New School Accountability System in the Pipeline

February 18th, 2019

Newly-enacted MCL 380.1280g requires MDE to create a public school accountability   system, which will be implemented beginning with the 2019-20 school year. The system will apply to all K-12 public schools except center programs, strict discipline acade­mies, adjudicated youth programs, and programs that serve “any other specialized pupil population with special needs,” as determined by MDE.

Because the Section requires a minimum accountability system and charges MDE with finalizing the system by August 1, 2019, the final parameters of the system are currently unknown. Nevertheless, school officials should become familiar with the Sec­tion’s minimum system requirements, particularly be­cause each school will receive accountability results by September 1, 2019 based, in part, on this year’s perfor­mance. This Section may be subject to future legislative review because of potential non-compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Attor­ney General has been asked to issue an opinion on the matter.


In a December 18, 2018 letter to the Michigan Senate, Michigan Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles expressed concern that the Section’s contents do not conform with ESSA requirements. Alles alerted the Senate that because the ESSA requires U.S. Department of Education approval before a State changes its accountability system, the Section would result in Michigan operating under two separate accountability systems until MDE could obtain approval from the U.S. Department of Education to amend Michigan’s plan to make it consistent with the new Section.

Letter Grades

The Section requires MDE to develop an accountability system that assigns an A-F letter grade to each school in each of the following categories:

(1)  Student proficiency in math and English, as measured by applicable state assessments;
(2)  Adequate student growth in math and English on those assessments, as determined by MDE;
(3)  Adequate student growth toward English pro­ficiency by English language learners, as determined by MDE;
(4)  High school graduation rates, as reported to the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI); and
(5)  Student state assessment performance compared to state assessment performance of all public schools serving similar student populations, as determined by MDE.

The letter grades must be assigned by September 1, 2019 and September 1 of each subsequent year.


The system must also assign a ranking of significantly above average, above average, average, below average, or significantly below average to each public school for each of the following criteria:

(1)  Chronically absent students, as defined by and reported to CEPI;
(2)  State assessment participation, based on students assigned to take each applicable assessment; and
(3)  Student subgroup performance compared to statewide student subgroup performance. Subgroups include economically-disadvantaged students, students of major ra­cial and ethnic groups, students with disabili­ties, and students who are English learners.

As with letter grades, the rankings must be assigned by September 1, 2019 and September 1 of each subsequent year.

School Achievement

MDE must develop standards for identifying low and high achieving schools, which the Section calls “comprehensive support and improvement schools” and “reward schools,” respectively. High schools that graduate less than 2/3 of their students and schools that receive an F in letter-grade categories 1, 2, and 5 will be considered comprehensive support and im­provement schools. On the other hand, a high school that graduates at least 99% of its students and receives an A on those factors will be a reward school. The sys­tem cannot designate more than 5% of Michigan public schools as comprehensive support and improvement schools.

The Section also requires MDE to develop standards for identifying public schools “in any other categorization required under the [ESSA].”

The Stick

By September 1, 2019 and by September 1 every 3rd year thereafter, the State Superintendent must publish a list of comprehensive support and improve­ment schools. By December 1, 2019, MDE must develop accountability measures for those schools.

Summary Status

MDE will issue a “summary status” for each school excluded from the system (i.e., center programs, strict discipline academies, adjudicated youth programs, and programs that serve “any other specialized pupil popu­lation with special needs,” as determined by MDE). The status will indicate whether the school is legally com­pliant and whether its students are “making meaning­ful, measurable academic progress” toward educational goals established by the school’s governing body and approved by the State Superintendent.

School officials should become familiar with the Section’s minimum requirements for the accountability system to be developed by MDE. Because part of a school’s accountability score is based on information self-reported by the school to CEPI, school officials should take care in selecting reliable employees to re­port that information. Watch for upcoming refinements or amendments to this legislation, whether issued by legislative or other state administrative action. We will, of course, report those developments as they occur.