LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Just ahead of the Labor Day weekend, the latest M-Step Test results were published, and students are in need of school more than ever before. 

According to the 2023 M-STEP test results, students performed more poorly in English Language Arts and Math than pre-pandemic test scores in 2019.  

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“It continues to be clear that children who were remote for all or most of the 2020-21 school year by virtue of local policy decisions, whether because of teacher shortage or health concerns or a combination of the two, were adversely affected academically, particularly if the children were in grades kindergarten through two,” Michigan State Superintendent Michael Rice said in a statement. 

Test results from the 2023 M-STEP show that students in Third Grade tested 30.4% not proficient, 24.5% partially proficient, and 22.4% were proficient.  Contrast those scores with the 2019 M-STEP in which Third Graders tested 36.4% not proficient, 24.5% partially proficient, and 20.3% proficient, demonstrating a general worsening trend since before the pandemic. 

Beth DeShone, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Education Project, a bi-partisan non-profit advocacy organization supporting quality choices in public education for all Michigan students, weighed in on the latest test scores. 

“[The test scores] are a continuation of just dismal results from the pandemic, and I think we are continuing a few years out to see the disastrous results of kiddos being kept out of classrooms and then when many buildings did re-open, many were on hybrid type schedules and the catch up has not caught up for these students,” she said in an interview with Michigan News Source.  

She also cited a number of programs including individualized tutoring and sending money directly to families to choose where to get extra help for their students, that were ultimately rejected by Governor Whitmer. 

“The department, the Governor, and far too many in the school bureaucracy have not really done anything with intention to make sure that the math and reading scores can increase for kids,” she said in the interview. 

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Part of the process to getting the test scores back up, would involve direct financial support to families that Director DeShone believes would have been effective had they not been vetoed.  Additionally, she expressed her belief that having increased school choice for students could help students and their particular needs because the alternative doesn’t work, “continuing to throw dollars at the system that isn’t working for them currently, is not going to bear the results that they need.”

“Whenever you provide opportunities and choice to families to meet the unique needs of their children, you’re going to see improvements,” Director DeShone said during the interview. 

The M-STEP was discussed at length earlier in the year with the Michigan Legislature as it considered and decided to remove from the state’s Read By Grade Three law a section requiring students performing lower than a certain standard to be retained by one year. 

Advocates of the repeal like State Senator Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) sponsored the senate version of the bill.

“Parents and schools should be trusted to make decisions about grade retention—the state shouldn’t mass-flunk 3rd graders without parent input based on one test,” Senator Polehanki said. “It’s a great day for educational freedom for Michigan’s parents and students.” 

A recent report found Michigan to be ranked fourth in nationwide student absences, meaning that more than 500,000 students in the state have been determined to be chronically absent.