Keeping score

Some M-STEP scores are up slightly in Detroit and across the state — but reading scores were ‘disappointing.’ Look up your school’s scores here

PHOTO: Creative Commons / timlewisnm

Coming off a tough year in which nearly two dozen Detroit schools were threatened with closure because of years of low test scores, the city school system is starting the new school year with a bit of good news: District scores are up slightly on average in several grades and subjects compared to last year.

The 2017 M-STEP scores, released Tuesday by the Michigan Department of Education, show that the vast majority of Detroit students are still struggling. Just 9.9 percent of third-graders posted a passing score on the state English Language Arts exam while 12.3 percent of third graders passed the math test.

But passing rates were up slightly for Detroit district students in third, fourth and seventh grade math compared to 2016 and the percent passing the reading test was up in 5th and 6th grades.  (Details here).

(Scroll down to see results for all Michigan schools).

Across the state, Michigan students on average showed improvement in math and social studies and posted mixed results in science but reading scores were troubling.

“The spring 2017 results show math and social studies scores are continuing to improve, and that is exciting news,” state superintendent Brian Whiston said in a statement. “The English language arts scores are disappointing, however.”

The disappointing scores come as schools across the state are gearing up for tougher new third-grade reading requirements. Beginning in 2020, state law will require schools to hold back third graders who can’t pass the reading test.

Because the M-STEP is administered primarily only in grades 3-8, the new tougher law doesn’t apply to kids who took the exam last spring. The first kids to be subjected to the new law are now entering first grade but this year’s scores will likely serve as a wake-up call to schools across the state. In third grade, just 44.1 percent of students passed the exam in 2017 compared to 46 percent of third-graders in 2016 and 50 percent in 2015.

“It is important that we keep working with [county intermediate school districts] and local school districts to provide support and assistance to help all of their students achieve at higher levels,” Whiston said. “I am confident that investments in early childhood education and literacy supports will bring improvement and growth. We need to stay focused and diligent.”

The M-STEP exam was administered last spring for the third time. The exam first replaced the MEAP test in 2015.

The state Tuesday also released SAT scores, which Michigan is using for the second year to measure student performance in 11th grade. Across the state, SAT scores were up compared to 2016 while they were down slightly in Detroit.

The M-STEP and SAT are the high-stakes exams that have been used in recent years as the primary basis to calculate school rankings in Michigan. Officials have used those rankings in the past to identify schools for state intervention. Earlier this year, the state put 38 schools — including 24 in the city of Detroit — on notice that they would be closed after landing in the bottom five percent of state rankings for three years in a row. (Changes to the way those rankings have been calculated have been controversial).

The state backed down on school closings after strong political and logistical opposition and entered into “partnership agreements” with the affected districts that gave those districts 18 months to turn things around.

How those schools performed on the M-STEP is difficult to tell from publicly released data because, in many of those schools, scores have been so low in the last two years that the scores fell below the 5 percent threshold for state reporting.   

Click here for more details on how the Detroit Public Schools Community District and the Education Achievement Authority performed on average on the exam. The EAA schools became part of the main Detroit district last month after five years in the state-run recovery district.

For more information about how schools performed on the test across the state, here’s a press release from the Michigan Department of Education.

Look up scores for individual schools across the state below. Just type in your school’s name. Or go to the state education department website to download extensive data on the scores including those for special education students and other groups. 

Early investment

Foundations put $50 million behind effort to improve lives of young Detroit children

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The heads of the Kresge and W.K. Kellogg foundations, Rip Rapson and La June Montgomery announce a $50 million investment to support the new Hope Starts Here framework.

The two major foundations behind the creation of a ten-year plan to improve the lives of Detroit’s youngest children are putting up $50 million to help put the plan into action.

As they unveiled the new Hope Starts Here framework Friday morning, the Kellogg and Kresge foundations announced they would each spend $25 million in the next few years to improve the health and education of children aged birth to 8 in the city.

The money will go toward upgrading early childhood education centers, including a new Kresge-funded comprehensive child care center that the foundation says it hopes to break ground on next year at a location that has not yet been identified.

Other foundation dollars will go toward a just-launched centralized data system that will keep track of a range of statistics on the health and welfare of young children, and more training and support for early childhood educators.

The announcement at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History drew dozens of parents, educators and community leaders. Among them was Detroit Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti who said one of the major impediments to improving conditions for young children has been divisions between the various government and nonprofit entities that run schools, daycares and health facilities for young kids.

Vitti said the district would do its part to “to break down the walls of territorialism that has prevented this work from happening” in the past.

Watch the video of of the announcement here.

Detroit's future

In a city where 60 percent of young children live in poverty, a ten-year plan aims to improve conditions for kids

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn/Chalkbeat

A coalition of community groups led by two major foundations has a plan to change the fortunes of Detroit’s youngest citizens.

The Hope Starts Here early childhood partnership is a ten-year effort to tackle a list of bleak statistics about young children in Detroit:

  • More than 60% of Detroit’s children 0-5 live in poverty — more than in any of the country’s 50 largest cities;
  • 13% of Detroit babies are born too early, compared to nine percent nationally;
  • 13% of Detroit babies are born too small, compared to eight percent nationally;
  • Detroit has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country;
  • Nearly 30,000 of eligible young Detroiters have no access to high-quality early learning or child care options.
  • That translates to learning problems later on, including the 86.5% of Detroit third graders who aren’t reading at grade level.

Hope Starts Here spells out a plan to change that. While it doesn’t identify specific new funding sources or propose a dramatic restructuring of current programs, the effort led by the Kresge Foundation and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, names six “imperatives” to improving children’s lives.

Among them: Promoting the health, development and wellbeing of Detroit children; supporting their parents and caregivers; increasing the overall quality of early childhood programs and improving coordination between organizations that work with young kids. The framework calls for more funding to support these efforts through the combined investments of governments, philanthropic organizations and corporations.

Read the full framework here: