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      Representatives looking for input on school reform

      Representatives from across the state gathered Monday afternoon in Marquette to discuss school reform. They listened to educators' thoughts on how the education system could be improved.

      According to the representatives involved with the education task force, funding is one of the main concerns with schools across the state as some have had to make cuts.

      "We had to make some tough decisions because that money wasn't coming in as fast. The gap wasn't being closed as fast as promised. The proportion of general fund that's going to state aid has shrunk," said James Derocher, Superintendent of Negaunee Public Schools.

      This is the sixth meeting, across Michigan, the education task force conducted. They're looking to find out from educators what works and what doesn't work in their districts.

      "One of our criticisms of process in the last two and a half years is it has not been inclusive enough and that we haven't talked to stakeholders. We intend to make this a very inclusive process; we are building information and will be coming up with a report," said Rep. Brandon Dillon, Grand Rapids.

      The board also heard testimony from Lake Superior State University President Tony McClain.

      McClain says standardized testing shouldn't be the main way to gauge kids' knowledge. He says new approaches should be put in place where kids apply what they've learned.

      "Tests have a very valuable role in education, but I think at this point in, we lost track of what that role was, and now they've become the purpose of that education," said McLain.

      School officials also say districts should have more flexibility to change their curriculum based on the needs of their students, like adding more vocational courses.

      A report is expected by September.