The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the nation’s Federal education law,) imposes a cap on the percentage of students with disabilities who can take the Michigan’s alternate assessment, known as the MI-Access. Specifically, students taking the MI-Access must not exceed 1% of all students assessed in any school year.
The 1% cap was established to ensure that only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are assigned to a state’s alternate assessment.
Yet Michigan has exceeded this limit every year – most years by double the amount allowable – requiring the state to request an annual waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.
Michigan has reduced the number of students taking the MI-Access by 6,000 students between 2017 and 2022.
|Number of students
|Percent of all students
However, this slow rate of progress – a reduction in the percentage of students taking the MI-Access of just .6 percent over 5 years – strongly suggests that thousands of students with disabilities will be inappropriately assigned to the MI-Access for many years to come. Equally important, students assigned to MI-Access are disproportionately Economically Disadvantaged, African American and English Language Learners. The implications of taking the MI-Access are many, including:
- Being instructed in Michigan’s alternate content expectations in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies rather than the state’s general academic content standards;
- Receiving a Certificate of Completion rather than a regular high school diploma, which seriously compromises a student’s post-school opportunities including postsecondary education and/or employment. A certificate of completion is not equivalent to a diploma and is not an accredited or legally recognized credential.
“For students who have transitioned from alternate achievement standards to general grade-level standards, their odds in real terms of graduating high school with a diploma have increased by roughly 22 percent, and in relative terms, have roughly doubled, and their real-term odds of going on to enroll in college within two years of leaving high school has increased by roughly 10 percent.”
The Michigan Dept. of Education should:
- Accelerate the annual decline in the percentage of students assigned to the MI-Access.
- Specifically, improvement efforts should seek to meet the 1% cap within 3 years (school year 2025-2026);
- Dramatically expand its outreach to parents in order to heighten understanding of determining how to make assessment participation determinations.