News from the Michigan Department of Education

LANSING – Statewide M-STEP scores this year show mathematics and social studies proficiency gains in eight of nine grades tested, and 11th grade SAT scores also showed improvement, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) reported today.

Mathematics scores increased in grades 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8, or all but grade 4, which increased 2.6 percentage points in 2016. Social studies scores increased in grades 5, 8 and 11.

“The Spring 2017 results show math and social studies scores are continuing to improve, and that is exciting news,” said State Superintendent Brian Whiston. “The English language arts scores are disappointing, however.”

Where in 2016, English language arts (ELA) scores increased in three of six grades last year, student proficiency scores in 2017 decreased in all but Grade 5, which showed an increase of .5 points. Decreases ranged from .8 pts in Grade 8 to 2.3 points in Grade 7. Grade 3 declined 1.9 points. A three-year (2015-17) comparison of ELA scores show increases in grades 5 and 8 of 2.4 and .4 points respectively. Decreases ranged from 1.1 points in Grade 6 to 5.9 points in Grade 3.

Whiston said that it is important for schools and districts – with the help of their intermediate school districts (ISDs) – to carefully examine these scores and other data to look for paths to improvement.

“It is important that we keep working with ISDs and local school districts to provide support and assistance to help all of their students achieve at higher levels,” Whiston said. “We keep moving forward on our goal to be a Top 10 education state in 10 years and know that the early work we’re putting into motion will pay positive dividends in the very near future.

“I am confident that investments into Early Childhood education and literacy supports will bring improvement and growth,” Whiston said. “We need to stay focused and diligent.”


Early Literacy Support Expected to Influence Future Results

Two years ago, Michigan identified early literacy gaps as a focus area for policy and program support for learners, and established a set of initial support mechanisms to address the learning gaps.  These programs have since been initiated with educators over the last 18 months. The programs, created and funded by the legislature, support specific recommendations to ensure that all students have strong literacy skills by the end of third grade.  These include:

  • Added instructional time grants that support districts in providing additional targeted supports for students who struggle in reading and other literacy skills;
  • ISD literacy coaches, who provide direct assistance to school districts and public school academies to address instructional needs to help these students;
  • Assessment reimbursement grants to support districts in the use of screening and diagnostic tools to help identify specific student needs, so that they can receive targeted support; and
  • Professional learning funds to support the creation of a literacy coach network and resources for educators to learn and implement best practices to support all students, as well as students with specialized literacy learning needs, including English Learners, students with disabilities, and other students who may struggle to demonstrate these skills.

MDE also is in the process of distributing to school districts over $20 million in state funds appropriated for the upcoming school year for additional instructional time to pupils in grades K-3 who have been identified as needing additional supports and interventions in order to be reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Several organizations are partnering with MDE to provide a consistent, coherent support infrastructure, so that all early literacy efforts are focused on the same needs.  MDE and Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA) teamed up with several literacy experts to form a task force to develop theEssential Instructional Practices for different learners, including K-3, early learners, and now adolescent and young adult learners.

These efforts have just begun to reach Michigan educators and students in child care settings and classrooms throughout the state. As they become more fully implemented, more of Michigan’s children will have the literacy skills they need to succeed.

Establishing a Consistent Testing System

Over the past several years, legislative changes to Michigan’s testing system, as well as changes resulting from feedback from school districts, have created some anxiety for educators and students in taking the M-STEP, Whiston noted.

MDE is working with stakeholders to implement an improved testing vision of Whiston’s that will reduce testing time and provide a better path to show student academic growth.

“There has been some volatility in statewide assessments recently,” he said. “We want to be responsive to educators; develop a solid and informative testing system; then let it stand for at least 10 years.”

Whiston has proposed implementing a statewide testing vision that has a benchmark assessment for students in the fall, an optional mid-year assessment to gauge progress, then a summative assessment for students in the spring.

2017 M-STEP Highlights

Nearly 98 percent of all Michigan schools took the M-STEP assessment online this year, compared to 80 percent in 2015. A pencil-and-paper option remains available for those relatively few districts that are not yet ready technologically.

Of the 18 grade-subject combinations tested, 10 showed gains in the percent of students proficient or advanced. When compared to 2015 statewide results, this year’s increased proficient or advanced M-STEP scores occurred in:

  • Grades 5,8 and 11 in social studies
  • Grades 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 in mathematics
  • Grade 11 in science, and
  • Grades 5 English language arts (ELA)

The SAT, administered to all high school juniors for the first time in Spring 2016, serves as both a college entrance exam and state ELA and mathematics assessment. Scores on the SAT showed improvement in both subjects. Like the M-STEP, the SAT is aligned with state standards.

“It’s important to take the time to celebrate our successes – especially in schools and districts whose work is resulting in higher student achievement. Yet, we know we have work to do when it comes to improving reading skills statewide, particularly with our youngest learners,” Whiston said. “To make Michigan a Top 10 education state in 10 years, we need to provide the focused supports and resources for schools and teachers, to help every child learn to read at grade level by the third grade and beyond.”

District and building M-STEP results are available at Downloadable data is available at

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