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Feds Tell Michigan, "Test Limited English Students Or Else!"

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The state must start testing limited English students on Friday after federal education officials said the state school board's action to exempt some students from state tests doesn't meet federal regulations and threatens funding.

"Basically we were told if we did not assess limited English proficiency children in mathematics and reading by the end of this school year, we would suffer," Jeremy Hughes, the state's chief academic officer, told the state Board of Education on Thursday.

Hughes said the state could have lost $1 million, or 25 percent of its Title I administrative budget. Federal Title I money is designed to help low-income and at-risk students. The cut would have affected the state Department of Education's administrative staff, department spokesman T.J. Bucholz said.

Earlier this year, the board approved a resolution to give alternative tests in reading and math this spring to limited English students who did not take the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test.

Students who have been in the United States for less than three years were to be excluded from the English language MEAP tests. The board had directed the state Education Department to develop alternative tests.

But the federal department said the state must test this spring and said those who didn't take the MEAP under the January exemption resolution must be recorded with a zero score, which could negatively affect districts with large numbers of limited English students.

On Friday, four districts will administer the alternative tests, which are in simplified English: Kentwood Public Schools, Holland Public Schools, Dearborn Public Schools and Warren Consolidated Public Schools.

Officials estimated about 300 students would be tested on Friday.

The remaining districts must test by March 31.

Education board member Sharon Gire said the board needed to pass a new resolution to avoid losing Title I funds. But Gire said she was worried about how students with few English skills would handle the test -- "kids who maybe don't have a handful of words in English."

"We are concerned about what's educationally sound," Gire said.

The education department had been working on developing appropriate alternative tests for limited English students and planned to begin giving a pilot reading test to a limited number of students in March.

The tests the state will begin administering on Friday are the Stanford Diagnostic tests in reading and math with some MEAP and MEAP-like portions to align them with state standards.

Bucholz said the tests will likely get some tweaking after this but said they are a good temporary solution.

"Certainly we need to work to develop an alternate assessment," he said.

— Alexandra Moses
State must start testing limited English students on Friday
Feb. 27, 2003


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