BY CAITLIN DELUCA
Capital News Service
LANSING — State officials are considering whether to recommend a more advanced standardized test for students while reducing the number of years they have to take it.
The Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, M-STEP, is taken every year. Proposed changes would reduce the number of years students take it to once in elementary school and once in middle school. In grades 3 and 8, students would take M-STEP with the additions multiple times, and in other years they would take other tests.
State Superintendent Brian Whiston recently announced the proposed change and said it could help meet the Michigan Department of Education’s goal of becoming a top 10 school system in the country in the next 10 years.
The new test, as yet unnamed, would put additional focus on communication, problem solving and critical thinking.
“The Michigan Department of Education is interested in expanding on our current assessment practices to ensure we are helping Michigan students reach rigorous career/college-ready standards and also provide more timely information to parents, teachers and students about progress,” said Venessa Keesler, the agency’s deputy superintendent.
In 2016, fewer than half of students in each grade 3 through 8 tested “proficient or above” in English language arts. The exception was fifth grade, which tested at 50.6 percent.
In math, no grade scored higher than a 48.8 percent in “proficient or above” in 2016.
In science and in social studies, all grades were below the halfway mark for “proficient or above.”
The biggest benefit of these proposed changes, said Keesler, is more timely information on how much students have grown.
Schools would have updated data on progress throughout the year since students would take the test several times in one school year, Keesler said.
But some critics oppose the change.
“We’ve had too many changes over the past eight years in both curriculum and testing,” said Kay Salyer, director of general education for the Manistee Intermediate School District.
“Federal law says we have to test in third through eighth grade and eleventh,” Salyer said.
“So what they’re proposing is that we have the M-STEP once in the elementary and once in the middle school and once at eleventh, and that we have other tests in other grades and I think that change is very difficult for educators to adapt to,” Salyer said.
Aaron Keel, assistant director of government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said that group’s position is mixed.
“We’ve long been a proponent of consistency in state testing and we would encourage the use of a consistent test over time,” Keel said. “Whatever changes are made, we’re looking to stick with those changes for at least the next ten years.”
The changes have to be approved by the state Board of Education and the Legislature.
BY CAITLIN DELUCA