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Report: Michigan is making little to no progress in becoming a top-performing state academically

Library books at Earhart Elementary-Middle School in southwest Detroit
Library books at Earhart Elementary-Middle School in southwest Detroit
Anthony Lanzilote/Chalkbeat

Michigan has sunk a lot of money and effort into reforms that are supposed to improve academic achievement, but the state has little to show for that effort.

That’s according to a report released Tuesday from the Education Trust-Midwest, a Michigan-based education research and advocacy group that projects achievement will decline in some key areas, such as fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade math and college attainment.

The report comes as multiple efforts are underway to elevate Michigan from a state that has seen achievement flatline or decline over the last decade to one that is a top 10 performing state. Part of the state’s response has been to invest heavily in improving early literacy instruction.

The report notes that Michigan’s tough third-grade reading law, which next school year will require schools to hold back third graders who are reading below grade level, “has created urgency and focus.”

But, the authors said, it places the punishment on the backs of kids — especially students of color or from low-income families — instead of on education leaders.

Amber Arellano, executive director of the organization, said the kids who will bear the brunt of the law are typically the “students who lack the support at home.”

The report goes into detail about the state of education in Michigan and offers a set of recommendations. It also offers some projections that are sobering. An example: Michigan currently ranks 35th in the nation for fourth-grade reading achievement. The projection is that by 2030, the state will rank 45th.

“There’s been little to no progress,” said Arellano.

She said she hopes the report will be a call to action for policymakers from both political parties “to come to the table on the things that we know really matter.”

Continue below to read the full report, including the recommendations that begin on page 17.

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