Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Legislature considers moving testing out of Ed. Dept, to Treasury

Last week a plan surfaced to move control of student testing from the Michigan Department of Education to the Michigan Department of Treasury.  Ostensibly the move is meant to put the testing in the hands of a more responsive department, but even Republican lawmakers have acknowledged it's really little more than political payback.

The Department of Education has been planning on administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) next year in place of the venerable MEAP.  In part, the move is to satisfy federal guidelines which the current MEAP does not meet.  Some lawmakers would prefer a new MEAP that meets the federal guidelines, but the Department of Education has said it cannot create a new federally compliant MEAP in that time frame.

At least one Republican lawmaker acknowledged the move was not really about policy or the administration of the test:
"Optimally, it should be at the department of education, but I see this as a timeout for bad behavior," Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) said. [MLive.com, May 21, 2014.]
This is not a new idea.  Under Governor Engler Treasury oversaw the MEAP from 1999 to 2003.  On the Treasury's watch, the MEAP scoring and distribution of results saw long delays. 

Further belying any legitimate policy reason for the switch, there has been suggestion that having usurped control of the testing, Treasury farm implementation of the test back out to the Education Department.

The State Board of Education is established by Michigan's constitution and it's members are popularly elected.  Conversely, the Governor appoints the head of the Treasury.

The State Board of Education issued a unanimous statement condemning the move:
“Removing responsibility from the Michigan Department of Education for any of these elements would weaken the framework schools need to improve student outcomes for all children, and will undermine efforts to help our highest-risk children succeed in school,” the statement said. [The Detroit News, May 27, 2014.]
That State Board of Education has both Democratic and Republican members.

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