Received from Melanie Kurdys on March 20, 2014: *****
From: STOP Common Core in Michigan To: All concerned parents, teachers, citizens
Time to call your lawmaker TODAY! You can see from the article below, our Republican leadership is beginning to do the the right thing, pushing back on the Michigan Department of Ed, on the Common Core Assessment. You can also see, other vendors smell blood in the water and they are trying to get their company-owned solution named instead.
Now is the time for us to speak. Our legislators need to not just push back, they need to stand up! Michigan must have total control over the state-wide assessment. We must control the destiny of education for Michigan children. We can not trust outsiders who have their own agenda, be it educational politics or just money.
Bottom line, we want assessments that are not aligned to the Common Core, because, as our legislators acknowledged in HCR 0011, Common Core does inappropriate things we do not want.
So what do we tell legislators? Tell them we want: 1) Statewide assessments owned, developed and controlled by Michigan - not assessments written and controlled by consortium's or private companies 2) Statewide assessments that can be administered by paper and pencil - not assessments that require every district to invest in more computer technology 3) Statewide assessments that test developmentally appropriate knowledge - Not assessments that drive specific teaching techniques, encourage political bias or interpret student values and behaviors 4) Statewide assessments that gather student level data for use by teachers and parents and share only aggregate data beyond the school level - not assessments that share individual student data with outside entities.
We will keep you posted if specific legislation is developed.
Call as soon as you can. Call Democrat leaders as well. Teachers are very nervous about these assessments, but many feel at risk to speak out.
Thank you for all you do in support of Excellent Education!
Karen, Sarah, Deb & Melanie
March 18, 2014 MIRS:
Lawmakers Pose 25 Questions To Flanagan On Assessment Plans
As the next school year moves closer, top lawmakers are looking for answers from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) regarding the department's plans for assessing students across the state.
The chairs of the Senate and House education committees and the chairs of the Senate and House school aid subcommittees sent a letter to Superintendent Mike FLANAGAN last week, asking him to answer about 25 questions about his assessment plans.
The letter comes as MDE looks to implement the new Smarter Balanced assessments, which align with the Common Core State Standards, for next school year. But some lawmakers aren't sold on Smarter Balanced as the replacement for the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP), which doesn't work with the Common Core standards.
The concerns and uncertainty helped spur the letter from lawmakers.
"In response to numerous inquiries our offices have received from constituents, educators and state and national student assessment experts, we, the undersigned, would like to have a better understanding of the Michigan Department of Education's plan for implementing a new statewide student assessment," the letter begins.
Then, the letter goes on to ask a variety of questions. Some are specific. Some are broader.
"What is the department's comprehensive plan for statewide student assessments in the 2014-2015 school year, including interim, summative and other tests?" asks one question.
Another asks for the per-pupil and total costs associated with each test. And another asks if the state's agreement with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), which developed the Smarter Balanced assessments, is a contract or not.
"If it is true that the state does not have a contract with SBAC, do you see any legal barrier that would prevent us from requiring a state assessment other than the SBA?" another question asks.
Signing onto the letter were Sen. Phil PAVLOV (R-St. Clair), the chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Rep. Lisa Posthumus LYONS (R-Alto), the chair of the House Education Committee.
Also signing on were Sen. Howard WALKER (R-Traverse City), chair of the Senate Appropriations School Aid Subcommittee and Education Subcommittee, and Rep. Bill ROGERS (R-Brighton), who chairs the House's versions of the subcommittees.
The fifth lawmaker who signed on to the letter was Rep. Tim KELLY (R-Saginaw), who chaired a subcommittee on Common Core over the summer.
After Kelly's subcommittee held multiple meetings last year, the Legislature eventually signed off on allowing the state to move forward with implementing Common Core. But the Legislature had more questions to ask about the connected Smarter Balanced assessments.
While MDE has ranked Smarter Balanced as the best assessment option for the state, some lawmakers believe that the the assessment, which has been developed for multiple states, could limit Michigan's control over what's taught in its classrooms.
