Press Release

Ed Trust-Midwest Issues Recommendations, Calls on State Leaders to Address Growing Education Crisis in 2021 State of Michigan Education Report

(January 14, 2020) – As Michigan and the nation continue to grapple with the ongoing, devastating impacts of COVID-19, a new poll finds that 85% of Michigan parents polled say the state’s leaders should have a plan to address pandemic learning loss — and make sure all students catch up to their current grade level.

The Education Trust-Midwest highlighted the poll, released today, as it issued an urgent call to state leaders to invest in and accelerate the educational recovery of Michigan’s students’ learning. The report comes as the vast majority of all parents — particularly Black parents and parents of color — expressed concern about their child falling behind, with 91% of Black parents and parents of color reporting concerns and 83% of White parents.

The new poll, conducted by New York-based Global Strategy Group, underscores the critical need to invest in public education and prioritize underserved students, particularly students of color, low-income students, English learners and students with disabilities, especially to ensure that the most underserved students do not face incalculable harm to their future life outcomes.

“While we applaud state leaders’ strong leadership on lowering COVID-19 levels and for prioritizing vaccinations for educators, now is the time to do much more,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the nonpartisan The Education Trust-Midwest. “We need to prepare and act now to ensure this learning crisis does not further worsen longstanding opportunity and achievement gaps for Michigan’s students, especially its most underserved children. We call upon state leaders to invest in solution-based strategies that both address children’s educational recovery of student learning, as well as the longstanding inequities and opportunity gaps that have plagued the state’s vulnerable students for decades.”

“In the immediate term, this means prioritizing dollars for vulnerable students and leading the development of a strategically sound, research-based plan for Michigan’s educational recovery starting with this summer and fall,” Arellano added. “Children’s lives – and Michigan’s talent base – are at stake.”

Eighty-three percent of parents polled agree that state leaders should provide safe, free and voluntary in-person summer school for students that need to catch up.

Additionally, nearly half of Michigan parents say that the quality of teaching and instruction their children receive is worse amid the crisis, which threatens to compound Michigan’s longstanding lackluster progress in raising student achievement. Just over a third of all parents rate remote learning as successful or extremely successful.

“A Marshall Plan for Michigan’s educational recovery is what is needed now as we head into the second year of the pandemic,” Arellano said. “Michigan needs to face its educational challenges honestly, including by assessing all of its students’ academic progress this spring.  By collecting this data, state leaders will be much better positioned to catch up students who have fallen most behind from the pandemic.”

The Education Trust-Midwest’s 2021 State of Michigan Education Report, The Urgency of Now: Michigan’s Educational Recovery, also sheds light on Michigan’s troubling educational inequities, especially as parents of color are more likely to indicate their child is participating in full-time remote learning.

Summary of Key Poll Findings:

  • Nearly half (47%) of all parents polled indicate they have received little or no information from their child’s school about whether their child is suffering from learning loss or has fallen behind grade-level expectations as a result of schools being closed due to the pandemic last spring.
  • Ninety-one percent of Black parents and parents of color indicate concern about their child falling behind academically because of the pandemic, while 83% of White parents share this concern.
  • An overwhelming majority (83%) of all parents agree that state leaders should provide safe, free, and voluntary in-person summer school for students that need to catch up.
  • 85% of all parents polled agree state leaders should have a plan to address learning loss and make sure students catch up to their current grade level.
  • Nearly half of Michigan parents say that the quality of teaching and instruction their children receive is worse amid the crisis, which threatens to compound Michigan’s longstanding lackluster progress in raising student achievement. Just over a third of all parents rate remote learning as successful or extremely successful.

The Education Trust-Midwest partnered with Global Strategy Group to conduct an online (desktop and mobile) survey among 400 parents of children in Michigan public schools from December 10-16, 2020. The survey had a confidence interval of +/-4.9%. All interviews were conducted via web-based panel.

The annual State of Michigan Education Report also updates benchmarking on Michigan’s progress toward becoming a top ten education state for all groups of students and related performance indicators.  This year’s report renews The Education Trust-Midwest’s call on state leaders to create a Marshall Plan for public education amid this unprecedented moment. The report focuses on six key areas – fair investment; honest information, transparency and public reporting; extended learning time; quality virtual instruction and access; inclusivity and socio-emotional supports; and transitions to postsecondary opportunities. It also outlines the need for prioritizing early literacy efforts and developing a comprehensive plan around educator talent that places equity at the forefront.

In addition, the report highlights the voices of parents across Michigan who were interviewed as part of focus groups conducted in partnership with EarlyWorks, a Detroit-based, women-led strategy and communications consulting firm, to gain diverse perspectives across the state.

Among parents interviewed by EarlyWorks, there was a consensus that Michigan’s education system has not been effective in meeting the needs of all children – and that the inequitable distribution of school funding leads to differences in resources and teaching quality, made even worse by the pandemic. Parents across the state expressed a desire to see better distribution of resources across schools — even when they felt their own schools were well-resourced.

The Education Trust-Midwest joined other parent advocates, civil rights, civic and business leaders in calling on state leaders to act with urgency.

“It’s critical that everyone in our state works together to address the urgent needs of Michigan’s students to ensure they have the opportunity to accelerate their learning and catch up after nearly two school years year of interrupted learning,” said Mike Jandernoa, Founder and Chairman of 42 North Partners. “If we don’t act with urgency, we risk worsening longstanding education inequities, especially for the most vulnerable students, which would be devastating not only for their future, but for the future of our state.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted education across our nation, and we know that vulnerable students who are most at-risk of experiencing additional barriers to access and opportunity are likely to be set further behind, worsening an already stark achievement gap,” said Heather Eckner, Statewide Director of Education Initiatives, Autism Alliance of Michigan. “With a history in our nation of excluding students with disabilities from education, the crisis has effectively shut the door on a significant number of children in our state as they are unable to fully access education through remote learning. Our state and districts must take bold action and develop a specific plan for addressing barriers related to evaluation of students and in providing appropriate services and supports, as required, with a focus on early identification, access to evidence-based, high-quality instruction and equitable programming.”

“This unprecedented health crisis, which builds upon 400 years of systemic racism in our country, has placed into sharp focus decades-long inequities that have created an unacceptable opportunity gap for Michigan’s most underserved students,” said civil rights leader Alice Thompson, CEO of BFDI Educational Services, Inc and former CEO of Black Family Development, Inc. “Now is the moment to act with urgency and correct harmful policies and practices to make sure every Michigan student has the opportunity to achieve at high levels,” said Thompson, who also serves as co-chair of the Education Committee of the Detroit Branch NAACP.