An alarming new report comparing Michigan students to their peers across the country found that not only are Michigan students lagging behind, they’re quickly losing ground.

The report from the non-partisan research and advocacy organization, Education Trust-Midwest, takes advantage of the fact that, for the last three years, Michigan students have been taking a state exam, the M-STEP, that’s easily comparable to the exams given in 12 other states.

That means that for the first time, it’s easy to line Michigan test scores up against scores from other states using results from all test-takers in grades 3-8. Previously, national comparisons have only been available through a national exam that tests a sample of students across the country in grades 4, 8 and 12.  

Among findings: The percentage of third-graders who are proficient on the state’s English Language Arts exam dropped by nearly 6 percentage points in Michigan over the last three years while scores in other states climbed or stayed relatively flat in the same period.

“Our scores are going in the wrong direction,” said Brian Gutman, Education Trust-Midwest’s director of external relations.

Scores have dropped in Michigan despite what Education Trust-Midwest says was a $77 million increase in spending on improving literacy in early grades.

The extra money went for things like reading coaches and longer class periods but Gutman asserts that the money hasn’t been used effectively.

“Focusing on early literacy makes a lot of sense,” he said. “It’s a strong foundation that students need in order to excel in school.”

But, he said, “What exactly are we doing? How are we implementing strategies to improve early literacy? Are they truly based on best practices?”

Gutman urged state officials to be more proactive about finding out how money is being spent and more assertive about directing it toward proven programs.

That becomes even more crucial, he said, now that a new state law is raising the stakes for students. Starting in 2020, most third-graders will not be allowed to advance to the fourth grade unless they can pass the state’s English Language Arts exam.

Read the full report here:

Top Ten for Education: Not by Chance. Education Trust Midwest – March 2016 by The Education Trust Midwest on Scribd