Survey: Quarter of Michigan teachers say schools aren’t ready to help retained students

Survey: Quarter of Michigan teachers say schools aren’t ready to help retained students

Jennifer Chambers, The Detroit NewsPublished 12:50 p.m. ET March 20, 2019 | Updated 7:55 p.m. ET March 20, 2019

Nearly a quarter of Michigan educators say their schools are not ready to provide any additional support for students who are held back after next school year under Michigan’s controversial third-grade reading law, according to statewide educator survey results released on Wednesday.

The survey by Launch Michigan, which gathered opinions from nearly 17,000 educators across the state, found that number rises to more than 4 in 10 in some urban districts, especially those with high-poverty and low per-pupil spending. The full survey report, available at, was paid for by Launch Michigan, a partnership of business, education, labor, philanthropy, civic leaders and parents. While a majority of teachers say their school libraries and classrooms have enough reading material for students, more than 3 in 10 do not — particularly in the same high-poverty and lower-spending urban districts, said Emma White, principal of Emma White Research, which fielded the online survey from Feb. 4-19.

“The results show the passion that educators have for their students and their careers, as well as the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for education policy in this state,” White said. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to overturn Michigan’s controversial third-grade reading law that allows educators to retain struggling third-graders beginning next school year. The law, adopted in 2016, stops third-grade students from moving to the fourth grade — with some exemptions — if they read a grade level behind on the state’s English Language Arts assessment, which measures reading, writing, listening and language. A majority of Michigan’s third-grade students — 55.6 percent or 56,850 students — scored less than proficient on the 2018 Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, better known as M-STEP, which measures reading, writing, listening and language.

Other survey findings include:

Only a quarter of Michigan educators would recommend their career field to others. The survey found that 72 percent of educators say a lack of support from policymakers and politicians most negatively affects their professional satisfaction and 66 percent say it’s also a lack of respect for the profession. About 12 percent say they plan to leave education for a different career over the next two to three years.

“Statistical analysis suggests that important drivers of this move include class sizes (having larger class sizes predicts leaving), and a number of attitudes and experiences, including feeling constrained rather than empowered in the classroom,” survey officials said.

Doug Pratt, a spokesman for the Michigan Education Association, said the survey findings will be used to guide a set of policy recommendations that Launch Michigan intends to propose to the governor and Legislature later this spring.

The survey garnered 16,878 responses from a variety of Michigan educators, including teachers, school support staff and administrators. 

“This is the broadest scale and data set I have seen in the last 15 years,” Pratt said.

The project was modeled after a similar educator survey fielded in Tennessee, a state that has seen rapid improvement in public education in recent years, Pratt said. 

Educators in Michigan are relatively positive about climate at their own schools, though not as universally as in Tennessee, the survey found.

Seventy-seven percent are “generally satisfied with being a teacher at this school” compared with 87 percent in Tennessee.

Just over half of Michigan teachers feel empowered to teach in “the way that is best for their students,” while in Tennessee, 73 percent feel empowered.

Educators had negative views on the quality of the professional learning they receive and the fairness and value of the teacher evaluation process, according to survey results.

Forty-three percent of Michigan teachers reported receiving professional learning suggestions tailored to them, compared to 77 percent in Tennessee.

Only 47 percent of Michigan teachers say the evaluation process is fair and 35 percent say it has improved their teaching, compared to 77 percent and 72 percent in Tennessee.

Educators say reducing class sizes and allocating funding based on student need would improve schools.

Eight percent said reducing class sizes would make a “large impact” and 65 percent said expanding access to high-quality pre-school. Both likely to lead to big improvement in schools, teachers said.

Whitmer’s proposed state budget includes an additional $507 million in K-12 school classroom spending