Michigan To Pilot Alternative Education Accountability System

Written by: Nancy Duchesneau

Primary Source:  Green & Write February 8, 2017

Alternative education is a subdivision of the regular K-12 program. It is designed to serve students who are at risk of not graduating or who have specific needs that are not met in a traditional setting. These programs provide added flexibility and alternative instructional models to help students overcome barriers and meet the goals of the Michigan Merit Curriculum.

Current Accountability Systems Not Fit For Alternative Education

Traditional accountability systems are currently insensitive to the challenges faced by many of the alternative education-focused entities across the state. Most students in alternative education are not present long enough to be considered Full Academic Year students. Additionally, alternative education-focused entities may not have enough enrolled students at the time of the assessment snapshot to meet the minimum enrollment for other components of existing accountability systems. As a result, many alternative education-focused entities currently are not properly held accountable through existing assessment-based identifiers.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has committed to developing a new, voluntary, parallel system of accountability for alternative education programs. This system is intended to serve schools which currently are not well-served by the existing accountability framework, offering a potentially differentiated and flexible accountability. It’s important to note that this accountability system is designed with lax standards for alternative education entities. Instead, it has been designed to encourage improvement in a way that is constructive for the unique characteristics of alternative education.

Designing An Alternative Education Accountability System

The pilot was developed following a yearlong process of feedback from an alternative entity stakeholder workgroup. MDE plans to continue to engage this workgroup throughout the two-year pilot. Alternative school representatives, district superintendents and the Michigan Alternative Education Organization have provided extensive input. MDE also received feedback from other states with existing alternative accountability systems.

MDE currently plans an opt-in alternative accountability system based on application and school demographics.

  • Schools choosing alternative accountability will not receive the accountability report card, or school ranking and label.
  • A-F letter grade system; components are Participation, Proficiency, Growth, Graduation Rate and Attendance, with local data sources and social-emotional factors under longer-term consideration.
  • Alternative accountability is somewhat more growth-oriented than the traditional accountability scorecard.
  • Local data sources would have an opt-in component submitted through the Michigan Data Hub System.

MDE plans for a two-year statewide pilot followed by full implementation for 2017-18. The first run of the statewide pilot will be early this Spring, 2017. In late Fall, 2017, MDE will run a second round of the statewide pilot. In Fall, 2018, the alternative accountability system will run in tandem with the main accountability scorecard.

Keep in mind this is just one component of the state’s larger ESSA proposal. As with all ESSA components, this proposal will undergo public comment and review and there will be opportunities for interested parties to help shape this system. There are many final considerations and layers of review before this proposal becomes reality. Ultimately, however, the development of this alternative education accountability system has great potential in holding these entities accountable in more constructive ways.

By Alex Schwarz and Nancy Duchesneau

Alexander Schwarz is an Accountability Specialist within the Michigan Department of Education. Alex joined MDE in 2011 and is responsible for a variety of research, data, and policy-oriented initiatives. He previously worked as a Planner in the Strategic Planning Unit of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. He has a Master of Science in Urban Planning from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Cornell University.

Contact Alex: Schwarza@michigan.gov

Contact Nancy: Duchesn4@msu.edu

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Nancy Duchesneau
Prior to joining the Education Policy Ph.D. program, Nancy utilized her B.S. in psychology by working as a private in-home tutor and a sub-contracted tutor in public schools. Currently in her third year, Nancy’s research interests stem from the belief that education must work in tandem with other policy areas, yet must also provide a base level of holistic support to all students. Topics of interest include social-emotional learning, in-school health programs, accountability, and equity.