losing ground

Study: Michigan reading scores ‘going in the wrong direction’ despite major state investment in helping young children read

PHOTO: Denver Post file

An alarming new report comparing Michigan students to their peers across the country found that not only are Michigan students lagging behind, they’re quickly losing ground.

The report from the non-partisan research and advocacy organization, Education Trust-Midwest, takes advantage of the fact that, for the last three years, Michigan students have been taking a state exam, the M-STEP, that’s easily comparable to the exams given in 12 other states.

That means that for the first time, it’s easy to line Michigan test scores up against scores from other states using results from all test-takers in grades 3-8. Previously, national comparisons have only been available through a national exam that tests a sample of students across the country in grades 4, 8 and 12.  

Among findings: The percentage of third-graders who are proficient on the state’s English Language Arts exam dropped by nearly 6 percentage points in Michigan over the last three years while scores in other states climbed or stayed relatively flat in the same period.

“Our scores are going in the wrong direction,” said Brian Gutman, Education Trust-Midwest’s director of external relations.

Scores have dropped in Michigan despite what Education Trust-Midwest says was a $77 million increase in spending on improving literacy in early grades.

The extra money went for things like reading coaches and longer class periods but Gutman asserts that the money hasn’t been used effectively.

“Focusing on early literacy makes a lot of sense,” he said. “It’s a strong foundation that students need in order to excel in school.”

But, he said, “What exactly are we doing? How are we implementing strategies to improve early literacy? Are they truly based on best practices?”

Gutman urged state officials to be more proactive about finding out how money is being spent and more assertive about directing it toward proven programs.

That becomes even more crucial, he said, now that a new state law is raising the stakes for students. Starting in 2020, most third-graders will not be allowed to advance to the fourth grade unless they can pass the state’s English Language Arts exam.

Read the full report here:

Top Ten for Education: Not by Chance. Education Trust Midwest – March 2016 by The Education Trust Midwest on Scribd

Where they stand

Where candidates for governor in Michigan stand on major education issues

There’s a lot at stake for students, parents, and educators in this year’s Michigan governor’s race.

The next governor, who will replace term-limited Republican Rick Snyder, could determine everything from how schools are funded to how they’re measured and judged. Some candidates have called for shuttering low-performing schools across the state. Others have called for charter schools to get some additional oversight.

To see where major party candidates stand on crucial education issues, Chalkbeat joined with our partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative to ask candidates for their views on school funding, early childhood education, and paying for college.

All seven major-party candidates on the ballot in Michigan’s August 7 primary were invited to sit down with the journalism cooperative, which also includes Bridge Magazine, WDET Radio, Michigan Radio, Detroit Public Television, and New Michigan Media, to answer a range of questions.

Six candidates — three Democrats and three Republicans — accepted our invitation. The one candidate who declined was Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is generally considered the Republican frontrunner.

The candidates were largely asked a standard set of questions. We’ve printed below some of their answers to each question, edited for length and clarity. The interviews were filmed, and the candidates’ full responses to the education questions can be seen here.

in their own words

Watch candidates who want to be Michigan’s next governor explain how they would fix state schools

PHOTO: Detroit Journalism Cooperative
Six of the major candidates of governor in Michigan — three Democrats and three Republicans — answered questions from reporters with the Detroit Journalism Cooperative including Chalkbeat Detroit.

One candidate to become Michigan’s next governor said he would end state-funded preschool and childcare. Another said early education should be available to all children and paid for by the state.

Some gubernatorial contenders want to put an end to for-profit charter schools. Others are adamant that parents should have as many options as possible when it comes to education.

Chalkbeat, together with our partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, which includes five other news organizations, sat down this month with six of the major candidates for governor to discuss a range of issues facing the state. One major party candidate, Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, declined to participate.

Primary voters will go to the polls August 7 to nominate party candidates. The winners of those contests will face off in the general election in November.

To read a summary of each candidate’s answers to crucial education questions, click here.

Or, hear candidates’ full responses by clicking on their videos below.