Press Release

Michigan making slight progress, but state still struggling with low achievement and large gaps for Michigan high school students

ROYAL OAK, MICH. (July 7, 2014) – Today the state’s release of the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) and ACT College Readiness Assessment results reveal slight progress in achievement among Michigan high school students. Unfortunately, the state is still struggling with low achievement, while large achievement gaps remain among African-American, Latino and low-income students.

High school achievement has been one of the few hopeful areas of achievement for Michigan. Fourth-grade and eighth-grade learning levels are among the lowest in the country for student progress compared to other states over the last ten years, as Ed Trust-Midwest’s “2014 State of Michigan Education” report showed. Ed Trust-Midwest is a non-partisan research and policy organization dedicated to raising student learning for all Michigan students.

Today’s results show slight improvement in learning overall. However, Michigan is still seeing low levels of learning overall, and exceedingly low learning levels for some groups of students.

“While we are glad to see some progress, we know that we can do better for our students,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of Ed Trust-Midwest, in response to today’s release. “There are many states that we can look to for models of how to dramatically raise learning for all children.

“The good news is, our state leaders are committed to proven strategies to improve our public schools, including the implementation of college- and career-ready standards and teacher support and evaluation,” she added. “The Michigan Merit Curriculum – and of course, the Michigan educators teaching the rigorous curriculum — deserve credit for the improvement we’re seeing in learning overall.”

In most subjects, the persistent gaps between groups of students remain large. For example, there is a 27.6 percentage point gap in proficiency between African-American students compared to white students in MME math. The black-white gap is similarly wide in other subjects. The proficiency gap between low-income and higher-income students is 25.8 percentage points in MME reading.

In addition to considerable achievement gaps among groups of students, today’s release also exposes significantly low levels of performance on the MME:

  • Only six percent of African-American students are proficient in 11th grade MME math statewide. This is virtually unchanged from years past.
  • Statewide, Latino 11th grade students made gains in MME reading, jumping from 37.7% proficient in 2011 to 45.4% in 2014. Similarly, low-income students jumped from 35.1% proficient in 2011 to 43% in 2014.
  • Among Detroit Public School (DPS) African-American students, only 6.1% were proficient in 11th grade math. At the same time, Grand Rapids Public Schools (4.4%), Saginaw School District (4%), Flint Public Schools (2.3%), and Pontiac School District (1.4%) all had smaller percentages of African-American students reaching proficiency in MME math.
  • In 11th grade reading, 41.9% of Latino students were proficient at DPS. Similar to math, school districts like Cesar Chavez Academy (33.6%), Grand Rapids Public Schools (28.8%), and Pontiac School District (24.6%), all had fewer percentages of Latino students scoring proficient in reading.

The MME and ACT assessments are used to gauge whether Michigan high school students are meeting academic standards in reading, mathematics, science, and social studies.

Today’s release also includes data on how Michigan students performed on the ACT test – an important measure of students’ readiness for college. While student achievement on the ACT has inched up since the adoption of the rigorous Michigan Merit Curriculum – countering opponents’ concerns that students could not meet the more rigorous expectations – the results still reveal that most Michigan high school students are not being prepared for college or for jobs in a 21st Century knowledge economy.

  • 17.8% of 11th grade students statewide were proficient in the ACT exam for all subjects.
  • At Detroit Public Schools, just 2.7% of students were proficient on the ACT in all subjects.
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools had only 10% of its 11th graders proficient on the ACT in all subjects.
  • Statewide, only 2.6% of African-American students, 7.9% of Latino students, and 6.5% of low-income students scored proficient on the ACT in all subjects.
  • There is an 18.4 percentage point gap in proficiency statewide between African-American and white students on the ACT in all subjects.

The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan’s only statewide, non-partisan education research, information and advocacy organization focused on what is best for Michigan students. Our mission is to work for the high achievement of all students, particularly low-income, African-American, Latino and American-Indian students in Michigan, and to provide honest, reliable education information and expertise to our state’s families and policymakers.