WSW: Michigan's Struggles With Academic Progress, Reading

Mar 12, 2018

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Credit WMUK

Bridge Senior Writer Ron French calls Michigan’s efforts to boost reading scores “a sobering story.” He says the state focused on reading proficiently by third grade, and dedicated $80-million to help, but the scores actually went down.

French says third grade reading is a major bench mark in determining success in schooling. He says the state faces problems in the near future because a law passed two years ago says students not reading at grade level or within one year of grade level by the time they reach third grate will be held back.

The problem is wide-spread. French says reading scores have gone down across state regardless of race or economics. He says while $80-million sounds like a lot of money, it’s about a third of what Florida is spending on early reading. French says when it’s spread out over the state it leaves individual districts with little extra money to help students improve reading.

Bridge also reported on the numbers showing academic progress in the state. A Stanford University study followed one set of students from third to eighth grade. French says the numbers for Allegan Schools were especially bad. Students in third grade tested above average in Allegan, but by the time they reached eighth grade they were below the state average. French says they had basically lost 1.2 years of grade level knowledge from the average Michigan student. French says Allegan is “a bit of an outlier,” but he says there are dozens of school districts with similar issues.

Since the results came out, French says Allegan’s scores have increased, and are about at the state average. He says the two stories show Michigan has some work to do on education. French says that likely means more money, but he says it’s more than that. French says officials at Education Trust Midwest who were interviewed for the story emphasized that money has to be spent wisely on evidence-based programs, and those programs need to be updated to keep up with research about how kids learn.