Michigan Slow to Comply With Federal Education Law

PRESS RELEASE: Michigan Slow To Comply With Federal Education Law

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.

YearNumber of students
taking MI-Access
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:

As stated in Michigan’s request for a waiver to exceed the 1% cap for 2022-2023:

“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.”

Policy recommendations
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.