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State lawmakers grill education officials on new standardized tests

test with bubble answers
User Alberto G.
Creative Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Michigan students may have more rigorous performance expectations on MEAP and other standardized tests.

Debate is underway in Lansing over which standardized test will replace the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP). State lawmakers held their first hearing on the subject Wednesday afternoon.

At the meeting, state education officials defended their decision to endorse a computer-based test known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment. They took exception to lawmakers who questioned whether the test was chosen carefully and objectively.

“If something goes wrong with the assessment, I do not want to have chosen something that is not going to give me the very best thing that I can get,” said Joseph Martineau with the Michigan Department of Education.

“I do not have an interest in an inferior product, because I have to defend it.”

Smarter Balanced is aligned with the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts, which were recently adopted by Michigan education officials and affirmed by lawmakers.

Many in the Legislature worry Smarter Balanced could threaten local control of school curriculum because it’s being developed by a national consortium. There are also concerns about the state’s ability to drop the assessment if there are problems.

“We know that once you’re in a system, it’s so hard to get out,” said state Rep. Theresa Abed (D-Grand Ledge) at the hearing Wednesday. “And we’ve seen that with No Child Left Behind. It’s something that, once you’re in, it is like getting out of a deep hole.”

Education officials say if lawmakers reject Smarter Balanced, the state risks not having an assessment to give students next spring. They say that would violate federal laws and Michigan schools could lose funding.

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