Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 5, 2014

Michigan lawmakers balk at new standardized test

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Lawmakers are balking at plans to give Common Core-based exams to kids in Michigan schools next school year, pushing for a pause of the tests expected to replace assessments the state has used for nearly 45 years.

The legislative pushback against Gov. Rick Snyder, the state Education Department, business community and some education groups leaves in doubt what standardized test will be given to some 800,000 students in grades 3-8 and 11th. And there's little time to resolve the conflict before legislators finalize the next state budget in a month.

At issue are plans to administer tests to align with new uniform national education standards known as Common Core. For almost four years, Michigan has participated in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two broad groups of states developing companion tests to the Common Core standards.

The standards spell out what math and English skills students should have at each grade, and are designed to develop more critical thinking skills than traditional school work.

The Smarter Balanced exams will have questions requiring written responses as opposed to just multiple-choice answers, so students' writing and problem-solving skills are better evaluated. The computer-adaptive tests will be given online so the difficulty of questions changes based on student responses and to provide quicker results intended to give teachers meaningful feedback along with scores comparable to other states.

After vigorous debate last year, the Republican-led Legislature let Michigan continue transitioning to the new standards despite multi-dimensional opposition from conservatives and some liberals. But lawmakers hesitated over funding the Smarter Balanced tests expected to replace Michigan Educational Assessment Program exams. Their concerns remain.

A bill pending in the House would order the state to create new MEAP tests for English and math next academic year — while still aligning with Common Core — and to request bids for alternative tests for 2015-16 and beyond. Senate legislation includes no funding of statewide assessments for now, also seeks a new bidding process and specifies criteria the new test must meet.

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