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Education Trust-Midwest logo    Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce logo


October 10, 2016


Members of the Michigan State Board of Education,

As you consider plans to comply with the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), our organizations wish to convey our strong opposition to replacing the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP).  Once approved by federal leaders, Michigan’s ESSA plans will guide much of our state’s most important systemic improvement strategies for years, including honest and aligned assessment and public reporting systems that inform Michiganders how well our schools are performing.

Aligned, coherent, quality state assessment systems signal to parents whether or not their child is on track to acquire the essential critical thinking skills they’ll need for the 21st century global economy. Quality assessment systems can also ensure that all students are being held up to the same high standards and expectations.

Moving in the wrong direction could have devastating repercussions on teaching and learning in our state.

Our recommendation is for the MDE to continue with M-STEP as Michigan’s statewide summative assessment, particularly for grades 3-8, and report the M-STEP results using the SBAC-determined scale to ensure comparability with other consortia states. There are several reasons for our recommendation to keep M-STEP as the state’s summative assessment, including:

  1. Michigan stakeholders’ ownership and commitment to M-STEP: More than 140 organizations worked in collaboration across the state over the past few years to support the full implementation of M-STEP, which is aligned with the state’s college- and career-ready standards. Education, business, civil rights and parent organizations came together to support this critical lever for school improvement.  Michigan teachers also provided extensive input on the development of M-STEP questions. We ask the State Board of Education to respect this genuine collaboration and effort, which spanned more than four years.
  1. Full Alignment with Michigan’s standards – and the new federal law. The M-STEP is fully aligned with state standards for teaching and learning. This is essential for quality implementation – and for dramatically raising student achievement, as leading states demonstrate. Meanwhile, ESSA as passed by Congress in 2015 requires that states use assessments that are aligned to their standards.  An assessment that does not fulfill that essential requirement could risk Michigan’s federal dollars.
  1. Honest and comparable school information for Michigan stakeholders. Access to comparative data about Michigan student performance has long been a weak spot in the state’s public education landscape. For several years, it was difficult for Michiganders to know how the state was performing compared to other states due to the MDE’s decisions to set low cut scores for proficiency rates on the MEAP, and the MEAP’s lack of comparability with other state assessments.[i]  M-STEP provides such comparable data to nearly of 20 states, and brings greater transparency and honesty to school data and report cards for parents, teachers and leaders.
  1. Quality Support for Educators, and Accountability for Schools. In many districts and schools around the state, educators have been preparing to implement college- and career-ready standards since their adoption in 2010.  Changing the summative assessment would disrupt important early momentum in implementation, as well as delay feedback to educators on their practice. Indeed, a switch to a new assessment would delay for years the implementation of the state’s new educator support and evaluation system, which has been credited in large part with making Tennessee among the nation’s top-growth states for early literacy.  Finally, a change in assessment would delay school accountability for years to come.   Michigan cannot wait to implement the improvement levers that have been so effective in leading education states.

In short, college- and career-readiness for every Michigan student is crucial to the state’s economy, its talent base, and to improving its public education system.  Reaching that goal starts with reliable data and quality implementation — all of which requires an aligned, high-quality, nationally benchmarked assessment system. The M-STEP provides that for Michigan students, schools and employers.

We ask you to ensure the state continues its use for summative assessment for grades 3-8.

Thank you for your consideration. We welcome the opportunity to continue the dialogue and work with you on this important topic.



Doug Rothwell

President & CEO

Business Leaders for Michigan



Sandy K. Baruah

President & CEO

Detroit Regional Chamber



Amber Arellano

Executive Director

The Education Trust-Midwest


Rick Baker, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, signature

Rick Baker

President & CEO

Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce


CC: Brian Whiston, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Governor Rick Snyder
Rep. Amanda Price, Chair, House Education Committee
Rep. Tim Kelly, Chair, House School Aid Appropriations Subcommittee
Sen. Phil Pavlov, Chair, Senate Education Committee
Sen. Goeff Hansen, Chair, Senate School Aid Appropriations Subcommittee
[i] “Becoming a Leader in Education: An Agenda for Michigan,” The Education Trust-Midwest, 2011.