Joseph Ellison is pleased with Saginaw Township’s latest Michigan Educational Assessment Program test results, but the district’s curriculum director suspects the devil lies in the details.
In the coming weeks, Ellison and other school administrators across the state plan to delve into the achievement gap to determine how black students stack up against their white counterparts.
The issue merits inquiry because the gap between Michigan’s white and black students widens dramatically between third and seventh grades, particularly in math, new test reports indicate.
Statewide, the percent of students considered proficient in math dropped across the board by the eighth grade. But the decline was accelerated among black and economically disadvantaged students.
Among white students, 92 percent statewide were considered proficient in math in third grade, compared with 71 percent of black students.
By eighth grade, 72 percent of white students were proficient, compared with 34 percent of black students.
That means there is a 38-point gap in eighth-grade math scores between white and black students. The gap is even larger among seventh-graders—41 percentage points.
Falling math scores have grabbed the attention of Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm and lawmakers, who are debating ways to help improve them.