April 23, 2001
Honorable Arthur E. Ellis
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Michigan Department of Education
608 W. Allegan Street, 4th Floor
Lansing, Michigan 48933
Dear Superintendent Ellis:
It was a pleasure speaking with you about the outcome of the Department's review of Michigan's final assessment system under the Title I requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We appreciate the effort Michigan made to prepare for the review and hope that the process provides useful feedback that will support your State's efforts to monitor student progress toward challenging standards.
The Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) is one of the most mature State assessment systems in the country. We were pleased to learn that the MEAP is administered in reading and mathematics at grades 4, 7 and 11 and that writing is also assessed at grades 5, 8 and 11 on an annual basis. During the last few years, Michigan has also added MEAP assessments in science and social studies. Michigan exceeds one of the requirements of the Title I statute: the establishment of a full assessment system.
However, the evaluation conducted by external peer reviewers and U.S. Department of Education (ED) staff found that, in order to fully meet the requirements of Title I, Michigan must complete the following:
- Add an advanced level of student performance to Michigan performance standards.
- Implement policies, processes and procedures for including all students in the Michigan final assessment system and including the results for all students, including the results of alternate assessments, in evaluating school, district and State measures of progress. This includes resolving coding, data definition, or analysis issues that currently may cause assessment inclusion and exclusion numbers to be inaccurate. Michigan must provide evidence that its policies and procedures for the grade 4, 7 and 11 assessments are inclusive and that they allow access to the assessments for students with disabilities (SWD) and English language learners (ELL). Michigan should provide evidence regarding the specific language of the inclusion policy approved by your State Legislature or State Board of Education. English language learners must be assessed, to the extent practicable, in the language and form most likely to yield valid results. Title I requires that, except for ELL's who have attended Michigan schools for less than one year (who may be excluded from assessments), any exemptions from testing be made on an individual basis and be based on clear criteria for language proficiency. Michigan must communicate inclusion requirements to all schools with grades 4, 7, and 11 and provide to ED the procedures and structure that the State will use to monitor implementation of inclusion procedures to ensure consistency across districts and schools. Accurate participation rates should be provided to ED for all students, including SWD and ELL, for the 2002 school year.
- Describe how Michigan has addressed (or how does the State plan to address) the alignment issues raised by the Achieve study commissioned by your State. In addition, you will need to describe the extent to which the MEAP covers the cognitive complexity of Michigan standards; the MEAP test specifications and their linkage with Michigan content standards; the standard-setting process used to establish student performance levels; and the relationship of those levels to Michigan performance standards.
- Provide detailed technical reports on the validity and reliability of the MEAP assessments.
- Describe how Michigan will disaggregate and report student performance by English proficiency status, migrant status, disability status, and disadvantaged status at the school, district and state levels.
We understand that Michigan will need additional time to meet the remaining Title I requirements. Therefore, you may request, within 45 days, a waiver of the timeline for completion of Michigan's final assessment system to assure the State's continued eligibility for receiving Title I funds. In your request, please include a timeline action plan that includes quarterly milestones. For example, you will need to specify in the timeline such things as the steps or timeframes for developing procedures to ensure SWD/ELL participation in the assessments at grades 4, 7 and 11. The action plan should also provide for review by ED of proposed procedures to increase the inclusion of SWD/ELL in the MEAP assessments and to include the results of those students in the school, district and State-level progress reports. Projected dates for board or legislative action should also be included when appropriate.
The Department's Title I staff will monitor Michigan's progress against the timeline. Failure of the State to complete activities or products as scheduled may make it necessary for this office to consider the other courses of action available to the Department. Potential actions include requiring Michigan to enter into a compliance agreement in order to remain eligible to receive Title I funds or initiating proceedings to withhold Title I funds from the State.
We will confer full approval of Michigan's assessment system upon completion of the actions described in your plan. Our Title I staff will be pleased to work with you and your staff to achieve consistency between the Title I requirements and the Michigan assessment system. We wish you well in your efforts to improve school and student performance in your State.
Thomas M. Corwin
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary
cc: Linda Brown