Why We’re Worried About Assessment Changes…And Why You Should Be Too

Last week, Ed Trust-Midwest summarized the highlights, and lowlights, of the proposed state budget. One of the concerns that we raised centered on language that would require the Michigan Department of Education to change state tests for the third time in six years. So why are we concerned?

Currently, Michigan uses the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP). The test is rigorous, has been independently verified to measure our academic standards, and provides data that can be compared with multiple states. The result is a clearer picture of how our students are actually doing.

Students take the test once each year in grades 3-8, requiring about seven hours of total testing per grade (typically spread out over multiple days). While any change in state tests should be carefully considered, the current timing is particularly concerning, because:

  • A Setback to Improvement Efforts: Any time a state changes tests, there is a disruption and transition for students, teachers and administrators. Adjusting usually take 3-5 years.
  • Derailing of Teaching Quality Efforts:  Three consecutive years of consistent data is needed before beginning to make decisions or draw conclusions, for example for use in an educator evaluation and feedback system.
  • Derailing High Standards, Accountability and Aligned Data:  This fall will be the first time that Michigan can use assessment data for school accountability purposes in three years; another assessment change will mean at least three more years without accountability data.
  • Student Learning Must Matter: The end goal of accountability is to improve student learning. Yet the budget language would require the state to use the fewest test questions possible to produce building level data. As a result, student scores will be less reliable and less detailed. Parents could lose important information about whether all groups of students in a building are well served. It is also unclear how smaller schools, often in rural communities, would be impacted.

Michigan has spent much of the last decade redoing our state assessment. If we hope to become a top ten education state, we need to stop the constant change in Michigan classrooms and give students and teachers the space to improve teaching and learning. Unfortunately, this proposal pushes Michigan in the wrong direction.

Report: Michigan Lacking in Transparency for Career and College Readiness

A new fifty state analysis of public reporting on career and college readiness gives Michigan mixed marks and shows many areas of needed improvement. The analysis, published by Achieve, Inc., looks at state reporting on eight factors that provide parents and other stakeholders with information on whether a school is preparing their students to succeed.

These factors include a college- and career-ready assessment, such as the SAT, graduation rates, the percentage of students earning college credit while in high school, as well as data on recent graduates, including postsecondary enrollment, remediation and persistence.

Importantly, the analysis also considers whether states are reporting information about groups of students within a school, in addition to school-wide averages, and the timeliness of the data reporting.

In order to address challenges within our educational system, we must first actually know how Michigan students are doing. While Michigan has made improvements in recent years, this analysis shows that we still have a long way to go.

Noteworthy News

Capital Update

The legislature is expect to take final action on the state budget this week for fiscal year 2017-18, sending the budget to Governor Snyder for his consideration.

No education-related committee meetings are currently scheduled for next week. For an updated committee schedule, click here

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