LANSING, Mich. — Fewer than half of Michigan students were proficient in 17 of the 18 grades and subjects tested as part of a more rigorous statewide assessment last spring, improving in some areas but worsening in others.

M-STEP scores released Tuesday showed gains in 10 areas and declines in eight.

The lone exam where more than half of those tested — 51 percent — were proficient or advanced was fifth-grade English language arts. Proficiency on reading and writing hovered below 50 percent in other grades and ranged from 33 to 45 percent in math.

“With our rigorous content standards and rigorous assessments, we raised the bar on what Michigan students are expected to know and be able to do. So we would expect to see more students not there yet,” said state deputy superintendent Venessa Keesler.

The results cover the second year of the harder M-STEP, which replaced the Michigan Education Assessment Program, or MEAP, in 2015. Cut scores are set so that students deemed as proficient are projected to be on a track toward career and college readiness.

Science scores ranged from 15 to 33 percent proficiency; social studies from 19 to 43 percent.

The single largest drop in proficiency — 4 percentage points — was in third-grade English language arts, which is especially concerning because third grade is considered a key benchmark as the last year that students learn to read before transitioning to reading to learn. Michigan is spending more to get kids reading by the end of third grade under an initiative backed by Gov. Rick Snyder, but some of the plan is stalled in the Legislature over concerns about holding children back.

Each year, kids in grades 3 through 8 and 11 take the state assessment. It also includes the Michigan Merit Exam, which requires high school juniors to take a college entrance test. For the first time in the spring, it was the SAT instead of the ACT.

The average score was 1001 out of 1,600. Sixty percent were college and career ready in reading and writing according to the SAT’s cut line; just 37 percent were ready in math.

Keesler said the reading/writing SAT results are “positive” and that the math scores are improving, but “we have work to do to make sure Michigan students are career and college ready.”

State education officials said they were pleased that students spent less time taking the test than in 2015 due to changes. Results also came more quickly, with preliminary scores available to schools within 48 hours and the final scores for individual districts and schools released four months sooner.

About 95 percent of students took the test online.

The state school reform office will make public Thursday the bottom 5 percent of schools calculated with 2015 M-STEP results. Schools on the list are subject to intervention and those listed for a number of years without improvement may be closed.

The next list, to be based off the 2016 M-STEP scores released Tuesday, will be issued in November.

A school-choice advocacy group said the latest results were a “damning assessment of the state of education in Michigan,” and called on lawmakers to approve a third-grade reading bill that has been sitting in a legislative conference committee since March.

“For the sake of our children we need to get serious about intervening in chronically-failing schools, requiring them to improve more quickly or be closed,” said Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project.

But Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, criticized “the use of testing as the sole metric by which we judge our children’s educational success.” Gay-Dagnogo, who taught in the city’s ailing public school system, said “we continue to use this standard under the guise of its egalitarianism, assuming that everyone being tested has begun on equal footing.”


Online:

M-STEP results: www.michigan.gov/M-STEP


Follow David Eggert at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/david-eggert