Michigan received its national schools report card late Tuesday. While the results are being heralded by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as “great news for our students and families that we’re making progress on literacy,” Michigan remained below average in a number of measurements.
In the state National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) rankings for fourth grade reading, Michigan rose to 32nd in the nation from 35th in 2017 and 41st in 2015. Eighth grade reading scores measured higher, rising to 28th in the nation from 30th in 2017 and 31st in 2015.
Michigan eighth graders’ NAEP math scores jumped from 33rd in the nation to 28th. Fourth graders’ math scores dropped from 38th to 42nd.
The NAEP test of Michigan’s students is administered every two years by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). The 2019 test marks the second consecutive cycle in which Michigan literacy rates improved in the national rankings.
“It’s great news for our students and families that we’re making progress on literacy,” Whitmer said in a Michigan Department of Education press release. “And it’s important to note that this would not have happened if not for the hardworking educators who have dedicated their lives to our kids. We’ve made a step in the right direction, and now we must continue to prioritize funding for early literacy and teacher pay and build a more equitable school funding system. When we put our students and educators first, we can build a Michigan where everyone can get ahead.”
Whitmer’s statement didn’t address her budget veto of an additional $240 per student for the state’s approximately 300 public school academies that had been previously approved by the lawmakers. Her veto resulted in a nearly $35 million shortfall in state funding for charter schools.
“Our national 4th grade reading rank is improving,” State Superintendent Michael Rice said in a statement. “Kudos to our teachers, administrators, and support staff. Our professional development efforts are beginning to bear fruit.”
Rice said Michigan faces two significant challenges: “a statewide teacher shortage, which adversely affects most severely the highest poverty and/or most remote districts, and inadequate and inequitable state funding for our 1.5 million Michigan children.”
According to research conducted by the Michigan Center for Educational Performance & Information, teacher-student ratios in the state have dropped significantly due to fewer students, resulting in teachers instructing a lower number of pupils.
And according to a blog post by Ben DeGrow, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the “number of administrative staff per student appears to have reached a historic high. As staff numbers rebound to levels from a decade earlier, administrative offices represent a bigger share of school payrolls than ever.”