standardized tests

The 2017 scores for the M-STEP — the standardized test that most students in Michigan take — have been released.

It’s a mixed bag of results, with some promising signs of growth and other areas that clearly need work. M-STEP (the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress) replaced the old MEAP test in 2015. The test is administered online, and it's designed to measure students' knowledge in math, science, social studies, and English language arts.

Test scores for Michigan’s students showed some improvements, but declines in crucial subjects.

The state’s M-STEP scores were released Tuesday. The M-STEP tests third through eighth and eleventh grade students in various subjects, including math, social studies and English language arts.   

Scores for math and social studies were up – but fewer students were proficient in English language arts than last year.

The state shouldn’t be satisfied, even where there was progress, said The Education Trust Midwest’s Director of Public Engagement, Brian Gutman.

Morgan Springer

The pressure is on for schools to improve reading scores in Michigan. Last fall, the state legislature passed the third-grade reading bill. The bill goes into effect in two years and will require schools to hold back third-graders who are not proficient readers, with a few exceptions.

Are Michigan’s schools improving? According to a new analysis of national testing data, the answer is a clear “no.”

The report, authored by University of Michigan professor Brian A. Jacob, looked at the scores of 4th- and 8th-grade students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The nationally administered test measures for proficiency in reading and math.

Morgan Springer

The pressure is on for districts and teachers to have their students reading proficiently. That’s after Michigan’s third grade reading bill passed this month. The bill says that students who don’t read well by third grade might be held back. It would take effect in three years. So for schools that are struggling, that means turning things around fast. There’s a grade school near Traverse City that has been trying to figure out how to do that.

 

While several grades made progress in certain subject areas, at least half of Michigan students still scored below “proficient” in every single section of the 2016 state standardized test – that’s math, science, English Language Arts, and social studies.

This is only the second time students have ever taken the M-STEP (Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress) since it was first rolled out in the spring of 2015.

The state has rejected ACT’s claim that Michigan unfairly switched its free college entrance exam to the SAT starting in spring 2016.

ACT protested two aspects of the bidding process. It said the state changed the timeline of the proposed contract and penalized ACT for having a writing portion. It says both of those things unfairly benefitted SAT.

State officials say they reviewed those concerns carefully.

The ACT is appealing Michigan’s decision to switch its eleventh grade standardized test to the SAT.

The state gives high school juniors a free college entrance exam as part of their state assessment.

The ACT claims the state’s bidding process unfairly favored the SAT. For example, it said ACT lost points because it includes a writing portion.

State officials say they made an extra effort to make sure the bidding process was fair.

Eleventh grade is a pretty stressful year for kids. There's the ACT (which will soon be replaced by the SAT). There are college tours to schedule, and applications to complete.

And the stress level is about to to get amped up. That's because Michigan's high school juniors face a much heavier load of testing this spring.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey joined us. She reports on education for Bridge Magazine. Jeffrey Bohl also joined us: he's the principal of Lakeview High School in Battle Creek.

What might the lame-duck legislative session hold for Michigan schools?

This is the time lawmakers often make a big push to pass pet bills and there are several in play right now that could mean big changes for students and teachers.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey, reporter for Bridge Magazine, and Michelle Richard, senior consultant for Public Sector Consultants, joined us today.

You can listen to our conversation with them below:


Jake Neher / Michigan Public Radio Network

Michigan education officials are in the process of finding a new standardized test… again.

More than a hundred people were in Lansing Wednesday to tell the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) what they want out of a new assessment.

MDE had already chosen the Smarter Balanced assessment three years ago. But many lawmakers were not happy with that test because it’s aligned with the controversial Common Core school standards.

In 2011, state lawmakers passed a measure that was designed to toughen up Michigan's teacher evaluation system. The idea was that a teacher who repeatedly got poor evaluations could be fired.

How do you measure a teacher's effectiveness? 

One big way is to determine how much students learned and grew during the school year, and that is done through academic testing. 

But, three years out, the Legislature hasn't managed to agree on how those evaluations should be conducted, or even which test should be used to measure student growth.

And, left twisting in the wind, are school administrators, principals, and teachers who are wondering which standardized test they're supposed to start giving this fall. 

Brian Smith joined us to give an update on where things stand as this school year winds down. He's the statewide education and courts reporter for MLive.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

You don't have to hunt too far to find critics of our schools, of the way our children are learning, what they're learning and the achievement gap within our classrooms.

There are countless ways, countless statistics that try to measure the problems. Here's just one, centered on the achievement gap. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, on 2007 standardized math exams, white fourth-graders performed better than black fourth-graders in all 46 states where results are available.

And we hear a steady drumbeat of criticism that students here in the U.S. are lagging behind their peers in other countries. When you look at standardized tests, American students rank 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math, which puts them behind students in Poland and Slovenia.

How much pressure should we put on individual teachers to fix these problems?

Natalie Davis, Alistair Bomphray, and Martha Curren-Preis are teachers who are all earning their Ph.D.s in education at the University of Michigan. They joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

Traverse Bay Intermediate School District

Michigan students are improving in most subjects. That’s according to results released Friday from last fall’s Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test.

Education officials say they are most encouraged by gains in reading.

How do you best measure the progress of students in Michigan's classrooms and, by extension, the effectiveness of their teachers?

It's one of the thorniest challenges being debated in Michigan education.

For years, the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) and the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) have been the assessment tools. Now, with the move to the Common Core Standards, it's out with the MEAP and MME and in with the what?

Districts around Michigan are gearing up for an online adaptive assessment test in the spring of 2015.

The Michigan Department of Education says the state has only one option for testing students on the Common Core State Standards for the next three years.

And that option is the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the SBA.

But state lawmakers haven't made that official.

We wondered how districts  are preparing for the SBA or whatever test they're told to administer next year.

William Heath is superintendent of the Morrice Area Schools and the principal at Morrice Junior and Senior High School located in Shiawassee County. He joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lawmakers in Lansing have begun holding hearings on which standardized tests Michigan students will take next spring.

The state has already decided to replace the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests and educational officials have endorsed the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

In the coming months, you’ll likely be hearing a lot about the politics of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Some lawmakers say the test takes away control from local curriculum because it’s being developed by a national consortium.

Public Sector Consultant’s Michelle Richard joined us today to discuss the new test.

Listen to the full interview above.