Speakers tell MDE what new student assessments should look like

Last week during a public hearing, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) heard a variety of opinions on what the state should do next when it comes to statewide student assessments. State Superintendent Mike Flanagan told the crowded room that fairness-both for students taking the test and for teachers whose evaluations will be based on student scores-is key.

For 2015, MDE had planned to replace the MEAP with the Smarter Balanced Assessment which is better aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). But the new state budget approved by lawmakers orders MDE to instead develop a new MEAP test which will be given in the spring of 2015. The new order says CCSS must be incorporated into the MEAP and MDE must send out a request for proposals for a brand new test to be given in 2016.

The 2015 MEAP is expected to align with CCSS and cover what students learned in the 2014-15 school year. English Language Arts and math will be assessed in grades 3-8 and 11; science will be assessed in grades 4, 7, and 11; and social studies will be assessed in grades 5, 8, and 11. The test will be online with a paper and pencil option.

Speakers at the July 30 hearing echoed Flanagan's desire for fairness and called for an end to a "punitive cultures of standardized testing." Most speakers supported replacing the MEAP, and said that any test used should provide teachers and students with actual data delivered in a timely basis. 

Other speakers wanted no part of the MEAP or Smarter Balanced, instead suggesting the state adopt the ACT Aspire College and Career Readiness System. Like Smarter Balanced, the ACT is an assessment program that measures student progress in CCSS.

A teacher speaking on her own behalf said, "I want the state to stop and take a breath and think about all the things people have asked that test to do. Is there truly an instrument out there that can do that well and do that fairly?" 

MEA President Steve Cook submitted his comments in writing.

While ACT and other vendors are expected to be a part of the bid process for a new test, MDE said Smarter Balanced will not be entering a bid. Bids are expected to go out Sept. 1. A coalition has been established to develop the RFP, evaluate the bids and choose the new assessment for 2016. 

If you weren't able to attend the July 30 hearing, the deadline for having your voice heard is tomorrow, Aug 5. You can FAX your comments to Joseph Martineau, Superintendent of Accountability Services at  517-335-1186 or email them to 2016assessment@michigan.gov. There is also an online survey/comment athttp://www.surveymonkey.com/s2016assessmentsurvey