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Amid Mounting Pressures, Districts Face Changing Tests and Schedules

Following months of back-and-forth debate from the state concerning Common Core, the national set of educational standards, teachers and administrators now are preparing for a revised version of the old MEAP test to be given this spring.

The MEAP was previously given in the fall. Legislators balked in June on plans to administer the previously-planned Smarter Balance, a Common Core-aligned test.

So now, students in grades three through eight will take the The Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress – M-STEP, which is the revised MEAP. The testing schedule works like this:

  • Students in grade three and six will take English language arts and math
  • Students in grades four and seven will take science, English language arts and math
  • Students in grade five will take social studies, English language arts and math
  • Students in grade eight will take social studies, English language arts and math
  • Students in grade 11 will also take M-STEP summative assessments in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, science, and social studies.

The tests will primarily be taken online, with a paper and pencil option for schools not yet technology-ready, explained Dorothy VanderJagt, director of Teaching and Learning for Kent ISD.

The M-STEP could be replaced again in 2015-2016 with a different test that aligns with the Common Core, the national set of educational standards. The state is currently seeking proposals from companies to develop the 2015-2016 test.

High School juniors will will take the Michigan Merit Exam, which is a set of several tests, including one that helps predict college readiness, the ACT. But, school districts were just told the state would switch the college readiness exam for all high school juniors from ACT to SAT, beginning in 2016. Many schools have worked hard to align content to the ACT test, or even purchased additional resources like the ACT Aspire, to help students prepare for this test.

Now the SAT will provide the college test, giving districts little time to help students make the switch.

The former college test provider, ACT Inc., will continue to provide the WorkKeys tests, typically taken on the last day of testing for all high school juniors, according toinformation from the Michigan Department of Education. These tests qualify students for the National Career Readiness Certificate, a credential that demonstrates students can apply their academic study to the workplace.

High-Stakes Testing has Created ‘Winners and Losers’

High-stakes standardized testing has been a lightning rod for controversy through the enactment of educational programs including President Bush’s No Child Left Behind  and Adequate Yearly Progress standards more than a decade ago, President Obama’s Race to the Top initiatives, and currently because of nationwide debate surrounding Common Core.

Test scores are the determining factor on how a school performs. Proficient or not-proficient scores can affect a school’s reputation; enrollment, which is tied to school funding, and even whether a teacher is considered effective. Results are posted publicly and government-intervention and state takeovers are possible when an entire student body fails to meet standards.

The original purpose of standardized testing was to monitor how well a student is doing in school, but it’s become something different, said Kentwood Superintendent Michael Zoerhoff.

“It became a score card, a game with winners and losers, when the whole point was to get kids to be their best,” Zoerhoff said.

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Test Stress: Standardized Testing Poses Uncertainty for Teachers, Administrators

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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