Lets hope this isn’t “back”: kids

Michigan is not a state that attracts many young adults to live and work here. Its a problem we need to address. But unless and until we do, the future prosperity of the state is very dependent on the kids who grow up here. So how well children growing up in Michigan are faring is key to the future of the state.

The answer from the 2014 Kids Count report from the Anne E.Casey Foundation is not very encouraging. This is another huge structural problem that is more evidence, that no matter what the conventional wisdom among the state’s elites, Michigan is not back.

The report measures children’s well-being by state in four areas: (1) Economic Well-Being, (2) Education, (3) Health and (4) Family and Community. In each they collect data on multiple measures. The report is worth checking out!

Michigan doesn’t fare well in any of the areas. We rank 32nd in overall child well-being; 34th in economic well-being; 38th in education; 29th in health; and 29th in family and community.

Because education attainment matters so much to the state’s economic prosperity now and tomorrow, I want to focus in this post on the report’s findings in education. Kids Count found:

  • 54 percent of Michigan children were not attending pre school from 2010-2012. (This should be improved in future years with the expansion of early childhood funding in each of the last two state budgets)
  • 69 percent of Michigan 2013 4th graders were not proficient in reading
  • 70 percent of Michigan 2013 8th graders were not proficient in math
  • 23 percent of high school students did not graduate on time for 2011/12 

Add to the above Michigan ranks as tied for the 9th lowest average ACT scores in 2013. (Although given that the percent of students taking the ACT in each state varies widely, this may not be the most reliable ranking of college ready high school graduates.) ACT calculates that only 21 percent of Michigan 2013 juniors were proficient/college ready in all four core subject areas.

These findings are consistent with the findings of Education Trust-Midwest in their Stalled to Soaring report which we explored in a previous post. And  a report from the the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation entitled Leaders & Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Effectiveness. The report gives Michigan an overall grade of D. For academic achievement a D and for academic achievement low income/minority an F. Maybe more concerning, the report gives Michigan an F in both categories for progress since 2007.

Talk about a recipe for being one of the country’s low prosperity state: low student achievement and little or no progress. Should be a major cause for alarm, but so far isn’t.

As we saw in previous posts, Michigan is now a national laggard in all the main metrics related to employment, per capita income and wages. Add to that we are a laggard across the board in the main measures of children’s well-being, particularly in education attainment which increasingly is the key to both individual and community prosperity, its hard to see how one can justify a claim that structurally Michigan is back.

Getting back will require both that we understand that we have a long ways to go to once again be a high prosperity place and then a willingness to work hard and creatively to overcome the structural challenges we face.


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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

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