Press Release

Michigan’s education recession continues for far too many students

ROYAL OAK, MICH. (August 13, 2014) – Today the Michigan Department of Education released its newest results from the state’s public school accountability and public reporting system, now in its second year. The data show about 29% more schools reached most of their goals this year than last. But the overall results hide the fact that too many schools are not meeting the needs of all of Michigan’s students, according to an Ed Trust-Midwest analysis today.

“We are encouraged that more Michigan schools are reaching ambitious learning goals, yet we — as a state — are still leaving behind thousands of our children of every background,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. “Our kids deserve better. We know we can do better.”

This is the second year in which Michigan has released the results of the state’s new public reporting and accountability system for public schools — the first real system of its kind in the state’s history. The new system aims to set more realistic goals for schools and give them more flexibility to address problems.

Some key takeaways of today’s release:

  • More schools are seeing improvement. This year, more than 31% of rated schools were in the top two categories of school ratings, compared to less than 3% of schools last year.
  • Despite these improvements, Michigan is still woefully behind the nation’s leading education states — and often behind even the national average — for student learning, according to the most recent national assessment data. This is important context for parents, educators, and leaders to keep in mind when looking at today’s results.
  • Michigan is being more honest about its school performance, and that’s good news. The state can easily make the new school public reporting system even more accessible to parents and students.  The color ratings such as “lime” and “orange” could easily be replaced with letter grades to improve accessibility.
  • Even highly-rated schools and districts may not be serving all of their students well. Districts can have a relatively high state rating, while still seeing their low-income and students of color perform at very low proficiency levels.  For example, at Four Corners Montessori Academy — a public school academy district in Madison Heights — about 40 percent of white students were proficient in math on the 2013 MEAP but only seven percent of the district’s African American students were proficient. Proficiency is an indicator of whether Michigan students are learning on grade level.

“Leading education states such as Tennessee were once performing at lower levels for African American students than Michigan, and now they are far out-pacing us for student learning,” Arellano added. “We can turnaround Michigan’s unacceptable education recession, but only when we commit to a coherent, research-based policy agenda, display strong educational leadership, and invest in improved teaching and learning. This is central to our democracy, our identity and our economy.”

“Today’s release shows that many Michigan schools are getting on track for their students, but it’s important for them to dig underneath their overall ratings to understand how they can do better,” said Sarah Lenhoff, Director of Policy and Research for the Education Trust-Midwest. “Schools’ overall ratings don’t tell educators and parents all of the information that they need to improve their children’s performance.

“All students –including low-income students and students of color – deserve a high quality education from our schools.”

The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan’s only data-driven, non-partisan state-wide research 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 information and expertise to our state’s families and policymakers.