Not time for a celebration II

As we explored in our previous two posts, on every major measure of employment and income Michigan is today a national laggard. To make matters worse, the odds are great that we will continue to lag the nation for another decade.

One of the main causes of Michigan’s poor economic standing today is low education attainment. And unless that changes it will be one of the major causes of our lagging the nation into the future.

When it comes to education attainment, this clearly is no time for a celebration. As we detailed earlier, on the nation’s report card of student achievement––the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP)–Michigan did substantially worse than Minnesota on all of the 4th and 8th grades reading and math tests.

Turns out that Michigan on every test had the worse scores of all the Great Lakes states. That means on 4th and 8th grade reading and 4th and 8th grade math students in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin did better than Michigan students taking the same test on every test.  And the reason for Michigan’s horrible performance is not our minority/urban kids. The oft repeated excuse for Michigan’s low student achievement. White kids in Michigan did worse on all four tests than white students in each of the five other Great Lakes states. Our white kids were less proficient in reading and math than their counterparts in every Great Lakes state. (On the 8th grade reading test Michigan white kids tied Indiana white kids for last in the Great Lakes.)

And the trends aren’t encouraging either. From 2003-2013 Michigan ranked in test score improvement 47th on 4th grade reading, 36th on 8th grade reading, 49th on 4th grade math and 37th on 8th grade math . Michigan improved less on all four tests than every other Great Lakes except for Wisconsin on the 8th grade reading test.

For a state like Michigan, that attracts very few high education attainment adults from elsewhere, the human capital of the state’s future workforce will largely be homegrown. States like Minneapolis with the Twin Cities and, even more so, Illinois with Chicago, which are major talent magnets, can recruit from across the globe at scale their future workforce. But Michigan, without a vibrant central city that is essential to attracting mobile talent at scale, is highly dependent on the quality of its schools to build the skills needed in an increasingly knowledge-based economy.

Human capital/talent is the asset that matters most to future economic success. Unless we get serious about improving the quality of our education system (from early childhood through college) there is almost no chance that Michigan will return to high prosperity. End of story!

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