Troubling Lack of Student Test Progress Deserves Candor, Not Spin

Results from just-released statewide student tests were divided into 18 different subject-and-grade categories covering students in grades three through 11 and four subject areas. In only one of those categories were more than half the students rated as “proficient” in the subject. (Just over half of Michigan fifth-graders, or 50.6 percent, were proficient in English). The Michigan Department of Education released the results Tuesday of the test known as M-STEP.

In every other category, fewer than half the students in the tested grade were deemed less than proficient in the subject, which included English, math, science and social studies.

Yet, the Michigan Department of Education called the results “a multiple success.” Its reasoning was that in 10 of the 18 categories, the percentage of students rated as proficient was up from last year.

The department stated in the headline of its press release: "M-STEP Scores Increase in Nearly Two-Thirds of Grades, Subjects"

For example, in the fourth-grade science scores, just 12.4 percent of the students in the state were rated as proficient in 2015. That number rose to 14.7 percent in 2016.

“The Spring 2016 results show scores are improving,” said State Superintendent Brian Whiston in the press release. “Additionally, we delivered the results earlier this year and significantly cut overall testing time. ... While we can celebrate our successes, our work continues with improving reading skills for our youngest learners. To make Michigan a Top 10 education state in 10 years, we need to provide the focused supports and resources to help schools, teachers, and every child learn to read by the third grade.”

ForTheRecord says: In science, the highest scoring group was 11th-graders, of whom only 33 percent were proficient. The education department considered this a success because in the previous year the figure was just 29 percent. Overall, what little improvement there was across the board was slight.

"They (scores) went from abysmal to terrible," said Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project.