UPDATE – March 14:
Don’t let the jargon and acronyms scare you away – the big policies behind how schools run in Michigan is under review, and you have two more days to comment on it.
Michigan’s draft plan for implementing the new federal law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) outlines new directions in assessment, accountability, supports for schools and students, and educator quality – read more below.
Feedback matters! Already the state is reportedly backing away from plans to create an A-F grading system for every school building in the state, following opposition from MEA and other education advocates.
Original story: Speak Up Now on Big Changes Coming to MI Education
MEA members have through Thursday, March 16, to provide feedback on a broad new governing structure for public education in Michigan, including new testing mandates, revised accountability rules, updated methods for intervening in struggling schools, and strategies for attracting and retaining quality educators.
The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) spent nearly a year developing the state’s implementation plan under the new federal law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces No Child Left Behind.
Anyone interested in providing feedback can view the draft plan online and email or mail comments to MDE.
The MDE’s ESSA plan includes a new A-F “report card” system of rating schools based in large part on test scores. Student proficiency in math and language arts (29 percent) and growth in math and language arts (34 percent) on state tests together would account for 63 percent of a school’s letter grade.
Other factors that would be considered in a school’s rating include “School Quality/Student Success” measures (14 percent), including teacher/administrator longevity; chronic student absenteeism; completion of a postsecondary credential while still in high school (CTE, AP, IB, dual enrollment); time spent in/access to fine arts, physical education, and music.
English Learner progress (10 percent), graduation rates (10 percent), and low rates of parent opt-outs in state testing (3 percent) round out the categories used to grade schools under the plan.
MEA is finalizing a detailed response to the plan, which includes our opposition to A-F ranking of schools. State projections based on current assessment data indicate that 27 percent of schools would receive a D or F, 22 percent would get a C, and 52 percent would receive an A or B.
“The MEA has concerns about student proficiency and growth percentages making up more than half of the rating,” the MEA response states. “The current recommendation still creates an over-emphasis on test scores. It’s simply the over-valuing of testing wrapped in a new package.”
Under the MDE’s proposal, alternative schools that cater to students who were not successful in traditional school settings would be measured under a separate accountability system that takes into account “measures that are more relevant to their stated purpose.”
Listed below in bullet form are the other three broadly defined elements of the state’s ESSA plan, and beneath each section a portion of the MEA response is included.
- A revised state assessment system.
– Instead of the M-STEP in grades 3, 4, 6, and 7, students would take a benchmark test in the fall and a spring comprehensive test in ELA and math, with an option to check progress with a winter benchmark test.
– In fifth grade, students would take a fall benchmark test in math and ELA, optional winter benchmark test, spring comprehensive test, and the M-STEP in science and social studies in the spring.
– In grade 8, students would take the PSAT 8/9 in Math and ELA and the M-STEP in science and social studies, all in the spring.
– In grade 9, students would take the PSAT 8/9 in ELA and math in the spring.
– Grade 10 students would be required to take the PSAT 10 for ELA and math in the spring.
– Juniors would still take the “Michigan Merit Exam,” which includes the SAT, ACT WorkKeys, and M-STEP in science and social studies, all in the spring.
– New K-2 assessments required under Michigan’s new early literacy initiatives will be implemented under the plan.
– The MDE will be applying for waivers for up to 5 percent of Michigan schools to use a locally developed innovative assessment system in place of standardized tests. Only schools with “strong performance” on standardized tests will be allowed to submit an alternative testing plan for MDE approval.
MEA response: The MEA agrees that benchmark exams can provide needed immediate feedback to the teacher, student and parent. However, the state plan to have required benchmark exams in the fall and spring and an optional benchmark exam in the winter does not provide immediate feedback. In addition, in districts that opt to give the three benchmark exams, the amount of testing may actually increase.
- A partnership model for struggling schools. The idea is to shift from labeling and punishing schools to providing comprehensive supports to schools with low test scores.
– Any district with a school rated “F” would enter a partnership with the MDE to identify risk factors – including “whole-child” needs related to poverty and a district’s lack of resources – to develop a comprehensive needs assessment.
– Based on the needs assessment, a plan would be developed to address those needs with wraparound services involving the local school board, educators, the ISD, community organizations, foundations, and others.
– Districts not in need of comprehensive supports to address narrower improvement needs – such as achievement gaps, school climate, or school finance – would receive differentiated supports.
MEA response: The Partnership Model for improving academic performance in low-achieving buildings is a step in the right direction… The state must invest in vulnerable students and identify structures and supports that will maximize success for these students. Funding for the additional resources and supports are needed.
- Supports to ensure equitable access to quality educators.
– Partnerships between schools and teacher preparation programs would help educators learn the skill sets to reach diverse student populations.
– Residency-based teacher preparation via traditional or alternate-route preparation programs would be established, similar to a medical residency program in which teachers-in-training would serve a one-year apprenticeship in a high-needs district alongside – an effective teacher.
– Schools would be encouraged to develop high-quality evidence-based professional development opportunities with para-educators in attendance also.
– Career pathways would expand for highly effective teachers to work in mentorship and other professional learning leadership roles in their schools and districts.
MEA response: The MEA supports the inclusion of a residency-based preparation program primarily focused in Partnership districts, provided this is not a change in requirements for teacher or leader certification… The development of career pathways to expand the reach of highly effective teachers and leaders will not only help the profession but help to retain these professionals.
As the state prepares to submit its plan to the U.S. Department of Education in April, feedback from educators in the field is vital. Already, the Bill Gates-funded reform advocacy group in Michigan, Education Trust–Midwest, has publicly opposed the elimination of M-STEP testing in some grades.
To offer feedback, email comments to MDE-ESSA@michigan.gov or mail comments to ESSA State Plan Comments, Michigan Department of Education, Office of the State Superintendent, P.O. Box 30008, Lansing, MI 48909. All comments must arrive at MDE no later than close of business on March 16.