afford to wait to turnaround our state's educational system.

Publication date: 
December 12 2013

Invest in what Works: An Education Road Map for Michigan Leaders

As an organization made up of Michiganders, we know well how our parents once prided themselves on the quality of our state’s public schools. Sadly, we have little to be proud of today. Our state’s educational performance is lackluster by practically any reliable measure.

Publication date: 
April 18 2013

Good for Teachers, Good for Students: The Need for Smart Teacher Evaluation in Michigan

As Michigan student achievement continues to fall behind a growing number of other states, it’s clear that Michigan needs to support teachers better to improve instruction. Developmental feedback, in the form of a well-crafted, annual teacher evaluation, is an important first step toward that goal. Echoing their peers in other states, many Michigan educators say helpful, routine evaluations and useful professional development have been rare for much of their careers.

In an effort to give teachers the feedback and training they need to improve, the Michigan legislature passed a law in 2009 requiring local school districts and charter schools to evaluate all teachers every year, taking into account how much students learned. Since then, districts and charter schools have worked to develop their own evaluation models, often struggling mightily to ensure that the complexity and difficulty of teachers’ work is taken into account.

Recognizing that struggle, the Michigan legislature returned to evaluation reform in 2011, creating the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness. The council of state-appointed education experts is charged with developing a statewide system of educator evaluation, including: Michigan’s first common definition of what effective teaching looks like and a statewide evaluation model that any district or charter school in the state can use if it chooses. In addition, for those jurisdictions that want to develop their own models, the council is developing a set of state standards that all districts and charters would have to meet to have their models approved.

Publication date: 
November 29 2012

Strengthening Michigan's Teaching Force

Michigan teachers have one of the most important roles in our state’s and children’s future. Yet as a state, we have neglected to build strong feedback and support systems that our teachers need to improve their practice. Instead, we treat our teachers as if they are interchangeable.

Michigan’s schools aren’t performing well, and our children’s performance is slipping relative to children in other states. But instead of facing our problems honestly and working to help educators improve their effectiveness, we tell them they are all doing just fine. Indeed, our analysis of new data from 10 of Michigan’s largest school districts shows that 99.4 percent of teachers were rated as “effective” or “highly effective” in the 2011-12 school year. Less than 1 percent were rated “ineffective” or “minimally effective,” with just 0.2 percent in the “ineffective” category. These results are even starker than those contained in a highly influential national study done in 2009 called “The Widget Effect.”

Publication date: 
September 20 2012

Michigan No Child Left Behind Waiver Analysis

The U.S. Department of Education has offered Michigan a rare opportunity to devise new educational systems that better serve our state’s students, families and educators. In return, Washington is offering to waive some provisions of No Child Left Behind. For instance, states will no longer have to ensure that all students are proficient in reading and math by 2014, so long as the state adopts more rigorous academic standards and a meaningful system to support schools while holding them accountable.

Publication date: 
May 3 2012

What Our Students Deserve: Facing the Truth About Education in the Great Lakes State

An honest look at public education in Michigan reveals both hopeful and dismal news. While our state has taken a few bold steps in the past year to improve our education system, our students still lag far behind their peers nationally, and the performance gaps between them — across income level and race — are both alarming and persistent. Michigan cannot rebound economically if all our students are not prepared to participate fully in the global economy. It’s time to get honest and get to work creating the education system that our students need and deserve.

Publication date: 
February 9 2012

Improving and Supporting Michigan's Teaching Quality

As any parent knows, teachers matter.  A teacher’s effectiveness has more impact on student learning than any other factor controlled by school systems, including class size, school size, and the quality of after-school programs—or even which school a student is attending. In Michigan, our teachers often do not get the support or professional development they need and deserve. Research shows our brightest teachers are not evenly distributed across different schools and districts.  Low-income and minority students—the very students who could benefit most from our very best teachers—are typically taught by a disproportionate share of our least able teachers. This teacher quality gap contributes mightily to our student achievement gap.

Publication date: 
June 24 2011

Teacher Evaluation in Michigan

Valuable and meaningful professional feedback is one of the cornerstones of growth as a person and as a professional.  In healthy workplaces, there are clear and common standards of performance.  Employees are regularly evaluated against these standards and provided with timely feedback to help them improve.  Not only are employees helped by this information, but so, too, are societies that use it to improve whole professions, such as doctors, scientists and professionals.

Publication date: 
June 24 2011

Becoming a Leader in Education: An Agenda for Michigan

Despite Michigan’s rich history of entrepreneurship and innovation, the state now trails most others both economically and educationally. This inaugural report from The Education Trust–Midwest documents the shockingly low performance of schools statewide. Although Detroit has the weakest scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) among the country’s big cities, other Michigan districts rank even lower on the state-based Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP)—especially when it comes to serving African-American and Latino students.

Publication date: 
January 11 2011