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 Articles of Interest - Education YES!


starMI State passes progress portion of accreditation systemstar

starMI Gongwer 11-14-02 State Board of Ed Approves Federal Progress Standardsstar


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State passes progress portion of accreditation system
by Dee-Ann Durbin, The Associated Press, November 14, 2002

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Up to 15 percent of Michigan's elementary and middle schools could soon find out they're not meeting state standards for student progress under a plan passed Thursday by the State Board of Education.

The passage of the plan brought the state closer to completing its accreditation system, which will start giving letter grades to schools sometime next year.

The grades are based on Michigan Educational Assessment Program scores and other factors. High schools will be getting grades later than elementary and middle schools.

The portion of the accreditation system passed Thursday requires schools to ensure that all students -- including special education students, minorities, the poor and those for whom English is a second language -- are making progress in reading and math each year.

Progress will be measured by the number of students who reach proficiency on the MEAP tests. Each school will have its own progress scale and goals that it is expected to reach each year over the next 12 years.

The progress requirement was part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act signed by President Bush earlier this year.

Edward Roeber, a member of the state's accreditation committee, said he expects between 400 and 500 elementary and middle schools won't meet the state's standards based on reports that schools have been sending.

Before the federal law passed, Michigan planned to require schools to show progress in science and social studies as well as math and reading. Board members balked when they found out that would mean up to 1,500 Michigan schools would be on the federal list as needing improvement.

After meeting with former Bush education adviser Sandy Kress last week, board members said it would be better to make the state plan match the federal law, which only requires progress in math and reading. That change will mean fewer Michigan schools on the federal watch list.

Superintendent Tom Watkins said the state will continue to make sure science and social studies scores are improving. The state grades will continue to take those scores into account.

"I want to be very clear. I will not support lowering standards," he said.

Schools that are failing to help all students make progress could find out by January or February that they are on the state's watch list and need to make changes.

If the schools fail to improve within three years, students may start attending other schools, with the cost of transportation paid by their school district. If nothing improves within six years, the schools could face closure, state takeover or faculty replacement.

The decision to approve the measure came after months of debate about how best to blend Michigan's accreditation system with the new federal law.

Under the accreditation system, Michigan will issue grades of A, B, C, D, D-Alert or Unaccredited to schools. Schools would be able to raise those grades if they are meeting the annual progress standards for all students.

Roeber said the data may surprise many schools, who may have pockets of students who aren't performing well.

Kress, who joined the state board's meeting by telephone, praised Michigan's efforts to blend federal and state law.

"It seems to be a very creative and logical way to both follow your own direction and comply with the federal law," Kress said.

Still, there was some dissent on the board. Sharon Gire, a Democrat from Macomb County's Clinton Township, said the state may be setting unrealistic expectations for improvement without giving schools any direction on how to meet them.

"Are we creating something that's impossible to jump over?" she said.

Other board members insisted that Michigan's expectations must be high.

"We need to have the highest standard for our kids and not worry about the feelings of adults," said Michael Warren, a Republican from Beverly Hills.

The board's action Thursday brings Michigan closer to a Jan. 30 deadline to be in compliance with the federal law.

The board plans to set cut-off scores for the accreditation grades when it meets in December.

Gongwer News Service, November 14, 2002

Schools should know in the coming few weeks if they will have to implement choice programs or other sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act with the State Board of Education's approval Thursday of adequate yearly progress standards. The board also approved further alterations to the Education YES! accreditation plan, but put off voting on cut scores for portions of that system until December.

Following recommendations of education consultant Sandy Kress, one of the lead developers of the federal act, the board adjusted the state's adequate yearly progress (AYP) standards to look only at mathematics and reading scores on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests. And most of the schools not meeting the new standards will have to begin planning to restructure next year.

Under the standards, schools with a fourth grade class would have to have 48.8 percent of students proficient in mathematics and 38.5 percent proficient in reading. For seventh grades, schools must have 32 percent proficient in reading and for eighth grades they must have 32.8 percent proficient in mathematics. The scores represent a school at the 20th percentile statewide.

The board also officially set proficient as scoring in level 1 or 2 in math and Satisfactory in reading. The reading level will change next year when the MEAP moves to a language arts test that includes both reading and writing and where scores are broken into four levels-exceeds state standards (Level 1), meets state standards (Level 2), basic (Level 3) and below basic (level 4)-as they already are on the other tests.

While the yearly progress standards were approved unanimously, board Vice President Sharon Gire (D-Clinton Township) objected to the proficiency standard, arguing it was too stringent given what other states are considering.

"Our kids are doing very well. Does it reflect well that over half (of schools) are failing?" Ms. Gire said. "We have to be careful that we don't set up expectations for kids that those who aren't 'As' are failures."

And board member Herbert Moyer (D-Temperance), though supporting the standards, said the board needed to be careful to be realistic. "We're going to have to drag along some perspective once in awhile," he said. "We've been politicized in the process of trying to educate kids."

