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Forecast: White Mich. 4th-graders’ scores may trail nation

Publication date: May 19, 2015

By Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press

Much is made of poor achievement among minority groups, but a report out today says white students in Michigan are on track to be ranked 49th in the nation in fourth-grade reading by 2019 if the state doesn’t change its path.

It’s one of the predictions in the annual report ofEducation Trust-Midwest, an education advocacy and research group based in Royal Oak. This year, the organization is launching an initiative called Michigan Achieves to urge Michiganders to help turn around the education system. A website to support the campaign, www.michiganachieves.com, was expected to launch today.

“We’re doing so poorly as a state for our students,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the organization.

The goal is to have Michigan rank in the top 10 by 2030 on various measures of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a rigorous exam given to a representative sample of students in most states. The organization laid out a series of steps Michigan needs to undertake to meet that goal. They include improving teacher quality, raising standards, increasing school accountability and improving funding equity.

And while white students overall posted higher scores than black and Hispanic students — but not Asian students — their relative rank compared to white students nationwide has them near the bottom. In 2013, Michigan’s white students ranked 45th; they could be at 49th by 2019, where they’re expected to remain through 2030.

There was some good news in the predictions. Black and Latino students are expected to see their national rankings improve by 2030.

In order to come up with the predictions, the organization calculated the improvement rate for each year of existing data, then used those rates to determine what would be expected in future years.

The report cites three of Michigan’s highest performing schools for fourth-grade reading, based on results from the now-defunct MEAP exam: Detroit Merit Academy, a charter school; Brimley Elementary School in Brimley, and North Godwin Elementary School in Godwin Heights.

“As we looked at leading education states and looked at the improvements they’ve made for their kids, it was clear that many other stakeholders need to be in the public conversation in order to make a difference.”

The organization has already enlisted Ken Whipple as chairman of the newly created Michigan Achieves Leadership Council. Whipple, a retired Ford executive who was vice chairman of the financial advisory board during Detroit’s bankruptcy, chairs a United Way committee that has been focused on education issues.

“If we’re going to be a top 10 state, we’re not going to get there unless we do something with education,” Whipple said.

Contact Lori Higgins: 313-222-6651 or lhiggins@freepress.com

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