Debates persist on best way to assess schools

Capital News Service
LANSING — What’s the best way to measure school performance? Standardized testing? Which tests? How often? Michigan is awash in contentious disputes over whether to repeal the basis for its standardized tests (Michigan’s Common Core standards), questions about the Common Core-based testing system, threats to close low-performing schools, the possibility of cuts in federal education funding and debates about the very effectiveness of statewide standardized testing
Education experts remain at odds over what educational success in Michigan would look like, how to best measure that success and how to achieve it.

State may ask to change school tests again

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.

Experts offer praise, advice for governor’s focus on reading

Capital News Service
LANSING — Education professors in Michigan praise Gov. Rick Snyder’s push to improve third graders’ reading skills, but they caution against adding new tests or retaining struggling students. Snyder’s 2016 budget calls for $48 million to get students reading at grade level by third grade, which means focusing on reading proficiency when they’re younger. “I’m certainly very pleased that the governor has proposed additional funding for early reading instruction,” said Gary Troia, an associate professor at Michigan State University who studies teacher professional development in literacy. The transition from third to fourth grade is particularly crucial in a student’s development of learning abilities, Troia said. “After third grade there’s a fundamental shift in instruction,” he said.