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Slight improvement in Michigan education statistics not enough says Brian Jacob

September 21, 2018

After the release of the 2018 M-STEP (Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress) scores, the outlook on education in Michigan seems rather bleak, Jennifer Chambers reports in her August 29th, 2018 Detroit News article. Despite nominal increases in reading proficiency and isolated success in some districts, on a statewide basis there is not much to brag about. “Michigan is not making much progress. It is holding steady. Unfortunately, holding steady at a pretty low level,” said Ford School professor Brian Jacob in light of the test results.

In an effort to increase educational achievements and economic gains in the future, the state is pushing to bolster literacy rates, particularly at the third grade level. The literacy campaign is especially critical as “school officials will have the power to retain struggling third-graders if they read a grade level behind on the state’s assessment of English language arts” by 2020. Additionally, the data reveals considerable achievement gaps in all grades on the basis of race as well as class.

There remain reasons to be optimistic for the future of Michigan education, according to Jacob. Of the third-grade reading scores, Jacob believes “it may be too soon for the state’s literacy efforts to show up.” Moreover, there are proven successful strategies designed to aid literacy development – notably decreasing class size and increasing individual attention to each student. While the 2018 results are troubling, Jacob remains hopeful, telling Chambers that “we should not take this as evidence that recent efforts are not successful…and we won’t know for a few more years.”

The Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Education Policy, Brian Jacob is also the co-director of the Youth Policy Lab.