Press Release

Rising MEAP scores, but enduring achievement gaps in Michigan

Publication date: Feb 11, 2013

Contact info:
David Zeman
Director of Content and Communications
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c – 248.210.8476

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (February 11, 2013) – The Education Trust-Midwest commends steady improvements by Michigan K-12 students in some key subjects on the 2012 state academic assessments.

But we are troubled by students’ continued struggles with science and math compared with other states, and by persistently low achievement gaps that negatively impact poor students and students of color. As Michigan transitions to the more rigorous Common Core curriculum, it is essential that we develop — and implement — research-based strategies that improve learning for all students.

Certainly, the gains are worth noting, especially since these improvements extended to low-income and minority children in some subjects. But they must also be kept in perspective. Student performance in Michigan continues to rank among the bottom tier of states in national assessments. As the Education Trust-Midwest reported last year, Michigan’s relative decline is true for students of all colors and income levels. Michigan also continues to have among the widest and most persistent achievement gaps in the nation, leaving many low-income, African-American and Latino students behind.

“We applaud growth in student learning wherever we can find it,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, a nonpartisan research and advocacy nonprofit that focuses on closing achievement gaps in Michigan. “But clearly we have far to go to become a top-10 state in academic achievement. That’s particularly true for our low-income and African-American students. ”

In testing this past fall, a higher percentage of Michigan K-12 students were considered proficient in math, reading and writing, according to results released today on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, known as the MEAP.

Conversely, the passage rate dipped in science compared with 2011, when fewer than 16 percent of Michigan students were deemed proficient.

And despite some improved scores, Michigan’s low-income and African-American students found themselves even further behind their white and more affluent peers than they were years ago in key subjects. In some traditional public schools and charter schools, few if any African-American, Latino or low-income students scored proficient in some subjects, most notably in math and science.

Last year, Michigan made the bold decision to raise the standard by which students are considered “proficient” in core subjects. To be rated proficient means that a student is on target to being ready for college or career in that subject. The tougher proficiency standards resulted in far fewer students passing subjects in 2011, jarring news to many Michigan families. On the positive side, the state’s higher performance standards means our students will be better prepared for the even more rigorous Common Core standards, which Michigan and 44 other states have adopted.

The mixed nature of today’s MEAP results is best underscored by the math scores. Students in every grade showed improvement in math from 2011 to 2012, with 5th graders leading with a 6-percent jump over 5th-grade scores in 2011. More low-income and Latino students likewise passed math this year.

Still, not a single grade in Michigan could boast that even half its students scored high enough to be considered proficient in math. And compared with math data from 2007, achievement gaps have actually widened between black and white students, and between low-income and more affluent students, according to Education Trust-Midwest research.

Some key scores revealed today:
•    The gap in 3rd and 4th-grade reading between white and black students has widened since 2007. Conversely, gaps between Latino and white students narrowed in these grades.
•    About two-thirds of Michigan students scored proficient in reading
•    Roughly half scored proficient in writing.
•    Fewer than 3-in-10 students were proficient in social studies.
•    In science, scores were down from 2011, when just under 16 percent of Michigan students scored proficient.
•    Latino students gained ground in every grade in math and reading in 2012, with roughly 3-percent jumps over 2011.

Today’s release comes as Michigan is seeking strategies to better prepare students for college and career. That includes Common Core, which will allow our students to better compete in a global economy. Michigan’s low to middling proficiency performance, especially in science and math, should be a wake-up call to our state to better prepare our teachers to teach to these high levels.

Michigan is also working to transform the way we hold schools accountable for student performance. Experts on the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness are developing an educator development and evaluation system that could  be used across the state as soon as this fall. If done right, this system will provide a more reliable method for evaluating classroom performance, while giving teachers the support and professional training they need to get better. Students’ academic futures are inextricably tied to teacher performance.

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