Michigan could be the next waiver state headed for high-risk status, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The state may even see its waiver pulled—or at least not extended—by the end of the summer.
The problem? Like Washington state, which just became the first to get its waiver revoked, Michigan doesn't require that assessment data be used in teacher evaluations. And, like Washington, Michigan will need to seek a legislative change to include them.
So why are we just hearing about Michigan now?
The answer is complicated. Michigan's waiver was approved—with no strings attached—through 2013-14 because the Wolverine State required student growth on state tests during the pilot phase of its teacher evaluation system, which took place in the 2012-13 school year. Michigan didn't need any additional legislative authority until the 2014-15 school year, which is when the system is slated to be implemented statewide. So essentially, the state was all set for the period covered under the original waiver. Plus, the state adopted official guidelines that included student growth based on state assessments, which were okayed by the department in 2013.
Still, the department's approval letter made it clear that the need for new legislation could eventually be a big roadblock for Michigan. Or, in Education Department-ese: "ED understands that [Michigan] is seeking additional legislative authority and that [Michigan] is committed to keeping ED apprised of its continued work in this area of its request. Please note that Michigan's ESEA flexibility request remains approved through the 2013-2014 school year subject to MDE obtaining authority to ensure that each LEA develops, adopts, pilots and implements teacher and principal evaluation and support systems consistent with the State's guidelines."
So the department is keeping a close eye on Michigan, flagging the need for legislation in a recent monitoring report. If the state doesn't get the legislation it needs by the time the department must decide about a waiver extension, the department may put the Wolverine State on high-risk status, according to the department. The state would get a couple of months to enact the fix, since Michigan's legislative session is year-round, a department official said. If the authority doesn't come through in time for the next school year, the Education Department could pull or decide not to extend the waiver, the official said.
What's more, Michigan lawmakers are wrapped up in another issue that could have implications for the state's waiver status. Right now, Michigan, like other states is field testing the Smarter Balanced assessment, a test developed by one of two consortia funded by the federal government. But, according to the Detroit News, at least one key state lawmaker would rather see Michigan retool its current assessment, the Michigan Educational Assessment, or MEAP, to align with the federal requirements. One of the problems with that, according to state chief Mike Flanagan? The MEAP isn't able to gauge teacher performance. Much more from the Detroit News here.
For the record, there are three other states on high-risk status, all thanks to teacher evaluation issues: Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon.