Steve Matthews, Hometown Life
It is finally March!
February, for being such a short month, sure seemed long this year. Record snow. Record cold. I for one am glad that February has come and gone.
With March comes the hope of spring. Pitchers and catchers have reported to Florida for spring training. Even though I can’t see any blades of grass out of my office window, it won’t be long before I am mowing grass and complaining about how hot it is.
This year March brings with it a new season – the M-STEP season. M-STEP is the state of Michigan’s replacement for the 40-year-old Michigan Educational Assessment Program and the more recently adopted Michigan Merit Exam. Test administration moves from the fall to the spring of each school year. This will allow student measurement to be based upon current versus prior year learning.
As in previous years, English language arts (reading, writing and listening) and mathematics will be assessed in grades 3-8. To reflect current year testing, science will move from being assessed in grades 5 and 8 to grades 4 and 7 and social studies from grades 6 and 9 to being assessed in grades 5 and 8 to measure current year growth.
The high school began the new M-STEP test this week March 3. The elementary and middle school assessments will be given later this spring.
I believe in assessment. We need to have authentic, meaningful assessments that give us insight into what students know and what they do not yet know. Assessments help us measure student growth. They give us a perspective on our curriculum. They help us answer the question of whether or not students are learning.
But assessments need to be well-crafted and purposeful. Assessments of students are not necessarily intended to give us insight into the strength of a teacher’s performance. In my mind, we need to have a rich variety of information to determine both student and teacher performance and we should never rely on a single point to make high-stakes decisions.
In our school improvement process, teachers and administrators look at data to help evaluate if the students are learning. Assessment data provide insight into the strengths and weaknesses of our curriculum, help teachers reflect on their teaching and help schools evaluate what they can do to ensure that students are learning.
I hear complaints about the time testing takes from instruction. It is true that assessment takes time. The tests range from a total of seven hours of testing in third grade to more than 11 hours of testing in the high school. That is about 1 percent of the instructional time we provide for students over the course of a school year.
Some might argue that test preparation takes another significant chunk of time. I would suggest to you that while we are concerned with test performance in our district, what we are more concerned with is teaching a rich, dynamic and engaging curriculum. If we do that, then we do not need to spend time in test preparation. Our students will do well.
While I enjoy March, with its hint of spring, it is this year the beginning of testing season. We will get through it like we always do. And we will do well.
Steve Matthews is superintendent of Novi Community Schools. He can be reached at 248-449-1204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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