A newly released report by the Michigan League for Public Policy lists poverty and color as factors in Michigan’s declining standardized test scores.
The report shows students of color and families with lower incomes may be having a hard time passing the Michigan Student Test Educational Progress (M-STEP), and face a great chance of being held back. The statewide test is designed to track whether students are learning at an appropriate pace.
"No matter what socioeconomic class you come from, no matter where you are, everyone should have the same opportunity to be successful,” Kalamazoo Promise Executive Director of Communication Von Washington Jr. said. “We know that we have a lot of students who face insurmountable challenges outside of the classroom."
Washington said he is aware of the growing frustration over Michigan’s academic standing in literacy among students of color.
Brian Gutman, the director of external relations at The Education Trust-Midwest, said he agreed. The organization is involved with education advocacy.
"The enormous gaps between African-American, Latino, and low-income students should keep us all up at night," Gutman said.
According to the Michigan Department of Education, from 2015 to 2018 M-STEP scores show a decrease from 1.6 percentage points in fourth grade to 5.6 points in third grade.
Washington said the results may be challenging to change, but Kalamazoo Public Schools are working toward that goal.
“The Kalamazoo Public Schools, over several years, have promoted a program, Lift up Through Literacy and it is not only working with students, it's working with families," Washington said.
Research from the report, Race, place and policy matter in education shows more than eight of every 10 African-American students and two-thirds of Latino students are not proficient in English by the end of the third grade.
Washington said, "Family members, parent support, grandparents and whomever is in that support network, you have to be involved. You really do. For some of us, it can be very easy for us to think, 'What's going on at the school I have no control.' "