The Smartest Kids in the Nation

Dozens of states have taken steps to raise student achievement in their public schools – dramatically improving student scores on national tests. In Michigan, progress has remained agonizingly, stubbornly flat. How did this happen?

Full Coverage

'The smartest kids': About this series

Sep 1, 2014 | Bridge Staff

As Michigan students muddle along in academic mediocrity, their peers across much of the nation are zooming past. What are other states doing that Michigan is not? Bridge visited four to find out.

Smartest kids graphic: How Michigan and Tennessee compare on NAEP

Sep 9, 2014 | Bridge Staff

Comparing the latest NAEP scores from Michigan and Tennessee, you might not notice much difference: students in both states produce middling results. But these graphics show how Tennessee students are rapidly improving, while Michigan has barely budged.

Smartest kids: In Tennessee, an epic turnaround

Sep 9, 2014 | Ron French

A perennial bottom dweller in academic rankings, Tennessee has sprinted to respectability by demanding more of teachers and students and giving them the tools to succeed.

Smartest kids: Teaching starts early, with special focus on the poor, in Minnesota

Sep 16, 2014 | Ron French

Minnesota traces its elite status to tough academic standards, the nation’s most extensive early childhood education program and higher investment in low-income schools.

How Michigan, Florida compare

Sep 30, 2014 | Mike Wilkinson

Florida students, including low-income students, have risen dramatically in national academic rankings while students in Michigan are being left behind.

Smartest kids: In Florida, early reading and frequent testing bring results, and pushback

Sep 30, 2014 | Ron French

Emphasis on literacy and testing to monitor progress are credited with a rise in student learning in Florida, particularly for low-income and minority students. But some ask, how much is too much?

How Michigan, Massachusetts compare

Oct 9, 2014 | Bridge Staff

Use our interactive graphs to compare Michigan and Massachusetts across a wide range of test scores.

Smartest kids: Ignoring outcry, Massachusetts leaders chose excellence

Oct 9, 2014 | Chastity Pratt Dawsey

Tough standards, targeted funding and a difficult test that every student must pass have elevated Massachusetts to the top of the class.

Smartest kids: Four school advocates raise their hands

Oct 14, 2014 | Bridge Staff

We asked four fierce, very different education advocates how to improve Michigan schools. They hit on many reforms successfully used in leading states.

Smartest kids: What Michigan schools can learn from leading states

Oct 14, 2014 | Chastity Pratt Dawsey, Ron French

Students from Minnesota to Florida are learning more. Is Michigan ready to do something about it?

State education board urges Legislature to transform how schools are funded

Nov 20, 2014 | Ron French

The board’s report cites the recent Bridge series, “The smartest kids in the nation,” which chronicled how other states saw gains when they targeted funds to the schools that needed help most.