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Michigan Department of Education seeks to add "innovative assessment" to standardized testing

Students sitting at desks in a classroom with a teacher at the front of the room
The Michigan Department of Education asked federal officials to allow some school districts to create their own assesments instead of taking the statewide ones.

Standardized testing may become less standardized for Michigan students.

The Michigan Department of Education recently asked federal department to allow up to 5 percent of Michigan school districts to create what they are calling "locally-determined innovative assessment systems."

In their proposal, the department says qualifying districts could essentially create their own test, and then choose to use these new systems in place of the statewide assessment, the M-STEP.

M-STEP is currently administered to Michigan students in third through eighth grade, and then again in eleventh grade.

The idea is still in its very early stages, and many of the logistics of the program— including what constitutes a “qualifying district” — will not be determined until after U.S. Department of Education approval is given. Andrew Middlestead, the Director of Educational Assessment and Accountability for the Michigan Department of Education, says talking to interested school districts will be crucial throughout the process of developing the new program.  

“I think next steps, if we get the green light on this, [are] to really sit down with some districts that might be interested to flesh out some options and some systems about how we might roll this out,” Middlestead says.

“What we would like to do is partner with districts to see what they have, listen. There might be some great options that we want to look into, and there might be some that are not exactly what we’re looking for.”

According to Middlestead, the state would still want locally-determined assessments to accurately measure what students are learning in their classes, as well as provide a way to hold schools accountable for student success— a major component of M-STEP and other standardized tests.  

Middlestead hopes this will offer school districts increased flexibility. Especially in districts where schools use competency-based learning models, which focus on the mastery of one concept in a curriculum before moving onto the next, he thinks this new program will more accurately test student progress.

“I think just the fact that we're willing to listen and look for innovate options, I think says that the Department of Ed here is really interested in being open and looking for new opportunities to make our assesment system more engaging and more innovative for today's students."

The department hopes to hear back from federal officials by the end of the summer.  

Maya Goldman is a newsroom intern for Michigan Radio. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, where she studies anthropology and writing. During the school year, Maya also works as a senior news editor and podcast producer for The Michigan Daily.
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