Press Release

Dismal results in eighth-grade math for African American, Latino students

ROYAL OAK, MICH. (February 15, 2012) – The Michigan Department of Education released the 2011 Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) results today, which revealed that many Michigan students are not achieving at high levels.  While Michigan students showed slight gains in reading and math from 2010, declines in writing, social studies, and science underscore the state’s lagging academic performance. And the results in some districts for African-American, Latino, and low-income students were nothing short of miserable.

In 2011, 67.7 percent of Michigan’s fourth-graders were proficient in reading. A mere 29.4 percent of eighth-graders were proficient in math. These numbers actually represent improvements from 2010. In other subjects, 2011 marked a decline for Michigan students, with lower scores in fifth-grade science and sixth- and ninth-grade social studies.

Today’s scores provide a more reliable, if humbling, measure of achievement in Michigan. In years’ past, 80 to 90 percent of students were routinely labeled as “proficient” under MEAP. To their credit, state education leaders agreed last February to raise the bar on what is considered “proficient” in a subject to align students’ “cut” scores with national standards. Under the new measures, students must get roughly 65 percent of answers correct on the state test, instead of the 39 percent needed under the old standard.

The 2011 scores build on the findings of an Education Trust-Midwest report released last week that showed Michigan students have been losing ground to students from other states since 2003, according to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

“The question is not whether we did better from previous years under the cut scores, the question is how we are going to catch up to leading states and transition our students to this new era of greater academic rigor and global competition,” said Amber Arellano, Executive Director of Education Trust – Midwest.

This is especially true for schools that serve our most disadvantaged students. The 2011 scores show that 45.1 percent of Michigan’s African-American fourth-graders were proficient in reading. And 9.1 percent of African-American eighth-graders were proficient in math. In Detroit, 6.1 percent of African-American eighth-graders scored proficient in math. In Pontiac, that number was 1.9 percent.  In Kalamazoo, 2.3 percent of Latino eighth-graders were proficient in math.

“Our urban student achievement – both in traditional and charter schools – is unacceptably low by any measure,” Arellano said. “We’re hopeful the emerging Education Achievement Authority will begin to address this devastating problem. However, our struggling schools need more effective supports, interventions and capacity building right now – and far before the EAA would intervene.

“If done right, the state’s effort to support low-performing schools while holding them to high standards has the potential to change these troubling numbers.”

Michigan also has failed to close achievement gaps between black, Latino, and low-income students and white and higher-income students. Across the state, the gap between African-American and white students is 25.5 points in eighth-grade math and 29.3 points in fourth-grade reading. The gap between low-income and higher-income students is 26.2 points in eighth-grade math and 25.6 points in fourth-grade reading. The gap between Latino and white students is 18.3 points in eighth-grade math and 20.3 points in fourth-grade reading. These gaps represent little change from past years, and are consistent with 2011 NAEP results, which showed that Michigan was among a minority of states that had not significantly narrowed a single achievement gap since 2003.

Today’s results show the need for educators, policymakers, parents and community leaders to work toward creating more effective schools and educators. Students deserve instruction that will raise their achievement and prepare them for college and careers in the years ahead.

Go to for our recent report and for charts showing district performance on the 2011 MEAP.

The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan’s only non-partisan, state-wide policy, research and advocacy organization focused on what is best for students.  Our mission is to work for the high achievement of all Michigan students, particularly low-income, African American, Latino and American Indian children. Go to: