Press Release

Business leaders’ voices are needed to help improve schools

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (MAY 19, 2016) – Calling on Michigan’s top business leaders to be a thoughtful voice in solving the state’s educational crisis, today the non-partisan Education Trust-Midwest released new report that shows Michigan is falling farther behind its goal from becoming a top ten state by 2030.

The state’s educational performance – already among the weakest in the U.S. – is falling further behind the nation. Michigan fourth-graders are now ranked 41st in the nation for fourth-grade reading levels, down from 28th in 2003 and 38th in 2013. If the state does not dramatically improve its educational practices and policies, new projections show Michigan will be ranked 48th by 2030.

“Michigan’s educational crisis is an economic crisis,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. “Leading education states show how important business leaders’ voices are for greater quality and accountability in our public schools. We applaud those leaders who are a voice for equity, and invite others to join this important conversation.”

Said Suneet Bedi, one of the report’s lead authors: “Michigan needs a top ten education system now. This is an urgent priority for both kids and our state’s economy. Yet far from becoming a top ten education state, we’re actually getting worse – and new national data suggest Michigan is witnessing systemic failure across racial and socio-economic groups.”

Michigan’s is declining so dramatically compared to other states nationwide, if things do not change dramatically, low-income Michigan students would not become top ten for fourth-grade reading even by 2051.

“We need to have a serious conversation about how to improve schools,” said Arellano. “Michigan is an average spending state on education, but a terribly low-performing one compared to the rest of the U.S. Strong implementation is everything – and we are falling down on that front.”

The report, Michigan’s Talent Crisis: The Economic Case for Rebuilding Michigan’s Broken Public Education System, shares if all Michigan students were at least meeting basic mastery for core reading and math skills on the national assessment, the economic benefit to our state would be enormous: an estimated increase of about $860 billion in gross domestic product.

In addition to providing a comprehensive report on the status of public education in Michigan, the new report outlines specific next steps for Michigan to systemically improve its K-12 education system based on strategies proven to work in leading states across the country.

First and foremost, Michigan must focus on early education to assure that all children are reading by the time they get out of third grade. “That’s where Michigan students are most in need of support and where investments in education are most cost-efficient,” Arellano says.

A year ago, the Education Trust-Midwest launched Michigan Achieves, a campaign to make Michigan a top ten education state by 2030.

The good news is that since that time, many state leaders including the governor, the new school superintendent, the state Board of Education and others have endorsed the same goal. And the state has taken some positive early steps toward a real improvement strategy.

For example, Michigan has adopted a number of significant changes. For example, the state is on track to invest about $50 million in efforts to bolster third-grade reading over the next few years; and Michigan also has implemented college- and career-ready standards, “an absolutely essential high-leverage transformation strategy,” said Bedi, a data and policy analyst at Ed Trust-Midwest.

The bad news is, progress on this front is fragile: serious threats may derail these efforts and undermine quality implementation, including the effort to raise performance standards for teaching and learning in Michigan.

“Michigan needs honest information about how it’s performing against world-class college- and career-ready standards and other states – and we cannot lose our chance to do that,” said Arellano.”

Business leaders and other Michiganders interested in getting involved in the Michigan Achieves Initiative should visit:

For more information about the report, visit:

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The Education Trust-Midwest is a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization dedicated to improving outcomes for all Michigan students, especially for African American, Latino, American Indian, and low-income students. The Education Trust-Midwest believes in the power of intelligent education policy and practices — informed by data, research, and the successes of other states — to make Michigan a top ten education state for all students.