(Tuesday - August 31, 2021) - After a year and a half of disrupted
learning due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, student state assessment
scores from this spring dipped from the last time that students were
given statewide assessments in the spring of 2019.
"In spite of the extraordinary efforts of educators, support staff,
school leaders, parents, the broader community, and students themselves,
the disruption of the pandemic has inevitably resulted in unfinished
learning for many of our children," said State Superintendent Dr.
Michael Rice. "Results from the state summative assessments and the
local benchmark assessments show that some students were able to make
relatively normal gains, while many others will be working with their
teachers to accelerate their learning to catch up to where they
otherwise would have been in the absence of the pandemic. In Michigan
and across the country, we have our work cut out for us."
The percentages of 8th and 11th grade students who
scored proficient or above this year on the English language arts (ELA)
PSAT and SAT tests improved over 2019, while the percentages of students
who scored proficient or above in ELA, math, and social studies in all
other grades declined (see the table below).
Dr. Rice noted that precise comparisons to any previous years' scores
would be difficult. Students did not take the M-STEP in the 2020 school
year, and the percentages of students who took the ELA and math M-STEP
tests this year ranged by grade and subject from 64 to 72 percent.
"The 2020-21 school year was such an uneven year with high health risks
for students and staff, inconsistent technology, and variations in
teaching and learning across the state," Dr. Rice said. "Any analysis of
M-STEP results must factor in low participation rates in state testing."
State Board of Education President Dr. Casandra Ulbrich and Dr. Rice
requested that the U.S. Department of Education waive the statewide
M-STEP assessments for the second straight year. The request was made in
part to maximize student learning time, which had been adversely
affected during the pandemic. In addition, the state legislature had
mandated district-chosen benchmark assessments to give parents and
educators a sense of where students were academically and how educators
needed to move forward with individual students. While the U.S.
Department of Education (USED) granted MDE's request for waiver of
high-stakes accountability requirements, it denied the request to waive
state summative assessments. As such, the M-STEP was required to be
administered by local school districts, but was optional for students to
take depending on parents' beliefs about how safe it was to come into
school to take the assessment.
Students who took the state assessments were more likely to be from
districts that offered in-person or hybrid learning and less likely to
be students of color, economically disadvantaged students, or English
While achievement gaps appear to have narrowed among particular groups
of students in different grades and subjects, it must be noted that all
students did not test, and that groups of students who are historically
lower achieving did not take the tests in the same percentages as some
groups of historically higher achieving students. As such, the results
should be viewed with caution.
"Districts are encouraged to dig into their data at the school and
district levels to better understand and address gaps," Dr. Rice said.
"Educators know what we need to do and have already begun to do it, with
longer summer school programs, accelerated learning, with greater
creativity, for more children, and with earlier school year starts," Dr.
Rice said. "Across the country, it will require intense focus to address
the gaps so apparent pre-pandemic and, in some cases and places, more so
after 18 months of the pandemic."
Separate measures of how students achieved throughout the past school
year were the benchmark assessments, given to students in grades K-8
once in the fall and once in the spring. Local school districts could
choose from four national off-the-shelf benchmark tests or chose/create
their own assessment.
The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and the state's Center for
Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) partnered with the
Michigan Data Hub and two university research partners-Education Policy
Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) at Michigan State University and
Michigan Education Data Center (MEDC) at the University of Michigan-to
compile the benchmark assessment data provided by districts.
report produced by EPIC and released today, across all subjects and
grades in these benchmark assessments, Michigan students appeared to
make less than normal progress towards learning goals as measured and
defined by all four approved assessment vendors. While learning as
measured by the benchmark assessments did occur over the 2020-21 school
year, the rate of learning appeared to be slower than in a typical
pre-pandemic school year.
Results from the i-Ready and Smarter Balanced ICA benchmark assessments
show that many of the students who were behind at the beginning of the
year made progress toward grade-level standards by the end of the year.
However, according to the report, progress was likely slower than
expected in a typical, pre-pandemic year.
The NWEA MAP Growth assessment-the benchmark test used by the majority
of Michigan school districts-suggests that a greater proportion of
students would score at the "not proficient" level on the end-of-year
M-STEP than in the most recent year of full M-STEP administration. This
is particularly true in mathematics. Although students' fall 2020 MAP
Growth scores indicated that they were on-track to reach similar
proficiency rates to the last M-STEP administration, this was no longer
true in spring 2021.
The report also found that students who participated in benchmark
assessments in both the fall and spring were more likely to be white and
less likely to be economically disadvantaged or eligible for special
education or English learner services, compared to the overall
population of K-8 students in Michigan.
EPIC's next report, to be released in spring 2022, will focus on
identifying the specific groups of students by ethnicity, socioeconomic
status, English learner status, and student with disability status whose
learning trajectories were most affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read By Grade 3
The 2020-21 school year was the first year that third grade students in
Michigan were subject to the state's Read by Grade 3 retention law. In
total, 3,661 third graders across the state had scores that made them
eligible to repeat third grade because of low reading scores.
report on Michigan's Read by Grade 3 law by EPIC paints a picture of
the third grade students who scored 1252 or below on the ELA M-STEP.
This is the first group of students potentially affected by the
retention aspect of the law. Only 71.2 percent of third-grade students
took the grade 3 ELA M-STEP test this year.
Overall, 4.8 percent of the tested population of third-grade students
were identified as being eligible for retention based on their grade 3
M-STEP ELA scores. The analysis showed wide disparities in retention
eligibility rates by ethnicity, with African American third-grade
students the most likely to be identified for retention and Asian and
white students the least likely.
Actions to respond to the unfinished learning of students during the
pandemic have begun at the local, state, and national levels.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan state legislature negotiated
over $6 billion in state and federal funds appropriated to provide local
school districts with resources to help Michigan's students, teachers,
and families begin to rebound from the pandemic through local efforts
- expanded learning opportunities over the summer;
- additional learning time this school year;
- increased access to early education for more children through
the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP);
- additional literacy and math supports;
- expansion of social and emotional learning and children's mental
health supports with additional funding to hire more school
counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses, and
professional development for teachers and support staff in social
- smaller class sizes, particularly at the lower grade levels;
- improved environmental conditions in schools; and
- higher educator salaries, particularly in the beginning years of
MDE has provided local school districts with regulatory relief and
flexibility in the hiring of more educators to help address the teacher
shortage exacerbated through the pandemic, and with guidance on how to
best navigate the changes in federal and state laws this year.
School-level Assessment Data
For a complete look at this year's assessment results, please go to