Press Release

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (Oct. 28, 2015) – Michigan’s continued student achievement stagnation means the state now ranks 41st in fourth-grade reading compared to states across the country – far from the top ten status that Governor Rick Snyder, State Superintendent Brian Whiston, and many other leaders statewide aim to reach on behalf of all Michigan students.

According to data released today by the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the state’s fourth-graders fell from 38th to 41st in relative ranking for reading – falling behind states such as Texas and Oklahoma. Michigan’s fourth- and eighth-grade student achievement in reading and mathematics remained virtually stagnant since 2013. The NAEP, the country’s only national assessment, provides comparable state-to-state school performance data.

“If Michigan stays on its current course, students are on track to rank at the bottom of all 50 states over the next decade,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest. “African American students, in particular, are being underserved – indeed, Michigan’s school performance for black students is nothing less than shameful.”

“Michigan needs a fresh approach to its educational delivery systems, making it far more effective and more helpful to local schools and educators,” Arellano added. “If state and K-12 leaders do not change course, our students will continue to fall behind the rest of the world – and our economy will never fully flourish again. Michiganders need our leaders to commit to more strategic action and investment for all of our students, no matter where they live or who they are.”

According to the new data:

  • Michigan’s African American students rank in last place in fourth-grade reading. Just two years ago, Michigan was 4th from the bottom, but has now been passed up by states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Maine.
  • Detroit Public Schools has continued to fall behind the rest of the country and now ranks as the lowest performing large urban district in the country in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math for all students.
  • Despite an 8 point scale score loss in both 4th grade math and 8th grade reading since 2013—among the largest drops for large urban districts nationwide—Baltimore City still outranks Detroit.

There was good news in the new national assessment data, as well, including:

  • While Michigan continues to stagnate or drop in achievement rank since 2013, leading state Massachusetts has made significant gains for African Americans in fourth-grade reading, rising from 14th in 2013 to number one this year.
  • At the same time, Boston, which ranks in the top half of large urban districts in the country, and Chicago, have both continued to make large gains in fourth-grade reading over the past two years. For example, Boston saw a 5 point scale score increase from 2013 on the NAEP for 4th grade reading, while Chicago saw a 7 point increase.

Natiowide, however, the trends were troubling. For the first time in 20 years, the steady gains for students of color and low-income students halted and in some cases reversed.

  • In 4th grade reading, scores for African American, Latino and white students were up 1 point.
  • In the 8th grade reading, scores for African American, Latino, and white students fell by 2 points.
  • In the 4th grade math, scores for African American, Latino, and Native students were flat.
  • In the 8th grade math, we saw the first-ever significant drops on record for Latino students, and the first since the very early ‘90s for African American students.

Earlier this year, Ed Trust-Midwest highlighted Michigan’s troubling trajectory and need for change in our 2015 State of Michigan Education Report, Michigan Achieves: Becoming a Top Ten Education State. We also launched a new initiative, Michigan Achieves, to make Michigan a top ten education state.

“Our public education system is in desperate need of a turnaround, and by learning from leading education states and systems, we can,” Arellano said. “Michigan Achieves sets key goals and policy guidance for making Michigan a top ten education state for all students by 2030.”