Press Release

Michigan Has Statewide Education Problem, Which Governor Rick Snyder Must Address to Rebuild State’s Tattered Economy

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (January 13, 2011) – Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Detroit Public School district is not Michigan’s lowest performing district for some groups of students. In fact, a handful of other districts score tragically below the Motor City on key state tests, according to a new report from The Education Trust-Midwest.


In the report “Becoming a Leader in Education: An Agenda for Michigan,” Ed Trust-Midwest presents evidence of poor academic results statewide. It also provides a roadmap for Governor Rick Snyder and the new state legislature to reverse those trends and help Michigan make itself a national education leader.

Michigan is among the nation’s lowest performing states on national school assessments, a reality masked by the fact that the vast majority of Michigan children—about four out of every five elementary and middle schoolers—are meeting less-rigorous state standards. Higher income students as well as lower income students score substantially behind their peers in other states. Hardly just a K-12 education problem, Michigan’s beloved colleges and universities are not producing enough qualified graduates to build the knowledge-economy workforce needed to attract new employers to the state.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Though 84 percent of Michigan fourth-graders meet state reading standards, only 30 percent of them are proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
  • On the NAEP math assessment, Michigan’s higher income eighth-graders trail behind similar students in 37 states. And the state’s lower income eighth-graders fare even worse: only Alabama, Mississippi and California have lower scores than does Michigan.
  • While Detroit is the weakest performer among big-city districts participating in the NAEP’s urban district assessment, other Michigan communities rank lower on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program both in key subject areas and for key student groups.
  • For African-American fourth-graders, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Pontiac all have lower proficiency rates in reading than does Detroit. Similarly, African-American eighth-graders in Flint, Lansing and Pontiac score below their Detroit peers in math.
  • Among Latinos, eighth-graders in cities such as Grand Rapids, Lansing and Pontiac perform below their Detroit counterparts in math.

The report also breaks open the myth that high-poverty, high-minority schools in Michigan are destined to be low-performing. The report highlights schools serving large numbers of low-income students and students of color that are leading the state in gains in student achievement, and approaching or even exceeding the performance of the state’s white and higher income students. The schools cross the state, from Detroit to Adrian to the Grand Rapids area. To learn more about these schools, go to:

“To keep his promise to reinvent Michigan, Governor Snyder and the new legislature must begin by implementing long-overdue strategies—strategies producing real results in other states and school districts—to dramatically improve student achievement across our state,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of Ed Trust-Midwest. “If we are ever going to muster the political courage to do what is best for our kids, we have to stop making excuses and start being honest about how Michigan is doing.”

Ed Trust-Midwest is working with educators, policymakers, parents, and community organizations throughout the state to put into place a common-sense agenda for Michigan’s educational improvement.

Founded in 2010, The Education Trust-Midwest is dedicated to closing gaps in opportunity and achievement for all Michigan children, particularly low-income students and students of color. While many other groups work on behalf of the adults in the educational establishment, Ed Trust-Midwest puts the interests of Michigan students first.

For more information about Ed Trust-Midwest, visit: