We’ve Got Issues: Report says 3rd-graders getting worse at reading – but some question data

Mar 12, 2018

A new education report says third-graders are getting worse at reading in Michigan, even though the state has spent tens of millions trying to reverse the trend in the last few years. 


A classroom at Blair Elementary School in Grand Traverse County.
Credit Morgan Springer

A national advocacy group called the Education Trust – Midwest released the report last week. It says reading proficiency rates have gone down among third-graders since 2014. That’s when the state started using a new standardized test called the M-STEP. The report calls for education reform, including better training for teachers. 

Some critics are skeptical about what the study really shows.

Nancy Flanagan, a former Michigan Teacher of the Year, now writes the education blog Teacher in a Strange Land for the publication Education Week. She says the report leaves out a lot of information that would help explain changes in test scores. 

“I think the report is slick,” Flanagan says. “It leaves out information on childhood poverty, for example, and teacher working conditions and the fact that teachers are leaving Michigan in droves.”

Flanagan says tests are only useful if they can inform teachers about further instruction.

“If they’re just used to compare state to state or school to school, they don’t give us a lot information on how to improve and how to change,” Flanagan says.