By CAITLIN McARTHUR
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan is having a hard time figuring out how to assess its grade-school students. Beginning in March, third through eighth and 11th graders will take the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, or M-STEP — the third version of the statewide assessment in as many years. And the Michigan Department of Education says this test is just a stopgap, to be replaced next year. The testing confusion is part of the controversy surrounding the Common Core State Standards, a voluntary set of national standards developed cooperatively by state governments and implemented in 46 states, including Michigan, which adopted them in 2010. Many experts say the Common Core places a welcome value on critical thinking skills.