Michigan K-12 student performance heading to bottom nationally, says report

May 19, 2016

Michigan's K-12 students are among the weakest academically in the U.S., and they're falling even further behind, according to a report released today by Education Trust-Midwest, a Michigan-based non-partisan research education and advocacy organization.

The report predicts that if things don't change, Michigan will rank 48th nationally in fourth grade reading scores by 2030, far from the state's goal of becoming a top ten state in education by that year. 

Michigan fourth-graders are now ranked 4ist in reading, down from 28th in 2003 and 38th in 2013.

Poor academic achievement is found across all demographic groups, according to the report. 

"We're seeing it across the state and we're seeing it across every socio-economic group," said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest and co-author of the report. "So even higher income students have fallen significantly behind their higher income peers in other states."

The report compares specific demographic groups with their peers nationwide in fourth grade reading in 2015, and the news is bad: Higher-income students now rank 48th, white students 49th, white, higher-income students 5oth, black students 41st, and low-income students 45th.

Low academic achievement has a serious negative impact on the future well-being of individual students, including health and employability.  

And according to the report, Michigan's educational crisis is also an economic crisis for the state.

"We're facing a talent crisis if we're not preparing kids and our young people to compete against the rest of the world," Arellano said. "We can't attract the best employers and best companies around the world if we don't have a high caliber work force."

While the report is filled with bad news about the downward trajectory of public education in Michigan, it also makes specific recommendations about how to improve its K-12 education system, based on strategies that have caused dramatic improvements in educational performance in states like Massachusetts and Tennessee.

The report says Michigan has taken some positive early steps in developing a concrete improvement strategy, citing as examples the state's implementation of college- and career-ready standards and its being on track to invest about $50 million toward improving third-grade reading over the next few years.

But according to Arellano, there is much more to be done.

The Michigan Department of Education could not be reached for comment.

You can listen to Amber Arellano's full interview on Stateside here.


Copyright 2016 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.