Press Release

Michigan’s dismal performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) again underlines the urgent need for transformative changes in the state’s educational system for educational recovery, especially for underserved students.

“Today’s results on the Nation’s Report Card offer us the clearest picture yet of the disruption wrought by COVID-19,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest. “Our state already lagged leading education states in key indicators like early reading, long before the pandemic. These results make clear that we can’t wait any longer, and we can’t continue to do the same things we’ve always done.”

“We must act with great speed to accelerate learning using proven practices, including strategies to solve unfinished learning and providing fair funding and supports, especially for students who experienced the greatest disruption during the pandemic,” Arellano said. “We also must create transparent accountable systems to ensure that any new funding actually reaches the students with the greatest needs, including Black and Latino students, English learners, students with disabilities and children from low-income backgrounds who have long been underserved.”

The latest data follows the September release of NAEP long-term trend results for 9-year-olds, which showed some of the steepest learning declines for students in a half-century, since NAEP was launched. They also follow recent M-STEP data indicating that Michigan students are still performing below pre-pandemic levels — with persistent and troubling opportunity gaps for Michigan’s most underserved students.

“The federal stimulus funding was an important boost for pandemic recovery, but as those dollars run out, a fair funding formula and strong capacity will take on even greater importance to ensure that the kids who fell farthest behind have every opportunity to catch up and accelerate,” Arellano said. “That’s essential not only for our students’ future – but for the future of our state. At the same time, both state leaders and district leaders should prioritize existing funding — whether that’s federal stimulus dollars or new state dollars — and invest them in evidence-based highest-leverage strategies for helping students catch up.”

Additionally, any new investment should come with greater fiscal transparency and accountability, Arellano said.

While the latest results are troubling, there is hope in the lessons offered by leading education states, Arellano said. The Education Trust-Midwest, along with members of the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity, renewed their call on state leaders to:

  • Provide immediate and ongoing support to districts and schools with evidence-based strategies to solve unfinished learning, including through targeted intensive tutoring and expanded learning time.
  • Establish a fair school funding formula that ensures students with the greatest needs have the dollars and resources to support their needs.
  • Develop transparent, effective statewide systems to make sure new investments are being spent on strategies targeted at raising student achievement. Those systems should both support schools and hold them accountable for student outcomes so that every Michigan student has an opportunity to realize their full potential.
  • Invest effectively to retain and support exceptional educators, and develop more impactful systems of improvement.

“At the start of the pandemic, we called on the state for a Marshall Plan for education, and the need for such a plan is even more urgent given new evidence of how much learning remains unfinished, especially for our most underserved students,” Arellano said.

Members of the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity, a coalition of civic, civil rights and business leaders from across the state who were convened at the start of the pandemic by The Education Trust-Midwest, also reiterated the urgent need for educational transformation.

Mike Jandernoa, a West Michigan business leader who is founder and chairman of 42 North Partners, said there’s a need to urgently help all students recover so that the state will have a strong workforce for the future.

“Michigan will not make progress without a fully prepared workforce,” Jandernoa said. “Now is the moment to invest in strategies that have been proven to work and make sure every child has the funding they need to succeed in school and in their careers. That’s far from the case now. At the same time, business leaders want to see that the money invested is being invested fairly and efficiently, especially to help the students most in need. Investments should accompany new transparent fiscal systems so schools are both supported and held accountable for educational outcomes. Only through fair and efficient investments – coupled with transparency and accountability – will we be able to ensure that Michigan’s students and our state can fully recover.”

Alice Thompson, Chair of the Education Committee, Detroit Branch NAACP, and Chief Executive Officer, BFDI Educational Services, Inc., said she is hopeful that the state will look to evidence-based strategies that work, particularly for underserved students who were hardest hit during the pandemic.

“Our Black and Latino students, as well as our low-incomes students and English learners, are just as bright and capable as every other student in our state,” she said. “Our state has not done enough for them – long before or during the pandemic — to ensure their success. We can no longer stand by as education inequalities in funding and resources, which were even greater during the pandemic, continue to disproportionately impact these underserved students. Instead, let’s roll up our sleeves and do what’s right for them by investing in their additional needs and supporting their schools and educators so that Michigan can truly recover from COVID-19 — and every Michigan student can look toward a bright future that they deserve.”