Low college readiness cause for concern

It is past time for Michigan’s citizens and policy makers to acknowledge the crisis looming in the state’s future: the state’s public schools are failing to educate the next generation of Michiganders.

An abundance of poorly educated workers won’t attract employers, potentially hindering job opportunities even for the better educated who choose to live here. It’s time to make K-12 education a top priority.

As much as the machinery of government (the Legislature, the State Department of Education) continues to work on improvements, results are lagging. Test results released Monday continue an alarming trend. While many districts saw at least slight improvements in some numbers over last year, overall lackluster results point to a serious situation needing more attention and action.

Statewide on the Michigan Merit Exam, 40 percent of 11th graders were not proficient in reading. Nearly 50 percent were not proficient in writing. And a stunning 70 percent were not proficient in math or science – two subjects that anchor STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), the four disciplines that are critical in the knowledge economy and thus essential for future economic prosperity.

A decade ago the Cherry Commission was charged with creating strategies to double the number of college graduates in Michigan. Yet statewide, 82 percent of some 100,000 eleventh graders who took the ACT exam as part of the Michigan Merit Exam were not considered ready for college work. Indeed, a Detroit Free Press review of Monday’s data release showed some 200 Michigan schools (including both traditional schools and charter schools) had no students considered college ready by the standards of the ACT exam. Not one.

In Greater Lansing, the story is equally bleak. The school district with the best results, Okemos, still had only half of its students considered college ready based on composite ACT results (a number that was good enough to make top 10 in the state). And in the Lansing School District, 63 percent were not college ready based on English scores and more than 90 percent were not considered ready for college math.

Michigan citizens, state Board of Education members, the Department of Education, the governor, the Legislature, business and civic leaders – All need to make K-12 student achievement a higher priority. Pulling Michigan out of the recession won’t mean much if the state fails to educate a competent work force for the future.

– Lansing State Journal