MI schools starting new online standardized testing

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the first time in 44 years, Michigan students won’t be taking the MEAP test; instead, they are preparing for a new online standardized test.

Students in 3rd through 8th grades and 11th grade began taking the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, or M-STEP, on Monday. The M-STEP aligns with the state’s academic standards and also includes content from the multi-state Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The test is administered online, but some schools completed a waiver to use hard copy forms.

Grand Rapids Public Schools is one of the districts that is administering the test completely online.

“The big difference between the MEAP and the M-STEP is that instant data. That’s something that we value. The teachers can get that immediate feedback. The students get that feedback, and the teachers can then use that to help frame the instruction that they’re going to provide for those students any given year,” GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt said.

The M-STEP measures understanding in math, English language arts, science and social studies. It also includes the Michigan Merit Exam in 11th grade. Unlike the MEAP, it is taken in the spring rather than the fall.

“The fact that they’ve now shifted that to spring is going to make it a more fair and even playing field and it gives teachers more time to work with the students and do the refresh. The teachers can catch them up over the summer and then get into that grade-level learning fro the rest of the school year,” Helmholdt said.

GRPS began using the M-STEP test Monday. Officials from the district said they didn’t experience any problems.

“It’s going great. We had a feeling this was going to go smoothly as we’ve been doing our own online testing for more than three years now using the MAP test or NWEA; something that’s done three times a year. We knew this transition was coming. The Michigan Department of Education has been remarkable to work with, and they’ve helped provide support and it’s going very smoothly,” Helmholdt said.

Rockford Public Schools will begin testing for the 5th, 8th and 11th grades on Tuesday.

“Being new, there’s always some concerns. It’s different reading from a piece of paper or a booklet than it is on a computer screen and navigating that so those are some challenges that we faced,” said Tom Hosford, the principal of Rockford Freshman Center and the district’s testing coordinator.

One quarter of Rockford schools will be taking the test online: Roguewood Elementary, Cannonsburg Elementary, East Rockford Middle School and River Valley Academy High School. The other schools in the district will stick to hard copy tests.

“The goal is that we would like all of our students to take it online next year. Through this bond, we’ll be purchasing devices that will help with instructional technology in the classroom and be able to utilize those with our testing as well,” Hosford said, referring to a bond for technology, building and security upgrades that passed in May of 2014.

GRPS will ask voters in November to pass a $175 million bond, with $10 million dedicated just for updating technology.

The Michigan Department of Education has invested $145 million over the past three years for education technology in Michigan.

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