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Reports from Policy Analysts

Consequences for Students Who Opt Out of the M-STEP

Submitted On: Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Analyst: Roberts, Leslie/Oakland Community College

Consequences for Students Who Opt Out of the M-STEP. 

The Ann Arbor Board of Education has been at odds with parents in June 2015 over students who opted out of mandated standardized assessment.  In the spring of 2015, the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (MSTEP), with content from both Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium and Michigan created content, was administered (primarily online).  It is considered a one-year “stop gap” test to replace the former MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) as the state moves to common core and a revised version of the MSTEP.  Michigan law requires schools to administer the test and provides no opt out option.  The Ann Arbor Board of Education’s position was that if too many students opt out, it could have a negative effect on funding and lower ratings in the state’s performance measurements and accountability scorecards. Some principals across the state had expressed concern earlier in the year that the time required to complete all the assessments would be disruptive, particularly at the secondary level.  A parent group had been recommending more community discussion before mandating MSTEP testing.   Parents objected to the content, length, and form of the online assessment; some at the school board meeting noted the amount of time for testing was disruptive.  A significant number of the students opted out, at least 100 of whom were at application based schools and magnet programs. The board initially crafted a policy that would remove students who opt out of mandated testing from any application/magnet programs, which parents saw as retaliatory.  Consequently, the board removed the specific redress of students who opt out in just those schools, and instead approved a policy that requires all students to take mandated assessments, with a more vague consequence for those who opt out: namely, the board “may take actions deemed appropriate to protect the district.” 

One of the most interesting aspects of this conflict was the high number of informed parents who attended the meetings (over 300 in mid-June).  Parents were also concerned about contract negotiations and unfair labor practices filed by both the Ann Arbor teachers union and the Ann Arbor Board of Education.  Overall, the community sentiment in June was that that the board should align with what they deemed “community values” not what they perceived to be “Lansing’s” values.

Community college faculty in Michigan might consider these developments as they are faced with placing students into composition courses from this point forward.  With the demise of ACT’s COMPASS, and Michigan’s shift from administering the ACT to administering the SAT to high school juniors, two-year colleges will need to revise placement assessments to address these changes.  With so many changes at the secondary level, and a public increasingly aware of the controversial aspects of standardized testing, more community colleges may consider some form of directed self-placement.

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