Michigan Vital Statistics

Michigan schools rank above average on national achievement test scores but below average in teacher quality and accountability, according to a recently released report by Education Week, a national education newspaper.

The report, entitled "Quality Counts 2002," rates schools in five categories including student achievement, standards and accountability, improving teacher quality, resources adequacy, and resources equity. Education Week publishes the report annually.

The report measures student achievement using scores from the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam, a federally sponsored program that tests students in the 41 states that agree to participate. NAEP tests Michigan fourth-graders in math, science, and reading and eighth-graders in math and science.

NAEP scores reported in "Quality Counts" show Michigan students performing above average. Thirty-three percent of Michigan fourth-graders taking the science test scored at or above the "proficient" level, compared to the national average of 28 percent. Michigan eighth-graders posted even higher scores on the science test, with 37 percent performing at or above proficient, compared to a 30-percent national average.

However, nearly 30 percent of Michigan students continue to score "below basic" on fourth- and eighth-grade math and science tests.

"Quality Counts" also evaluates other factors such as the availability and use of advanced classes in Michigan schools. For example, the report shows that 65 percent of Michigan public high schools offer Advanced Placement courses, which allow students to take certain classes in order to test out of entry-level college courses and obtain college credit while finishing high school. The report also shows that only 30 percent of Michigan eighth-graders are taking algebra I, algebra II, or geometry, with the majority often opting to take the courses in high school.

Michigan received a C grade in standards and accountability. The report rates states in this category according to whether or not state standards are adopted for core subjects, what assessment tests are given and when, how schools are held accountable (e.g., report cards, sanctions for poor performance), and how student performance is evaluated. Michigan's C grade reflects a lack of comprehensive evaluation of school and student performance and a lack of enforceable sanctions for poor performance. The report also downgraded Michigan for failing to make student graduation contingent upon exit exams and for not requiring remediation for students who are failing.

"Quality Counts" gave Michigan a C-minus in improving teacher quality due to the state's lack of extended testing and certification procedures, lack of performance-based pay policies, and lack of sanctions for teacher-training programs whose students perform poorly on teacher assessment tests.

Michigan is one of the top-spending states in education, according to the report, with a grade of A-minus assigned in resources adequacy. On average, Michigan spends $7,922 per student, or nearly 112 percent of the national average. However, teachers comprise only 46 percent of the state's total education staff, and more than 50 percent of education expenditures are used to cover non-classroom administrative and noninstructional services. According to data compiled by Michigan Education Report in 1999, Michigan teachers comprise the lowest percentage of total public education employees of any state.

The report gave Michigan a C-minus in resources equity, the category that measures how well states equalize funding across districts.

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest school employee union, praised the report. NEA President Bob Chase called it "an essential roadmap in our journey to helping every child learn" and encouraged schools to model the programs spotlighted in the report.

But others believe the report's findings are inaccurate. Dennis Redovich, an educational researcher with the Wisconsin-based Center for the Study of Jobs and Education, said, "[the data in the report] indicate that the methodology used to determine the state rankings and grades is absurdly flawed."

Redovich challenged many of the indicators used in the analysis. "Quality Counts" ranks states based on NAEP test scores, he points out, but not all states require their students to take all the NAEP tests offered.

Redovich also criticized the report for extolling centralized government control over schools. According to Redovich, even though locally controlled schools tend to fare better on achievement tests, the Quality Counts ratings are stacked in favor of more centrally-controlled school systems.

"Quality Counts" evaluates other issues such as parental involvement, school safety, and student engagement. For more information, or to read the entire report, visit www.educationweek.org/sreports/qc02.