This decline has come as state leaders have invested nearly $80 million to raise third-grade reading levels — and during the same period when many other states that also adopted higher standards for teaching and learning produced notable learning gains for their students in the same metric.
In some respects, Michigan’s continued decline should come as no surprise. As our organization has documented in recent years through its Michigan Achieves campaign to make Michigan a top ten education state, Michigan student achievement has fallen steeply for every group of students — black, brown and white — compared to other states since the early 2000s. Less well known is the story behind that data: despite the state’s growing educational crisis, Michigan’s achievement efforts to date do not re ect a fundamental shift on how our state approaches improvement strategies, such as educator capacity-building and public reporting — a shift which will be absolutely necessary moving forward. For that reason, the state’s ongoing statewide investment in raising third-grade reading levels provides an important case study to examine how Michigan’s k-12 improvement strategies, design and delivery systems stack up compared to the nation’s top states.
After almost two years of research, including conversations with educators working at the classroom, school, district, intermediate school district and state level, our team found a profound need for far more robust implementation and improvement systems, guided by sustained and visionary leadership. Indeed, the lack of coherent systems and accountability for consistent improvement are holding back third-grade literacy efforts and squandering millions of dollars. As it stands, the only real accountability for Michigan’s third-grade reading investment exists for the state’s students: under the state’s 2016 policy, students are at-risk for retention in third grade if they are unable to meet grade-level reading expectations.1
And while leading states like Tennessee have invested
in strategic improvement systems for ongoing training and support for their teachers and principals — by far the most critical lever for improving literacy outcomes
— no such strategic support system exists in Michigan. Meanwhile, the Legislature has done its part to create better support for educators and approved the creation of Michigan’s rst statewide system of educator
support and evaluation. but weak implementation has sabotaged this high-leverage opportunity for widespread improvement of teaching and learning — the very lever that top states such as Tennessee have used to lift all students’ learning outcomes.
Foundations of Reading Examination Results (Wisconsin’s only teacher content knowledge licensing requirement).