Study: Mich. may drop near bottom in 4th-grade reading

The Detroit News

Michigan must take quick action to reverse an alarming decline in reading proficiency, according to a report that warns the state's fourth-graders will be ranked 44th by 2030 if nothing is done.

The study released Tuesday by the Education Trust-Midwest says the state's ranking has fallen from 28th to 38th since 2003, and reports an especially steep drop among white students.

Over the past 12 years, Michigan's white fourth-graders have plunged from 13th to 45th in reading proficiency and will fall further to 49th — ahead of only West Virginia — by 2019 if the state keeps its current policies in place, the report warns.

"Michigan has a clear choice: If the state continues to maintain the status quo, it will become among the lowest achieving in the United States for public education," said the executive director of the Royal Oak-based think tank, Amber Arellano. "We will doom our children and state to becoming increasingly poor, isolated and deprived of opportunities."

The Education Trust's report, Michigan Achieves: Becoming a Top Ten Education State, calls for "fundamental changes" in the state's education system to reverse the decline and turn Michigan into one of the highest performing states by 2030. The key to doing that, the report says, is ensuring children can read by third grade.

Recommendations include enacting statewide teacher-quality standards, spending $4 million to $5 million a year on educator training, enforcing accountability for charter operators, adjusting policies to reduce student and teacher absences, and revamping the state's funding formula to give poorer schools more aid.

The report praises Gov. Rick Snyder's initiative to provide pre-K instruction for all Michigan youngsters, and proposals to add millions of dollars this year to improve third-grade literacy. It warns that failing to continue investing in preschool children as they transition into elementary grades risks losing gains made under the pre-K program.

Along with its report, the Education Trust-Midwest is launching a campaign, Michigan Achieves, to promote its campaign to transform the state into a Top 10 education performer. The initiative includes a website,

The chairman of the Michigan Achieves Leadership Council is Ken Whipple, who was vice chairman of the Detroit Financial Advisory Board during the city's bankruptcy.