Michigan is now ranked in the bottom 10 states nationally for 4th grade reading and is projected to remain stagnant at that level by 2030 unless dramatic, research-backed changes are made to address the state’s growing education crisis and worsening opportunity gaps for underserved students, according to new analyses of national assessment data released today by The Education Trust-Midwest.
Though many states – even those that were among the top-performing before the pandemic – lost ground since 2019, students in Michigan, a state that was not systemically well-positioned dropped farther and faster amid COVID-19 on key subjects, according to research highlighted in The Education Trust-Midwest’s new 2023 State of Michigan Education Report, Beyond the Pandemic.
Additionally, while the effects of pandemic learning disruption touched classrooms everywhere – suburban, urban and rural — the impact was far greater for students and communities that have long been underserved, especially students of color and children from low-income backgrounds, according to national assessment data, further worsening longstanding inequities for underserved students.
Among other highlights from the report:
- Michigan fell from 32nd in 2019 to 43rd in 4th grade reading – an important predictor of a child’s future academic success and life outcomes – on the 2022 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP).
- For students from low-income backgrounds, Michigan ranked as the 11th worst state in 4th grade reading, falling far below the national average. Michigan students from low-income backgrounds saw a substantial decrease of almost 8 points while higher income students saw a decrease of fewer than 2 points over the same period. That’s especially significant as 10 points on the NAEP represents roughly one year of instruction, according to research.
- For Black student performance, Michigan dropped into the bottom 5 for 4th grade reading in 2022, down from previously being ranked in the bottom 10 in 2019.
- Students in Lansing Public Schools and Saginaw School District lost an entire year or more of math and reading knowledge, while students in Birmingham lost the equivalent of 20% of a school year, according to a recent study by Harvard and Stanford researchers. Detroit Public Schools Community District lost approximately a year of instruction in both math and reading.
- The state also again lagged behind leading states for 8th grade math in 2022, ranked 26th nationally on the NAEP.
- Michigan ranked in the bottom 5 states for 8th grade math performance among Black students in 2022.
“Every Michigan student deserves opportunity and access to the educational resources and support to realize a bright future, but that’s not the reality for many of our state’s students,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. “We have to act urgently to change that. Michigan’s students deserve the same opportunity for success as students in leading education states, where real transformation and real improvement in student performance are happening.”
The report comes amid growing concerns about Michigan students’ college- and career-readiness and what their outcomes mean for the state’s talent force.
The Education Trust-Midwest today called on state leaders to implement 10 research-based strategies, including urgently investing in educational recovery, transforming early education, implementing a new weighted system of school funding, and creating a strong system of fiscal transparency, as well as other strategies that have shown to be impactful for students, especially the most underserved, in leading education states.
“By implementing research-based strategies for learning starting in early childhood and creating a fair system of school funding so all students have the resources and support they need to succeed, we can change the trajectory for our students, support educational recovery and acceleration for all Michigan students and truly make Michigan a Top 10 state for education,” Arellano said.
The report also delves deeply into strategies to strengthen preschool to grade 3 outcomes. It highlights Michigan’s progress and commitment to improving Pre-K-3 education transitions while also identifying challenges and opportunities in quality, access, affordability, and the early childhood funding structure.
Importantly, The Education Trust-Midwest’s report reiterates a call for a research-based weighted school funding formula that truly addresses the needs and advances the opportunities of students living in poverty. In December, The Education Trust-Midwest joined the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity, a statewide coalition, calling for weights of 35% to 100% spread across twelve bands determined by concentration of poverty, as well as additional funding weights for English Learners ranging from 80% to 100%, depending on each student’s language proficiency, to provide them with the additional resources and instructional supports necessary for language acquisition.
The proposed funding system includes increased weights and reimbursements to fully fund students with individualized education programs (IEP), including funding for special education expenses and specialized transportation costs and additional investments in rural education transportation costs, particularly for high-needs school districts.
