Press Release

ROYAL OAK, MICH. (February 5, 2014)  — Today the Education Trust-Midwest testified to the Michigan legislature in support of the state’s plans to implement a new college- and career-ready state assessment system – and higher Michigan standards for teaching and learning – during the coming school year of 2014-15.

“Michigan’s new assessment system will provide us a powerful driver to transform our public schools’ teaching and learning – and ensure all of our students are college- and career-ready for today’s globally competitive knowledge economy,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of Ed Trust-Midwest, a statewide education research, information and advocacy organization focused on raising achievement for all Michigan students, especially the most vulnerable.

“Michigan students and educators also need – and deserve – honest, comparable information about how well our public schools are serving our children,” Arellano said. “Our new state assessment will provide that to our families and schools. This is a game-changer for our state.”

ETM shared criteria for supporting a new state assessment system. The full criteria and testimony can be found on ETM’s website. Among the criteria which ETM provided:

•    College- and career-readiness:  A state assessment system that is designed to measure performance against the fullest possible breadth and depth of our college- and career-ready standards and assesses workplace readiness, to give parents and educators a clear idea of how well prepared their children are for the modern workplace and college.

•    Comparable Information:  An assessment system that shows how Michigan students and schools are doing compared to their counterparts in other states around the country.  “This is critical in a state that had terribly low standards for years,” said Arellano.  “Comparability will guard against that.”

•    Complex Knowledge and Rigor: The new state assessment system should not just assess basic facts. Rather, it should cover the full range of content and skills in our new standards, including whether students can understand complex ideas; complete tasks that require higher-order thinking skills; and explain their thinking through performance tasks, such as essays.

•     Michigan-friendly: An assessment system that well-supports the state’s evolving school accountability and public school reporting system, and educator evaluation and support system. It also should allow our state to use paper and pencil tests for an interim period, to give schools time to adapt. And Michigan should retain control of data generated by the assessment.

ETM also cautioned against state leaders allocating budget money to be used to support one state assessment for educator evaluations and to measure student performance, and another to measure student growth for school accountability purposes.  Such a move would result in unnecessary additional testing time for students, and unnecessary additional assessment costs for the state to bear.

In addition, such a scenario would result in an incoherent, unfair and confusing individual and collective state education accountability framework for principals, teachers, and district leaders around the state.

“Our state’s planned new assessment system will generate far more reliable, helpful student growth data than Michigan has ever had,” said Sarah Lenhoff, director of policy and research for the Education Trust-Midwest.  “These rich new data will help educators and schools tailor interventions and learning strategies for students, even in their K-3 years.  If developed and funded appropriately, we will have such a system in place by spring of 2015.”

“We need to make sure this new K-12 data system is done right; and that the system is aligned with the Michigan Department of Education’s plans to ensure that we have coherent statewide school data and accountability systems, for both individual educators and for schools and districts,” Arellano said.

To read more about Michigan’s opportunity for a transformative new K-12 data system, see Ed Trust-Midwest’s piece in Bridge magazine co-authored by Amber Arellano, Teresa Weatherall Neal, Audrey Spalding, Michael Rice, Ray Telman, Jon Felske and Harrison Blackmond.

The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan’s only statewide, non-partisan education research, information and advocacy organization focused on what is best for Michigan students. Our mission is to work for the high achievement of all students, particularly low-income, African-American, Latino and American-Indian students in Michigan, and to provide honest, reliable information to our state’s families and policymakers.