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common core

There’s a war raging in Lansing over the future of academic testing in Michigan.

Last fall, Michigan school kids took what was supposed to be their last MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) test, ever. The state was pushing forward with a new kind of assessment, based on a set of standards called Common Core.

State Republicans weren’t so thrilled, for lots of reasons. We’ll get to those in a minute.

user alamosbasement / flickr

Some of the leading figures in education around the state and the nation got together on our airwaves to talk about high stakes testing today.

Jennifer White guided conversation between an illustrious group that included Diane Ravitch, Dan Varner from Excellent Schools Detroit, Amber Arellano from Education Trust Midwest, researcher and University of Michigan professor Brian Jacob, Columbia University professor and researcher Valerie Purdie Vaughns, New York City public school principal Julie Zuckerman, education historian Tracy Steffes, and our own Dustin Dwyer

The difference between a high-stakes test and just a run of the mill standardized test is of course that a high stakes test has consequences attached to it. These consequences could be for the student (exams like the ACT and the SAT are certainly high stakes for kids who want to go to college). But since No Child Left Behind it is teachers and schools that are more likely to feel the consequences of students not performing well on tests. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

  Today, the state legislature may expand the Educational Achievement Authority, the state run district for failing schools.  Earlier this week it seemed as if a piece of legislation might pass that would keep third grade students from moving on to fourth grade if they failed a high stakes reading test.

A new report by research and advocacy organization Education Trust Midwest was released in an effort to focus legislators attention on some things the group says were missed in the recent flurry of education reform efforts. The group wants to see more of a focus on several things, but the main focus of the report seems to be on:

  • getting teachers ready to implement the Common Core State Standards and the new Smarter Balanced tests that go along with it. The move to the Common Core and the assessment is supposed to begin next year.
  • More state support for a teacher evaluation model  that can be implemented around the state. Right now there is a state model, but it lacks implementation.

Frankie Riley and Emily Rau can tell you all about their own school's educational philosophy, but don't know much about the common core. Their school has has little trouble implementing the standards thus far.
Sarah Alvarez

A brief update on exactly where the state stands with the Common Core State Standards to refresh our collective memory is probably in order.

Michigan’s Board of Education has adopted the educational standards designed for students across the country. But last spring the legislature, concerned primarily, although not exclusively about local control, made it impossible for the state to spend any money implementing the Common Core. At the time, Governor Snyder essentially said policy makers would revisit the issue in the Fall.

Well, it’s Fall. 

'The standards are now starting to catch up'

Schools all over Michigan are back in session and integrating the standards into their classrooms, eager to get students ready to be tested on the new standards possibly as early as 2015.  As for the politics, state lawmakers are likely to revisit the standards tomorrow.

The Michigan legislature last week passed a budget that stripped funding for implementation of new "common core" education standards. The standards are an attempt to get states on the same page when it comes to evaluating students. The Washington Post dives into why Tea Party groups now see the Common Core standards as a major issue, and why they're fighting the standards across the country.