The Education Trust-Midwest’s full slate of recommendations outlined in the report – called the Opportunity 10 – include other research-based strategies, such as extended and expanded learning time and full access to rigorous coursework and preparation for all Michigan students.
Fact Sheet – 2023 State of Michigan Education Report findings:
The annual State of Michigan Education Report updates benchmarking on Michigan’s progress toward becoming a top 10 education state for all groups of students and related performance indicators. Other report research and findings include:
4th grade reading
- Michigan dropped to 43rd on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2022, down from 32nd in the nation for 4th grade reading in 2019.
- The Education Trust-Midwest’s new projections suggest Michigan will remain stagnant in the bottom 10 states – ranked 43rd – by 2030 if nothing changes.
- Before the pandemic, Michigan was one of only 18 states performing worse in early literacy than it was in the early 2000s on the NAEP.
- On the 2022 test, Michigan students’ average 4th grade reading scale scores dropped by more than twice as much as the national average. Michigan’s reading scores are now 7 points lower than they were nearly 20 years ago.
- For students from low-income backgrounds, Michigan ranked as the 11th worst state in 4th grade reading in 2022, falling far below the national average.
- For Black student performance, Michigan dropped into the bottom five for 4th grade reading in 2022, down from previously being ranked in the bottom 10 in 2019.
8th grade math
- Michigan ranked roughly in the middle of the pack nationally, at 26th in the nation on the NAEP in 2019.
- The Education Trust-Midwest’s projections suggest Michigan’s student performance will fall to 29th by 2030.
- Michigan ranked in the bottom five states for 8th grade math performance among Black students across states in 2022.
- While the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges and struggles for everyone, those challenges were far worse for some Michigan districts, including some higher-poverty districts that lost more than a full year of learning in a subject area compared around 20% of a year for other wealthier districts, according to new findings by Harvard and Stanford university researchers.
- Students in Lansing Public Schools and Saginaw School District lost an entire year or more of math and reading knowledge, while students in Birmingham lost the equivalent of 20% of a school year, according to the research.
- While White students’ 4th grade reading scores dropped an average of 4 points from 2019 to 2022 on the NAEP, Black students’ scores dropped by nearly 11 points in the same period—a difference which equates to roughly an entire year of lost learning for Black students.
- Michigan students from low-income backgrounds also saw a steep decline in 2022, with a substantial decrease of almost 8 points in 4th grade reading between 2019 and 2022, while higher-income students in Michigan saw a decrease of fewer than 2 points in the same period on the NAEP.
- Michigan is the 11th worst in the nation out of 46 ranked states for funding gaps that negatively impact low-income students, according to a report released in December by The Education Trust.
- Michigan is one of only of fifteen states providing less funding to its highest poverty districts than the lowest poverty districts, according to the report.
- On average, Michigan districts serving the highest rates of students from low-income families receive about 6% less in state and local funding per student than more affluent districts, the findings showed.
Preschool to Grade 3 Outcomes
- There is much research demonstrating that pre-K learning environments must be high quality to have a lasting impact and benefit for young learners, especially those from low-income backgrounds, yet our state’s programs often lack the fundamental building blocks to be high quality.
The Opportunity 10
Longstanding educational inequities compounded by the daunting challenges of teaching and learning through a pandemic bring us to a moment of important opportunity where strong state leadership and significant systems changes are critical for Michigan’s educational recovery from pre-kindergarten through high school. State leaders must take these 10 research-based steps to set Michigan on a path to becoming a top 10 education state, one of our organization’s goals:
- Invest with Urgency in Michigan Students’ Educational Recovery
- Be Honest about Student Performance
- Create a Fair School Funding System
- Develop a Strong System of Fiscal Transparency and Accountability for Spending
- Prioritize Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Support
- Ensure Full Access to Rigorous Coursework and Preparation for All Michigan Students
- Reimagine Early Literacy
- Identify Students with Dyslexia and Ensure They Receive the Support They Need
- Invest in Post-Secondary Innovation
- Strengthen Early Childhood for Disadvantaged Students