Guest Column

M-STEP results not a reason to switch

September 9, 2016
| By Rick Baker |
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Talent is a top priority for the business community, and during the past few years, Michigan has made great strides in establishing the components of a strong educational system that will allow our students to succeed.

This included replacing the antiquated MEAP exam with one that is better aligned to our college-and-career-ready standards: the Michigan Student Test of Education Progress (M-STEP). This change was made with support of the business community, school groups, the Michigan Department of Education and state board of education.

The 2016 M-STEP results released Aug. 30 show we have more work to do to ensure Michigan students graduate high school prepared for the knowledge economy.

The success seen in other states proves Michigan can improve educational outcomes for all students. We also have seen good, reliable data as a key ingredient to this success.

Unfortunately, the Michigan Department of Education is considering changing the Michigan assessment once again. If this change occurs, Michigan runs the risk of assessing students on three tests within a five-year span.

Strong organizations — whether private or nonprofit — rely on the use of key performance indicators. The strength of these indicators is enhanced when the same data points or metrics are collected year after year. Any performance system requires repeatable and reliable information.

It takes at least three to four years of data collection before data — in this case test scores — can be used to inform decision making. That is why it is imperative for Michigan to continue providing honest and transparent data on student learning and school performance. Our educators and school administrators need reliable data, so they can properly assess and make intelligent adjustments to maximize student learning. Continuing to use the M-STEP as a high-quality, end-of-year assessment will provide the important information that can help improve instruction and our student outcomes.

If Michigan changes direction, we run the risk of losing almost a full decade of reliable data — leaving us accountable for our students and families. We can’t afford that. For Michigan and our students to remain competitive with the 21st century global economy, we must stay the course.

Rick Baker is the president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, and Kevin Stotts is the president of Talent 2025.

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