Press Release

Michigan currently ranks among bottom states nationally for student performance

ROYAL OAK, Mich. ― A new analysis released today shows that if Michigan’s fourth-grade reading performance had improved as much as Florida’s has since 2003, Michigan would be ranked third in the nation for fourth-grade reading today — rather than a dismal 35th.

The analysis is among the findings of the Education Trust-Midwest’s 2019 State of Michigan Education Report, Opportunity for All. The annual report on public education is the most recent in the Michigan Achieves! campaign to make Michigan a top ten education state for all groups of students.  It reports on Michigan’s progress to date for both improvement and performance on key metrics and goals toward becoming a top education state, including for opportunity for vulnerable students. This year’s report also provides a 2030 roadmap based on evidence-based practices that can help Michigan make sure that every student has the opportunity and supports to succeed.

“There is a growing consensus among K-12, civic and business organizations on how to move the preschool-through-12th-grade public system forward,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. “We’re encouraged and energized by these efforts. Still, we have a long way to go to make Michigan a top education state by 2030.”

The report also documents how:

  • Based on the state’s current trajectory, Michigan is projected to be 45th in the nation for fourth-grade reading – and 37th for eighth-grade math – in 2030.  Rather than becoming a top education state for improvement or performance, Michigan is struggling.
  • Michigan has chronically underinvested in supports for historically underserved student groups and underutilized evidence-based practices to support student learning and close Michigan’s wide gaps in opportunity and achievement.
  • Transparency, accountability and effectiveness are ongoing challenges for the state, including around the state’s current third-grade reading efforts.

Despite these challenges, the report notes there’s a deepening commitment among state leaders to make public education in Michigan a real priority again, including leaders in the business and philanthropic communities and thosoe serving in the governor’s office and the legislature.

Instead of taking the steps that Florida did over the past 15 years – holding the system accountable for student learning, strategically targeting investments towards evidence-based practices, and equipping educators with tools and support to support student learning – Michigan stagnated in its systemic improvement efforts and as a result, in performance. In the meantime, Florida and other leading states surged ahead.

Today, Michigan ranks in the bottom third of all states overall in early literacy and among the bottom states for every major group of students – African-American, Latino, white, low-income and higher income students. In eighth-grade math, only about one in 10 African-American students and two in 10 Latino students are proficient.

“Not only is Michigan failing to close the performance gap between Michigan and leading education states, but achievement and opportunity gaps within the state remain wide,” Arellano said. “This is not surprising, since Michigan ranks 43rd in the nation for the gap in funding between high-poverty and more affluent school districts.”

“Students and families pay the price of this under-investment every day, and so do teachers,” Arellano said, noting that teachers in Michigan’s wealthiest districts are paid about $9,700 more, on average, than teachers in Michigan’s poorest districts.

A recent EPIC-MRA poll conducted for The Education Trust-Midwest found that the vast majority of Michigan parents understand that it costs more to meet the learning needs of some students. Nearly two-thirds of Michigan parents polled said they would support more funding for school districts that serve students with the greatest needs. Yet that isn’t happening.

The report notes that it took decades for Michigan’s education system to get to where it is today, and will also take time to improve. But through targeted investment and evidence-based policies and practice, the Education Trust-Midwest envisions that by 2030:

  • Michigan will be a leader in learning outcomes for every student group.
  • A fair model of school funding will match dollars with need, so that students have meaningful access to opportunity, regardless of family background.
  • Meaningful accountability and robust transparency for student learning and outcomes will exist at all levels, to improve practice and inform policy.
  • Teachers across the country will want to come to Michigan to be part of the nation’s most effective and respected teaching workforce.

“This is the right moment for all Michiganders to come together and do right by all Michigan students. We can’t afford to wait any longer,” Arellano said.


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