But other board members argued the proficiency standards, which had been in use since the federal government first began requiring adequate yearly progress designations in 1995, were appropriate considering the expectations on students.

"Is it unreasonable to expect all our students to be 'As' and 'Bs'? No," said member John Austin (D-Ann Arbor). "As a nation, will we fail? Yes because we're human."

"The purpose of the standards is to ensure that our students have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the 21st Century," said board Secretary Michael Warren (R-Beverly Hills). "We should not worry about the feelings of adults (on seeing the numbers of "failing" schools). ...We have to stop hiding behind false numbers and false standards and say there are thousands of kids not being served by the current system."

Edward Roeber, a member of the board's accreditation task force helping it to put final shape on Education YES!, said the standards will leave Michigan with high numbers of schools needing improvement compared to other states, but he said other states will catch up to that number as other states adopt more appropriate proficiency measures and actually begin reporting AYP figures.

Though states were supposed to begin reporting AYP in 1995, Michigan was one of the few states to actually do so and so is one of the few states to see schools nearing the sanction of a forced reorganization. Under the federal law, that reorganization could range from changing curriculum to hiring consultants to replacing staff to closing the school.

Under the federal law, schools in their first and second years of not meeting AYP are allowed to work to improve. In the third year, they must offer students the choice of another school within the district not under sanctions for failing to meet AYP and must offer transportation to that school. In the fourth year, schools must offer to pay for tutoring programs through vendors approved by the state (a list still in development). In the fifth year, schools must develop a restructuring plan and in the sixth year must implement that plan.

Using the standards approved by the board, the Department of Education initially estimated that 807 elementary and middle schools could be listed as failing to meet AYP for the current school year. Of those, 149 would be required to offer choices of other schools in the district and 486 would have to be writing plans to restructure next year.

But DOE Chief Academic Officer Jeremy Hughes did not release names of any of those schools because he said those numbers are still unofficial. Most of the schools involved are identified both by school wide scores and by the scores of one or more minority groups within the school. But there is still some concern that the racial and ethnic identification of students in many schools is inaccurate, making those minority group designations inaccurate, he said.

Some of the schools may also be pulled for the list for helping the lowest minority group move up, he said. Schools are given "safe harbor" from sanctions if they can reduce by 10 percent the number of students in the lowest-scoring group, be that either the whole school or one minority, who do not make proficiency. He said those numbers were not yet available.

Mr. Roeber said Michigan could expect the number of schools not making AYP to climb. Out of the 2,480 elementary and middle schools, he said the state could expect to see as many as 2,000 of those on the list in coming years. And he said other states should expect to see similar numbers as they move closer to the 2014 deadline when all schools are expected to have all students scoring at the proficient on a statewide test.

Mr. Hughes said he hopes to see a list of schools not meeting AYP standards out before schools break in December, allowing them to implement any required sanctions, mostly offering choice and transportation to that choice, by the beginning of second semester.

School choice groups have chastised the department for waiting this long to develop the AYP standards, arguing the choice options, which apply to schools in their third and fourth year of not meeting standards, were supposed to be offered at the beginning of the year.

ACCREDITATION: In light of discussions with Mr. Kress last week, the board approved a new structure for Education YES! that once again removes the federal standards from consideration in developing the composite grade for a school. Federal AYP standards, instead of being part of the MEAP change score, are now a modifier on the composite score.

Under the new structure, a school earning an "A" overall would drop to a "B" if it did not meet AYP standards. A school earning a "D" or an "F" overall would move up a grade if it was able to meet AYP standards.

The change allows the state to meld the two systems for looking at school performance without having to seek waivers from the federal government for applying its standards or change the Michigan standards to meet the federal law.

The system also allows the state to prioritize the assistance it provides to schools, giving the most help to schools with final grades of "F" (unaccredited) or "D." While federal law requires assistance to all schools not meeting AYP standards, the system would allow those schools with "B" or "C" final grades to be given a lesser priority for that assistance.

The board did not, as originally anticipated, approve cut scores for the MEAP-related portions of the accreditation system, though it received a report proposing cut scores from the accreditation task force.

Ms. Gire was concerned at the small intervals between various grade levels (for elementary reading status, an "A" would be a scale score of 312 or higher, while an "F" would be 293 or below), arguing that made the cut scores look less reasoned.

But Mr. Roeber said the overall system looks at a three-year average of scores for each of the three categories-status, change and growth. Status is the current average score for the building, while change is the score movement for the building from the previous test and growth is the average score movement for individual students from the previous test.

Because the scores are essentially averages of averages, he said there would likely be little movement year to year in any score. Board members asked for some examples for the next meeting on what kind of changes a school would have to show in its annual MEAP scores to change its grade for any of the categories.

Mr. Hughes said development of the performance indicator scores was still under way and he would not know how quickly those scores-in areas such as parental involvement and offering of arts programs-would be available until he got an update on the pilot program currently running.

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