New Report: White and Higher-Income Student Achievement in Michigan Losing Ground to Other States

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this
Contact info: 


David Zeman, Managing Director, Content and Communications
dzeman@edtrustmidwest.org
(248)210-8476

Also inside: Ed Trust-Midwest finds hope in Inkster’s Baylor-Woodson Elementary – a high-poverty school where achievement soars as high as upper-middle class schools.

Publication date: 
February 9 2012

ROYAL OAK, MICH. (February 9, 2012) – A new report by The Education Trust-Midwest shows Michigan’s higher-income and white students’ achievement has declined significantly compared with other states.  While the poor performance of low-income and minority students has been the subject of intense debate in the past year, national data show Michigan students – from all socioeconomic backgrounds – have lost ground to their peers across the nation since 2003.

In fourth-grade math, for instance, Michigan’s white students have fallen from 13th in the nation in 2003 to 45th in 2011 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). White students now rank behind 34 states and the District of Columbia in fourth-grade reading – an important predictor of future achievement. 

The state’s higher-income students have gone from being ranked 21st in the nation to 30th in eighth-grade reading over the same period. Michigan African American students ranked last in fourth-grade reading among the 45 states reporting in 2011.

Michigan is also among a minority of U.S. states that did not significantly narrow at least one achievement gap that has separated low-income students and children of color from their white and more affluent peers since 2003, based on national data. 

“Our children in Michigan are no less bright and full of potential than the children of other states,” said Amber Arellano, Executive Director of the Education Trust-Midwest, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that advocates for Michigan’s students, particularly low-income and minority children.

“The problem isn’t them,” Arellano added. “It’s us, the adults of Michigan. We need to do better for the sake of all of our students.”

Fortunately, Michigan has taken important first steps to transform its stagnant educational system over the last year. ETM’s report outlines promising pathways forward in 2012.

Among the changes, ETM applauds the State Board of Education for being more honest with Michigan parents and students, and raising the state’s previously low “cut scores” which determine which students are considered to be proficient on the MEAP assessment. Ed Trust-Midwest analyzed the state’s old and new cut scores compared to the national assessment.  It finds the state’s math cut scores on the MEAP are closely aligned with the NAEP assessment.

However, the ETM report also finds the state’s new reading cut scores still appear to overstate Michigan student performance, with the MEAP showing 64 percent proficiency in fourth-grade reading, but NAEP showing only 31 percent of these students as proficient. Parents should keep this in mind as they gauge how well their children are learning in reading compared to national standards.

The report also tells the story of one of Michigan’s rare and truly high-performing, high-poverty schools.  Inkster’s Baylor-Woodson Elementary is performing at levels seen in such affluent communities as Northville and Holt.  

Baylor-Woodson’s leaders and teachers recently won the national Education Trust’s prestigious Dispelling the Myth Award for demonstrating high achievement, despite its poverty levels. Ninety-eight percent of the school’s students are African American, and 84 percent qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.

The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan’s only non-partisan, state-wide policy, research and advocacy organization focused on what is best for students.  Our mission is to work for the high achievement of all Michigan students, particularly low-income, African American, Latino and American Indian children. Go to:  www.edtrustmidwest.org

###