ANN ARBOR, MICH. — (February 9, 2011) The Michigan State Board of Education voted to become more honest with Michiganders about how well their children are achieving. It was a tiny step, however, in the state’s progress to ensure that all of our state’s children are prepared to work and succeed in the global community.
The state board voted to raise the “cut scores” on Michigan’s state assessments—the cut-off point for student test-takers between proficiency and lack of proficiency. As a result, data will line up more honestly with scoring systems on national assessments and Michigan parents are less likely to have a false sense of confidence about their schools’ performance.
More honesty is called for. At present, under the existing system of scoring, what Michigan’s leaders have called “proficient” doesn’t even equate to the “basic” level on the national test. For example, while the state tells 84 percent of parents of Michigan fourth-graders that their kids are proficient in reading according to the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP), what state leaders have not said is that on the more rigorous national reading exam, only 30 percent of Michigan’s students rank as proficient.
“Today was a toddler-size step in the right direction for Michigan families,” said Amber Arellano, Executive Director of The Education Trust-Midwest, an education policy organization that advocates on behalf of students. “Parents, students, and educators will doubtlessly ask more from their state leaders now that they clearly can see how poorly our schools are performing compared to schools in other states.
“Michigan’s education leaders should feel foolish if they pat themselves on the back simply for telling the truth. It’s a basic moral obligation of public leadership to be honest with citizens. The real questions for them now are: What is the state going to do to improve student learning for all of our children? What are its plans to hold schools more accountable—and support them more—to improve teacher quality? How is the state going to improve oversight of the hundreds of millions in federal dollars pouring into Michigan’s low-performing schools right now, to ensure our schools are using those dollars to improve learning?”
The state needs dramatically better leadership from statewide education policymakers. Higher income Michigan students trail their higher income peers in 37 states in eighth-grade math, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Our low-income children trail their low-income peers in 46 states, putting them near the bottom of the U.S.
While other states have made progress in learning, Michigan’s relative performance has steadily declined. It’s high time for that to change—which will require state leadership and commitment. Michigan must improve its student learning to become a high-earning, high-employment state once again.