by Brian Cloyd

Despite modest gains, the data from the most recent M-STEP assessment, released by the Michigan Department of Education this week, show that Michigan’s performance is still pretty poor. It’s clear that the vast majority of our students are not getting what they need to be successful in school or after they go on to college or a career.

But while that news is hard to take, the good news is that Michigan students and teachers have risen to the challenge of this more rigorous assessment.

And getting honest data is key to making progress down the road. I know sports is not always the best analogy, but “Moneyball,” the best selling book from a few years ago, made this point very well.

One thing we’ve learned from competitive athletes at all levels over the last 15 years is that everything is counted and evaluated. Every player has a batting average, pitchers have earned run averages, fielding opportunities are analyzed, and every play of every game is reviewed statistically.

This is an opportunity for us to do the same thing with education. Good teams improve because they know where they stand, they know where they’re doing well, and they know where they need to improve.

This is an opportunity for us to do the same thing with education. A solid assessment like the M-STEP, which was years in the making and extensively reviewed by teachers, administrators and experts, gives us the kind of honest information we can use to see how our students are growing from year to year, and how Michigan’s schools compare with those in other states. It can give teachers the data to understand their students better, and will help administrators provide appropriate support to their teachers.

Scores will likely continue to improve over the next few years, as students and teachers become more familiar with the test and receive better support on Michigan’s high academic expectations. It’s really important that we continue to work hard to improve the scores going forward.

Right now, the most important thing is that we need to stay the course. We’ve asked a lot of our students, parents, teachers and administrators over the past couple of years, and we need to give them time to meet and exceed our higher expectations.

Unfortunately, leaders at the Michigan Department of Education seem to be considering a move to a different test. Students and teachers need stability, and everyone – especially parents and policy makers – deserves timely and reliable data.

It is critical for Michigan to continue providing honest and transparent data on student learning and school performance. A high-quality assessment like M-STEP provides us with reliable information that can help improve classroom instruction, accelerate students’ progress and help make Michigan a top 10 education state.

Let’s stick with it.

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