And so far, lawmakers haven't committed to providing funding for Smarter Balanced for the next fiscal year (See "GOP Lawmakers: Smarter Balanced Funding Still 'An Open Issue,'" 2/11/14).
Lawmakers have concerns about whether MDE will have a test in the field that's complete and useful to educators. There are also cost questions and logistical questions.
As Rogers said today, there's a lot of rhetoric out there and questions from members about the assessments. The goal of the Flanagan letter is to clear some of those things up, Rogers said.
"It's trying to get a little bit more information," Rogers explained.
Rogers' own subcommittees also tried to get some more information today by holding a joint meeting to talk about assessments.
Joseph MARTINEAU, MDE's deputy superintendent of accountability services, updated lawmakers on where contracts stand regarding testing. Martineau is also on the executive committee for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
Martineau said the state has contracts in place to administer, report and score the MEAP replacement for third-grade through eighth-grade. The state also has contracts for science and social studies for high school students and likely for math and English language arts, he said.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is developing the math and English language arts standards for schools in Michigan.
During the meeting today, Rogers specifically asked Martineau if the department was working on responses to the questions lawmakers had sent over.
Martineau said the department was in the process of answering the questions.
**** March 19, 2014 Gongwer below.
Testing Firms Urge Adoption Of Their Systems
Two testing firms asked House Appropriations subcommittees to give a favorable look at their offerings as the state looks to adopt systems to measure student progress during the year.
The subcommittees overseeing the School Aid Fund and Department of Education budgets heard presentations from ACT and the Northwest Evaluation Association on the benefits of their testing services, both essentially because many districts in the state are already using a version.
Carolyn Mock with NWEA said some 200 school districts and charters in the state already use the non-profit's tests to measure student progress throughout the year, among those Detroit Public Schools.
The test is computer adaptive, which means it adjust the difficulty of the questions based on the student's responses, Ms. Mock said.
"The teacher knows exactly where that student is performing and where he needs to go next," she said.
The ACT's new Aspire test is computer administered but not adaptive, Paul Weeks, vice president of customer engagement, said.
But he said the test is aligned with the traditional ACT college admissions test and work keys that are incorporated in the Michigan Merit Exam given to all high school students.
"It completes a uniform and aligned assessment system," Mr. Weeks said.
While the test will first be administered next month in Alabama, he said the company would be ready to offer it in Michigan, if the state chose, by the end of the 2014-15 school year.
In either case, the state is not completely ready for computerized testing, Joseph Martineau, deputy superintendent of accountability services, told the subcommittees. Only 78 percent of districts are currently ready for tests administered online.
"It's hard to anticipate when 100 percent participation would happen, but we hope within three to five years," he said.
In answer to questions from committee members, he said other organizations had estimated the proportion of ready districts at 86 percent, but the lower number is now the consensus figure.
"We do still believe there are sign needs to improve technology infrastructure," he said, adding only 56 percent of districts can use technology as part of everyday instruction.
In any case, the state would have to choose a test with a paper option, Mr. Martineau said. The state has a substantial Amish community, and those students are not permitted to use computers, he said.
SENATE EDUCATION: The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday reported a bill that would delay until the 2015-16 school year the implementation of teacher and school administrator performance evaluation requirements, including conditions for the use of student growth and assessment data in conducting the evaluations.
SB 817*, reported on a 5-0 vote, would also delete provisions of the Revised School Code regarding the Governor's Council on Educator Effectiveness.
Immediately following the swift action of the panel on that bill, the committee also heard from Ms. Mock about their student progress product, Measures of Academic Growth, as compared to the Smarter Balanced system associated with Common Core.
She said MAP can provide interim student assessments while Smarter Balanced cannot, and MAP can test students to see if they are academically achieving higher or lower than their grade level.
The committee had little discussion on the matter and adjourned after Ms. Mock's presentation.