Low performance and large gaps in student learning should prompt action

Recently released data on student learning in Michigan highlights the need for prompt action to improve learning for all students, with a particular focus on historically underserved student groups. Despite low performance across all student groups, wide gaps persist between students of color and their White peers as well as between students from low-income families and their higher income peers. This comes from just-released data on performance at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Michigan’s continued low performance on key measures of student learning should trouble us all. But more importantly, it should be a call to action at every level. This includes equitable investment in evidence-based practice, improved classroom instruction, and more effective collaboration between schools, parents and communities.

Key findings of 2019 M-STEP data include:

  • Only 45.1 percent of all third-grade students were grade-level proficient last school year. This is despite well over $100 million in state investment in early literacy supports, since these students entered kindergarten.
  • Students of color, students from low-income families and students with disabilities continue to need much greater support. For example, just one-in-five African American students and about one third of Latino students were grade-level proficient in third grade English language arts in 2019.
  • In math, the statewide proficiency rate for higher income students was at least 30 percent higher than for low-income students, in every tested grade.
  • While proficiency rates remain very low in Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), improvement was seen, particularly in math. Between 2018 and 2019, the percentage of students proficient in third-grade math has increased by 14 percent for Latino students, 5 percent for low-income students and 3.2 percent for African American students, in DPSCD. Notably, all-student improvement in DPSCD outpaced all-student improvement statewide on M-STEP in nine out of ten tested grades and subjects with comparable data, between 2018 and 2019.

Achievement gaps for low-income students persist across grades

Michigan’s low performance and significant inequities are seen across every grade and subject. These data make clear that gaps in learning outcomes are a symptom, not a cause. To improve outcomes for Michigan’s most struggling students and communities, we need equitable resources and evidence-based practices supporting the needs of our most underserved students.

School year begins without state budget

Schools face a level of uncertainty each year as they plan their budget. This is largely a result of the school budget year beginning on July 1, while the State of Michigan’s budget does not begin until October 1.

In recent years, state leaders have finalized budgets for the upcoming year in early summer, providing schools and districts with more clarity on funding levels before the fiscal year began. This year, however, significant differences in funding priorities and divided control of government has contributed to disagreement and delay in the budgeting process. While schools are now in sessions, Michigan school administrators lack much-needed information about funding levels for the current school year.

Over the next few weeks, all eyes will be on Lansing to see if an on-time budget can be delivered that beings to move Michigan toward a funding structure that reflects the different learning needs of students.

Capital Update

House Education Committee meets this morning at 9:00 a.m. in room 521 of the Anderson House Office Building. Agenda:

  • House Bill 4184 (Farrington, R), which would increase the limit on aggregate outstanding obligations for community college job training program agreements to $75 million in any calendar year; and
  • House Bill 4675 (Afendoulis, R), which would expand enrollment definitions for strict discipline academies.

State Budget Conference Committees will meet on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, including on the following:

  • Community Colleges Budget – Conference committee on Senate Bill 134 will meet on Thursday, September 12 at 3:00 p.m. in the House Appropriations room at the Capitol Building.
  • Higher Education Budget – Conference committee on House Bill 4236 will meet on Thursday, September 12 at 3:15 p.m. in the House Appropriations room at the Capitol Building.
  • K-12 School Aid Budget – Conference committee on House Bill 4242 will meet on Thursday, September 12 at 3:30 p.m. in the House Appropriations room at the Capitol Building.

Tweet of the Week

@BridgeMichigan: As Lansing debates funding, schools struggle to pay teachers, fix roofs