Michigan and Minnesota: student achievement

The nation’s report card on student achievement is the National Assessment of Education Progress. It measures how well students across the country perform on high standards tests. The results for the 4th and 8th grades in reading and math were just released.

Given the importance of education attainment to both individual and state economic success I decided to see how Michigan was doing on this vital measure. The answer is clear: not well.  And found, once again, that across the board Minnesota was performing at a much higher level. Here are the rankings (out of 51 including DC):

  • 4th grade reading: Michigan 38th, Minnesota 8th
  • 8th grade reading: Michigan 33rd, Minnesota 9th
  • 4th grade math: Michigan 40th, Minnesota 1st
  • 8th grade math: Michigan 38th, Minnesota 3rd

In every test Minnesota was above the national average in the proportion of students proficient and Michigan below the national level. And the gap grew larger between 2011 and 2013. Here is the percentage of students proficient and the change over the past two years:

  • 4th grade reading: Michigan 31%/0, Minnesota 41%/+6
  • 8th grade reading: Michigan 33%/+1, Minnesota 41%/+2
  • 4th grade math: Michigan 37%/+2, Minnesota 59%/+6
  • 8th grade math: Michigan 30%/-1, Minnesota 47%/-1

My guess is many in Michigan think the difference between the two states is predominantly demographic. So I looked at the results for white kids and non poor kids. For both groups on all four test Minnesota scores better than Michigan. The gap in all tests is actually wider for white kids than black kids. You read that right: white kids in Minnesota are doing even better than white kids in Michigan than the gap between all kids in the two states.

Seems to me one can make a case that this is not just a report card on our students, but also of our policy makers. Certainly not a ringing endorsement of the funding cuts, let just about anyone open a school (including virtual) without any quality standards, ambivalence on high academic standards policy approach we have taken, particularly the last three years.

The odds are over whelming that Michigan kids are as capable as Minnesota kids. The difference in performance almost certainly has far more to do with the expectations that educators and policy makers have of kids and the quality of education that the two states provide.



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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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