News Story

Education Department: COVID, not policy, caused Michigan’s decline in national rankings

State blames drop in NAEP scores on pandemic, not Whitmer policies

Michigan students dropped in math and reading test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the state’s Department of Education announced recently.

“Statistically, we are not alone nationally,” State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice said. “Most states were adversely affected in, and by, the pandemic. That said, instructionally, we have a great deal of work to do.”

Even grading on a curve, however, Michigan has performed poorly, sinking several places in several key national rankings.

Fourth graders reading scores dropped 2.97% from 218.3 on the 2019 NAEP assessment to 211.8 in 2022. The lower scores resulted in Michigan moving from 32nd in reading to 43rd in the nation this year. Eighth grade reading scores dropped from 262.6 to 258.5, a 1.56% decrease. Eighth graders in Michigan were 28th in the nation for reading and are now ranked 31st.

Fourth and eighth graders saw lower test scores in math as well. Fourth graders dropped from 236.2 to 232, a 1.7% decrease.

Although their test scores were lower, Michigan fourth graders did move up from 42nd in the nation to 36th, amid a general collapse in American public education outcomes. The same held for eighth graders, who went from 280.3 to 272.6 in math, a 2.74% decrease. That decline was small enough to move these students relatively ahead in national math rankings, from 26th to 28th.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been criticized for her draconian lockdown measure for schools and businesses. Public health data now show that these did not prevent Michigan from scoring worse on COVID-19 outcomes than most other states. Children are far less vulnerable to COVID-19 than are other age groups, which led many parents to wonder why their students were forced to do online schooling for a prolonged period of time.

Unions such as The Detroit Federation of Teachers threatened to strike to keep schools shuttered. Whitmer did not agree to a plan to re-open schools until January 2021, when she announced that students would return to class in March of the same year. Many districts remained shut through the end of last year, however, with Detroit and Flint schools still engaging in sporadic closures this year. 

School district policies forced children to isolate for up to ten days every time they were merely within a certain number of feet from an infected person. The numbers varied from school to school.

Whitmer did not respond to a request for comment.

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.