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Early Elementary Gains Reported in 2019 M-STEP Results

LANSING – Third- and fourth-grade English language arts scores on the 2019 Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) showed modest gains for the second straight year, the Michigan Department of Education reported today.

English language arts (ELA) scores by Michigan sixth-graders also increased, as did math scores for third-, fifth-, and sixth-grade students.

“We appreciate the gains made this year in our early grades,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “Focus and attention on early childhood education and early literacy are beginning to bear fruit, and continued efforts in these areas will keep Michigan moving forward.”

Despite a significant number of snow days for 822 school districts due to the harsh winter weather, test scores in many places increased or remained consistent, even with fewer instructional days, Dr. Rice noted.

The severe winter weather across Michigan forced the closure of school by an average of 11 days last school year, with 144 districts being closed 14 days or more.

The 2018 and 2019 assessments are the first time during the past five years where there is a relatively clean comparison across years for M-STEP and SAT, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Venessa Keesler said.

“Year-to-year comparisons of state assessment results can be problematic,” explained Keesler. “Changes and systematic improvements to Michigan’s state assessment system have been made each year since the M-STEP began in 2015, which make it difficult to make data comparisons or interpret long-term data trends.”

  • In 2015, the online M-STEP assessment system replaced the paper-and-pencil, 44-year Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) system.
  • In 2016 and 2017:
    • the ELA performance tasks were removed in Grades 3, 4, 6, and 7;
    • the “SAT with Essay” replaced the Grade 11 Michigan Merit Exam’s test in English language arts and math; and
    • the PSAT test was given in Grades 9 and 10.
  • In 2018, reductions to the M-STEP were implemented, so testing time took no more than three hours on average for English language arts and math.
  • In 2019, the College Board’s PSAT™ 8/9 assessment replaced the M-STEP test in English language arts and math for all Michigan eighth graders.

This is the first year for the PSAT 8/9, sets a new baseline for future comparison, and cannot be compared with previous M-STEP scores in Grade 8, since the PSAT 8/9 is a different type of test than the M-STEP given previously. Nearly 62 percent of Michigan eighth graders scored proficient or above on the PSAT 8/9 ELA test this year, and over 41 percent of students demonstrating proficiency in mathematics.

The PSAT 8/9 is a national assessment designed to prepare students for success on the SAT® with Essay, which is part of the Michigan Merit Exam in 11th grade. Schools may use scores from the PSAT 8/9 to help teachers and students identify what skills students need to work on to be ready for their post-secondary education.

Michigan’s 11th grade SAT scores in evidence-based reading and writing and mathematics showed declines this year. In English language arts, 55.3 percent of students reached proficiency. In mathematics, 36.3 percent of students reached proficiency. The decline in SAT scores mirrors similar drops in other states, according to the College Board.

This year’s M-STEP results do not include statewide or school-level scores for the M-STEP science tests given in grades five, eight, and 11, due to a large-scale field test of the new science assessment system.  The adoption of Michigan’s updated science standards in fall 2015 created the need to replace past versions of Michigan’s M-STEP science assessment with a redesigned system, aligned to the new science content standards. Science scores will be included in next year’s statewide and school-level results.

“Summative assessments like the M-STEP are a snapshot taken at one moment in time and reflect only a very small portion of a student’s education,” Dr. Rice said. “We are committed to continued improvements to Michigan’s state assessment system that promote student learning and provide meaningful information for educators and parents.”

Preliminary M-STEP results were available to school districts within 24-48 hours of the tests being taken. Final school-level reports can be viewed in Michigan’s Parent Dashboard with more detailed statewide reports and downloadable data available at

NOTE: 2019 M-STEP English language arts proficiency scores for third grade cannot be correlated to predict the possible student retention impact of Michigan’s Read By Grade Three law, which goes into effect next year. A unique and separate cut score for the third grade ELA test was established to distinctly measure reading, as outlined in the law. The Michigan Department of Education worked with educators and technical experts to conduct a standard-setting process with the third-grade ELA M-STEP to support the law’s requirements.