Cards Target Specific Groups of Students
by Judy Putnam, Lansing State Journal, November 4, 2004
For more articles like this
report cards due out today will focus attention on the academic
progress of minorities, children with disabilities and other
subgroups of students that some say are often overlooked.
Schools will be graded on an A, B, C, D-alert or unaccredited
basis under the state's Education YES! program. At the same
time, parents will find out whether their children's schools
made Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left
Behind Act of 2001.
Concentrating students at the high school -- as opposed to
elementary and middle school -- level means there's more likely
to be a critical mass of 30 members of a subgroup in the same
grade needed to measure adequate progress. Fewer than 30 doesn't
The subgroup requirements under No Child Left Behind serve to
highlight the progress of students who some believe fell through
the cracks in the past.
"By and large, this is good for Michigan's children,'' said
state Deputy Superintendent Jeremy Hughes. "There's a lot of
attention being paid to subgroups. They are very, very
Others argue the subgroups could serve to penalize schools with
a more diverse student population and even stigmatize students.
The issue of subgroups will be brought into even sharper focus
within the next several weeks, when local school district AYP
status reports are released for the first time.
The Michigan Department of Education Wednesday decided to delay
the district reports, originally set for release today, to give
school officials a chance to review them and appeal any
To make AYP at a district level, two out of three levels of
students - elementary, middle and high school - must make
adequate progress when added together.
Under No Child Left Behind, 95 percent of students in the grade
being tested must take the test as well as 95 percent of
students in any subgroup.
The nine subgroups are: white; African American; Hispanic;
multiracial; American Indian or Alaska native; Asian American,
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; students with
disabilities; limited English proficient; and economically
This year 33 percent of students in all groups must meet or
exceed state standards in math and 42 percent in reading on the
Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests. In addition, the
school must report at least an 80 percent graduation rate.
Jim Ballard, executive director of the Michigan Association of
Secondary School Principals, said there's too little room for
extenuating circumstances in the measurements.
If just two students in a subgroup of 30 refuse to take a test,
that means an entire school fails to make progress because 95
percent of students overall and 95 percent of each subgroup must
"If the learning piece of this is progressing in the right
direction, why should they be punished if they didn't meet 95
percent (participation) of a subgroup?'' Ballard said.
Deborah Canja, CEO of Bridges4Kids, a nonprofit organization
that refers parents of children with disabilities to services,
said that although that is a small margin, measuring subgroups
"We don't pay attention to what we don't count. If we don't have
some way of measuring how we are doing, we won't pay attention
to those students. They are below the radar,'' Canja said.
Some school officials said they're worried that subgroups, such
as special education students, will be blamed for tarnishing an
"All of a sudden the blame for not making AYP is put on the
shoulders of a certain subgroup,'' said Laura Wotruba,
spokeswoman for the Middle Cities Education Association,
representing mid-size urban districts.
Subgroup scores will likely be painful for schools and
communities, but necessary, said Jim Sandy, executive director
of Michigan Business Leaders for Education Excellence. He said
schools have to face up to the fact that there are achievement
gaps among groups of students.
"You can't cure a problem unless you identify it,'' he said.
Karen Schulz, spokeswoman for the Michigan Education Association
teachers union, said schools with more diverse populations have
more hurdles to jump.
"Our folks will be studying the data extensively,'' she said.
"There have been some early indications that schools with
greater diversity struggle to make AYP more than schools with
Schools receiving Title 1 funding for disadvantaged students
must offer transportation to schools with better test scores if
they don't make AYP for two years. After three years, free
tutoring must be offered.
School grades are affected by AYP status, too. An otherwise "A"
school, based on test scores and 11 other factors, is bumped
down to a "B" if it doesn't make AYP.
The state education department last month notified 81 high
schools that they had not made AYP for at least two years in a
A few schools on the list acknowledge that they didn't make AYP
but also didn't spend Title 1 dollars at the high school level
so they won't have to implement school choice. Another on the
list, Jenison High School, had its special education scores
recalculated after the state granted more leeway in the number
of students it could count as passing on an alternative test.
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to