News Story

Prop 2 Supporters Say States Without Unionized Teachers ‘Among the Worst’ On Standardized Tests — Michigan Scores Lower Than Them All

Editor's Note: Since this post originally ran, the "Protect Working Families" website pulled down the information. A link has been added below of a screenshot of the previous site.

The group supporting Proposal 2, the collective bargaining ballot initiative, lists on its website five states that outlaw public employee collective bargaining for teachers and says those states perform "among the worst in the nation" on standardized test scores.

The problem? Michigan scores lower than all five of those states on the most widely-taken standardized test.

On the "Get the Facts" page (under "Race to the Bottom"), the group "Protect Working Families" (previously "Protect Our Jobs") writes: "In the five states where collective bargaining for teachers is not allowed (South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia), ACT and SAT scores are among the worst in the nation." There is no citation for this information, but according to the group administering the test, Michigan performs worse than those five states on the ACT. (UPDATE: The information was taken down from the website. To see a screenshot, click here.)

For 2012, the average ACT scores for the five states listed, and Michigan plus their national rank are:

  • Virginia: 22.4 — 12th in the nation
  • North Carolina: 21.9 — 22nd in the nation
  • Texas: 20.8 — 32nd in the nation
  • Georgia: 20.7 — 33rd in the nation
  • South Carolina: 20.2 — 43rd in the nation
  • Michigan: 20.1 — 44th in the nation

One reason Michigan scores so low: 100 percent of high school students take the ACT. Meanwhile, Texas (39 percent), South Carolina (57 percent), Georgia (52 percent), Virginia (25 percent) and North Carolina (20 percent) have a lower percentage of students taking the ACT.

But of the 9 states that test all students in the ACT, Michigan ranks 6th.

Michigan performs better on the SAT than the ACT, but only 5 percent of students in the state took that test. And according to data from The College Board, which administers the test, most of the Michigan students who took the SAT were planning on attending highly selective schools.

Education experts say this small of a sample makes it difficult to make a comparison with other states.

"The typical student in Michigan who is taking the SAT is planning on attending or at least applying to a highly selective college," said Michael Van Beek, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "This obviously skews the state's average score upward and makes comparisons across states more difficult.

"There are a multitude of factors that contribute to a state’s average SAT or ACT score, including participation rates, average student poverty level, average parental educational attainment and more," he said. "Trying to compare states based on just one variable like Proposal 2's proponents are doing is misleading and irresponsible.”

Texas (58 percent), North Carolina (67 percent), Virginia (71 percent), South Carolina (70 percent) and Georgia (80 percent) all have a much higher percentage of students taking the SAT. The number of students taking the SAT are as follows:

  • Texas: 172,082
  • Georgia: 73,187
  • North Carolina: 63,271
  • Virginia: 61,655
  • South Carolina: 26,777
  • Michigan: 4,833

So while Michigan has a higher average SAT scores than these states, the state tests between five and 35 times fewer students than these other states.

According to The College Board, 16.4 percent of Michigan students send their SAT scores to Harvard, 11.8 percent to Princeton, 11 percent to Cornell, 10.7 percent to Stanford and 10.7 percent to Yale. Sixty percent of the students are from homes with family incomes over $80,000 per year — far higher than the states the Proposal 2 supporters attempt to make a comparison with. This suggests that students who take the SAT in Michigan are high-performing with aspirations of an Ivy League education.

During the debate over collective bargaining in Wisconsin earlier this year, a similar claim by the Democratic Party of the state regarding Wisconsin test scores and the above five states was made. Melissa Baldauff, the party's research director, wrote to the left-leaning "fact check" site PolitiFact to say that "after further investigation, we determined that the data was not the most up-to-date. Accordingly, we have removed the post from our Facebook page."

PolitiFact rated the suggestion that public employee collective bargaining for teachers correlated to higher test scores as "false."

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.