Achievement gaps in 8th-grade science show need for meaningful accountability in Michigan schools

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Contact info: 


David Zeman
Managing Director of Content and Communications
dzeman@edtrustmidwest.org
Office:  (734)-619-8008
Cell:  (248)-210-8476

Publication date: 
May 10 2012

ROYAL OAK, MICH. (May 10, 2012) – As Michigan education leaders prepare to dramatically overhaul our state's school accountability and support system, new test results show our state's African American and low-income students remain woefully behind their white and more affluent peers in science.

"The new national assessment data, released today, is yet another confirmation that we need new approaches to supports and interventions for struggling schools that teach many of our minority and low-income children," said Amber Arellano, executive director of Education Trust-Midwest, Michigan’s only statewide education policy, research and advocacy organization focused on what’s best for students. 

ETM is grateful that State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has pledged to strengthen Michigan’s “waiver” proposal before it is returned to the U.S. Department of Education next week. Flanagan has promised, for instance, to bolster provisions that will hold schools accountable for gaps among all student groups, and provide incentives for low-performing schools to improve at a faster rate than other schools. 

Overall, Michigan eighth-graders improved their science scores on a 2011 national assessment test, placing above the national average.  There were also gains for Latino students. But African American and poor students in Michigan continue to lag far behind their white and more affluent peers, according to the results released today by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. (A link to Michigan’s performance can be found here:  http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/stt2011/2012467MI8.pdf)

While the black-white achievement gap is closing nationally, black students in Michigan had an average 2011 science score 41 points lower than white Michigan students – the same gap recorded on the 2009 NAEP.  Michigan’s black-white gap is the nation’s fourth widest. 

The gap between poor and more affluent Michigan students also remained stagnant between 2009 and 2011, at 24 points, placing Michigan among the bottom 20 states. 

Latino students placed 19 points behind white Michigan students in eight-grade science; in 2009, the gap was 23 points. 

Research shows that minority and low-income students are more likely to receive less comprehensive instruction in science and other core courses, and are more likely to be taught by instructors who are not certified in science.  As Michigan seeks to bolster student achievement, we must ensure all students have access to the technological and science skills they need to compete with students in other states and across the globe. 

Research shows that teachers are the most important in-school predictor of student achievement. That’s why ETM is recommending that Michigan’s waiver application allows the state’s lowest-performing 10% of schools authority to staff these schools with strong teachers. 

Despite some promise, the NAEP results show most Michigan students still don’t have a solid grasp of physical, life, Earth and space science.  Overall, fewer than 4-in-10 Michigan students scored at or above the national proficiency levels.  A mere 6% of Michigan’s African American students and 22% of students eligible for free or reduced lunch (an indicator of low income) scored proficient or higher.  Asian students scored the highest in Michigan, with half reaching national proficiency or higher. 

For more information on how Michigan schools are performing, see our report, “What our students deserve,” which shows that students in Michigan at all socioeconomic levels have lost ground to their demographic peers in other states since 2003.  http://bit.ly/zO6Vfj.

The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan’s only state-wide non-partisan policy, research and advocacy organization focused on what is best for Michigan students.  Our mission is to work for the high achievement of all students, particularly low-income, African American, Latino and American Indian students in Michigan, and to providing honest, reliable information to our state’s families and policymakers.  For more information, go to: www.edtrustmidwest.org.

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