WSYM — After the M-STEP assessment was canceled last year in the throes of the pandemic, it may go ahead this year but without much purpose.
The Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress assesses the strides students and teachers are making in the classroom, and Michigan schools rely on the results for funding from the state and federal government.
But in a school year that saw many students learning from home, educators fear they may not be ready to administer the M-STEP to students. In lieu of that state senators recently introduced a bill axing the M-STEP altogether this year, and the federal Department of Education waived the accountability measures for the test, but not the requirement that districts must actually administer the test itself.
“I have no idea what the Department of Ed. was thinking when they granted us the accountability waiver and may not possibly grant us the waiver of the test taking,” said Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association. “The federal government has aid; there’s likely going to be no waivers given for test taking.”
Essentially, there’s no tangible point to taking the test, but law requires it to take place without that additional waiver.
So, students who attend in-person classes will have to take the test, and millions will be spent crafting, printing and grading them. Educators say now is a good time to change up the conversation altogether on standardized testing. Some districts feel they’re perfectly capable of determining their own progress.
“Local districts have benchmark assessments already in place that we utilize at least three times a year,” said Tom Livezey, superintendent of Oakridge Public Schools. “Benchmark assessments are near-immediate feedback for us. Statewide assessments are given at the end of the year, and we don’t typically get those results until the summer. To truly impact instruction, we need more immediate feedback.”
The MEA feels the same.
“It’s not even apples and oranges; you’re talking about different students taking different tests,” said Herbart. “Parents are opting these students out of these tests. They want more instruction, less standardized testing.”
For now, Livezey says the Oakridge district will still facilitate SAT and ACT exams for their students, but only in person. Students who are still learning remote can schedule an M-STEP test, but so far, no one has taken Livezey up on it.
“I haven’t received a phone call yet,” he said.