CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, MASSP reported that schools had to submit their goals to MDE no later than September 15, 2021. We have since been informed by MDE that “The goals do not [need to be] submitted to the department. The template in GEMS/MARS is available for districts/schools/buildings to use, if they wish, but the submission button is only if a district would like to access the document through the platform in the future.  At this time, again, there is no [mandatory] submission of goals [to MDE]. However, districts must present progress on the goals to their board in February and again before the end of the year – these presentations need to be posted on the district website.” We apologize for any confusion. The article below has been corrected to reflect this new information. Additionally, Kent ISD was kind enough to share this FAQ with us if you are looking for additional information.

Last week, MASSP reported on a new requirement in the School Aid Act for the 2021-22 school year that requires schools to develop and track progress toward "education goals" beyond what you already include your SIP/DIP reporting (though there is no requirement that these additional goals be different than what is in your SIP/DIP). We outlined the requirements for these new goals and indicated some areas where we still had questions and had asked MDE for clarification (in particular, how these requirements apply to high schools). MDE responded quickly to our questions and this week we are able to share some important clarifications and further information that Principals and other school leaders should know.

First, to recap very briefly what we outlined last week, while there are several statutory requirements that apply to these goals (see our earlier article for the full breakdown), the major points that schools leaders need to know about these goals are that:

  1. They must be developed not later than September 15, 2021. They do not need to be submitted to MDE, though submission through the GEMS/MARS platform is an option. Instead, districts must present progress on the goals to their board in February and again before the end of the year and then post this information to their district website.
  2. MDE is strongly encouraging districts to use existing goals to meet the legislated requirements of this section (MDE stressed this heavily in their communications with us).
  3. The goals must be developed in conjunction with all teachers and school administrators of the school (even more reason to reuse previously established district or building goals).
  4. The law requires two sets of goals: end-of-year goals and mid-year goals.

Second, we asked MDE three specific questions about how the statutory requirements apply to high schools where students aren't taking benchmark assessments. Pur questions and their answers are provided below:

Q1: The statutory language requires that the goals "be measurable through a benchmark assessment," but high school students, by and large, do not take benchmark assessments and the state only mandates benchmarks K-8. May high schools set goals that are not measured by benchmarks?

A1: Basically, yes, the statute allows schools to set goals that simply "include increased pupil achievement" (MCL 388.1698b) instead of goals based on benchmarks. To quote MDE: "...a school may already have academic achievement goals, and the department encourages the school to use these goals if they meet the requirements of the legislation. In short, the school should have goals around student achievement, and if measurable through a benchmark – even local benchmark – that should be included. If no benchmark is required for a grade or subject, or appropriate for a student, then the goal should still be in place for achievement.

Q2: The language of the statute isn't entirely clear whether these school-level goals that are not measured using benchmark assessments should be measured "in the aggregate and for all subgroups of pupils broken down by grade level, student demographics, and mode of instruction." Does progress on all goals have to be disaggregated?

A2: Per MDE: "Depending on the goal and the data available, the statute says presentations should include “…each school's progress toward meeting the educational goals…” and “…information presented under subdivision (a) is disaggregated by grade level, by student demographics, and by the mode of instruction received by the pupils to which the information applies.”  MDE believes that schools should be looking at all student populations when reviewing progress. With that said, it is understood that some of the student group breakdown may not be available for all goals. Districts/schools should be as transparent as possible when reporting their progress and posting their reports to their website.

Q3: The statute requires one school-level goal to measure mid-year progress, but mid-year goals may pose a problem at the high school where there may be no mechanism for measuring overall student progress mid-year. Do high schools need to have mid-year goals and, if so, what are acceptable ways to measure progress absent benchmarks.

A3: In short, yes high schools have to have mid-year goals, but they can be measured using local assessments or other non-assessment means of progress monitoring as available. To quote MDE: "...section 98b clearly outlines each building should create goals. These goals may already exist through strategic planning, continuous planning, and improvement planning. A mid-year check-in on progress is not extensive to ask. If a school is using a benchmark or local assessment, the goal should be easily monitored and reported upon. If not using an assessment, the goals should, at minimum, be aligned to student achievement."

Third, MDE offered some other important information that Principals should note:

  1. Information on a school's progress on these goals does NOT get submitted to the department. Instead, the information must be presented to the local board of education during two different regular board meetings (see subsection (1)(a) of the statute for details) and posted on the district's website under the transparency reporting link. The only thing that gets submitted to MDE are the goals themselves not later than September 15, 2021.
  2. The goals template that MDE was required to create (optional for a district to use) is now live on the GEMS/MARS website. It is linked from the login screen, so you don't even need a GEMS/MARS login to access it. You can also follow this link to go there directly. The screenshot below shows what the goals portion of the template looks like. From MASSP's perspective, MDE did a nice job making this as easy as it can be.

Goals Template
Don’t delay, according to the MDE’s memo your school goals need to be developed not later than September 15, 2021 and are expected to be achieved for the 2021-22 school year. The statute further requires these goals need to be made in conjunction with all teachers and school administrators of the school.

View the Memo