Michigan ranks in bottom five states for learning progress in math, reading

BIG RAPIDS – Michigan currently ranks in the bottom five states for fourth grade reading and math proficiency, according to a new report issued by the Education Trust-Midwest.

The report also states Michigan is one of six states that reported negative growth on the assessment in fourth grade reading levels, however according to MEAP results in 2013, fourth grade reading levels in Michigan schools are improving. The Michigan Department of Education reported 70 percent of fourth graders in Michigan were proficient in reading in 2013, an increase from 68.1 percent in 2012.

“When looking at the MEAP test, our scores are above the state average in fourth grade reading,” said Tim Haist, Big Rapids Public Schools superintendent. “This report is referring to the national assessment, where it is more of a random sample of schools that take that test. We have taken it in the past, but not in recent years. Overall for the state of Michigan, 70 percent is the average 2013 MEAP score for fourth grade reading. Big Rapids was 81 percent proficient in fourth grade reading.”

While no local schools participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2012, the Education Trust-Midwest report focuses on improving and investing in public education in Michigan, which would in turn benefit area students.

Michigan already has adopted rigorous college- and career-ready standards, raised graduation requirements and begun the process of creating a statewide educator evaluation and support system, all steps that have proven successful in other states.

“I think having high, clear expectations is beneficial to our students and helping our students to perform better,” Haist said.

Massachusetts, the country’s leader in math and reading achievement, has used a steady, multi-faceted approach to improve education over the years, including high standards, assessments and a demanding high school graduation test; increased professional development and support for teachers; a funding system that focused funds to schools and districts in areas of poverty; and creating regulated, high-quality charter schools.

Tennessee is another success story, and while it is not at the top, its students are making large strides thanks to strong state leadership and a research-based, comprehensive statewide reform effort. Tennessee also adopted and invested in the Common Core State Standards and a thorough educator support, evaluation and coaching system focused on improvement.

“One of the key things those states have done is make sure schools have equity in school funding,” Haist said. “Michigan has to make sure funding is equitable and schools that have the highest risk factors, like poverty and free and reduced lunch, are seeing increased funding because that is a factor that we know impacts student learning.

“In my opinion, Michigan is moving in right direction, trying to make consistency with educator evaluations, the Common Core curriculum and the assessments students take. We are moving in the right direction, but we are not there yet.”

The Common Core State Standards will be fully implemented in 2015. Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District General Education Director Karen Roy said the MOISD is working with its districts to gear up for the change.

“We help local district leaders and teacher leaders to understand their data so they can use it to make sound instructional decisions that will help to improve student scores and close achievement gaps where they exist,” Roy said.

“Michigan, as a whole, is well-aware of fairly flat performance, but there are some gains being made as districts begin to really implement common core standards. It takes time and I believe we are on the right path toward more rigorous and relevant standards which will lead to better student outcomes over time. Ensuring that our area students are ready college and career ready is fundamental to what we do with students attending the Career Center. This represents another way we work in collaboration and cooperatively with our local districts to ensure students are college and career ready.”