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State superintendent: Student assessments should happen more often, start younger

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.

 Michigan’s state superintendent has outlined his “vision” for student assessments, and it seems like students might be in for more big changes.

Brian Whiston addressed lawmakers from two State House education panels Wednesday.

The state currently uses the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) to measure student achievement.

This is only the second year for the M-STEP, which students take in the spring.

But Whiston, who took over as state superintendent in July, advocates a different approach.

He thinks students should be tested at least twice a year (with an optional winter test) to get a better sense of academic progress, and inform classroom instruction.

And Whiston thinks “age-appropriate” testing needs to start in kindergarten, instead of third grade.

Lawmakers also heard from representatives from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which produces a test series along the lines of what Whiston envisions.

That Measures of Academic Progress exam is already administered to 37% of Michigan students, according to the NWEA.

The M-STEP hasn’t been particularly popular during its short history.

Students and parents complained that last year’s testing took much too long, and it took months for schools to receive the results. And a state House committee recently voted to cut funding for the test.

But Whiston says the state should keep the M-STEP for at least one more school year, to ensure a smooth “transition” to whatever the next testing regimen the state decides on next.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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