Educators are deeply concerned but not surprised with newly released test results showing how far behind Michigan students have fallen during the pandemic.
Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed fourth- and ninth-graders scored significantly lower in math and reading skills this year than they did prior to the COVID crisis. Data from the September release of standardized test scores showed some of the steepest learning declines for Michigan students in a half-century.
Thomas Morgan, spokesperson for the Michigan Education Association, said major changes are needed to the state's education system.
"Teachers and students and parents have been through so much with the pandemic and with virtual learning, school violence, and the student mental-health crisis," Morgan observed. "We need to focus right now on structural issues to get our schools back up to full capacity."
According to the Michigan Department of Education, the state's fourth- and ninth-graders scored at or below the national average in math, and significantly below average in reading. Between 2019 and 2021, Michigan fourth-graders dropped from 32nd to 43rd place in state rankings, while ninth-graders from 28th to 31st.
Morgan noted while the pandemic dealt a severe blow to Michigan students, he is concerned the state's school system may not have the resources it needs to help them recover.
"We have several crises affecting our schools, including an educator shortage and student mental health," Morgan asserted. "We really need to make sure that we're coming together and providing our schools with the resources they need to keep good teachers, recruit new educators, and support staff into the profession."
Morgan emphasized in addition to recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, Michigan needs to expand the curriculum to bring students — particularly those from disadvantaged communities — up to speed.
"We don't have much time to act," Morgan stressed. "We need to do everything we can to help kids get caught up and not be left further behind. A lot of students did struggle with virtual learning and mental-health issues, and we need to help these kids before it's too late. We need to help them get back on track."