Michigan Lowers Requirements for English-Proficiency Test

Aug 15, 2017

The Michigan Department of Education has announced it will reduce the overall score students need to receive on an English-proficiency test after an earlier change made it more difficult for students to transition out of English learner status. 

Educators and school districts in the state had expressed concern over the WIDA ACCESS test's rigorous scoring system after less than 1 percent of Michigan students reached the minimum score during the 2016-17 school year, MLive reported . They said it would keep students in English learner programs longer than necessary, which would stretch thin the resources needed to serve them.

"People were very concerned that we would be unnecessarily segregating English learners by keeping themi n the English learner program when they in fact had enough skills and enough proficiency in English to fully participate in the general education classroom," said Suzanne Toohey, an English language learning consultant for the Oakland School District.

Data from the department show typically between 13 and 15 percent of the state's more than 97,000 English language learners receive an overall score high enough to transition. That number is the same as the percentage of students who received the required minimum score after the department's change went into effect.

Department assessment specialist Jennifer Paul said that the test still provides a rigorous evaluation of the students despite the lower score in effect. In addition to a minimum score on the test, students must demonstrate proficiency on state reading assessments in order to transition.

"We think we found the appropriate line to allow districts to exit students that are actually succeeding in the development of their English language," Paul said.

At least 10 other states have also lowered the minimum score students need to receive on the test to transition out of the program, according to WIDA, the consortium that created the assessment. WIDA stands for World-class Instructional Design and Assessment.