Tuesday, April 14, 2015

M-STEP and opting out

Michigan has a new standardized test this year--the M-STEP.  There is a lot to be said about standardized testing and the high-stakes associated with it.  We hope to talk to you more about that in the future.  For now, since M-STEP testing is nearly upon us in Okemos, we thought we would share the option of opting out.

Your children are not required to take the M-STEP test if you opt them out of it.  In theory, the federal No Child Left Behind Law threatens consequences for schools where less than 95 percent of kids take a standardized test.  However, changes to the law have essentially made that requirement irrelevant.  Fairtest.org, Sept. 15, 2014.

Across the country, parents are increasingly opting their kids out of the test in numbers far greater than five percent.  In New York, last year more than 60,000 kids opted out of the test, and that number is expected to grow this year. The Buffalo News, April 14, 2015.  In West Seneca near Buffalo, 2,074 of 2,976 eligible students refused testing.  Id.  In another district, 1,534 of 2,740 eligible students opted out.  WGRZ.com, April 11, 2015.  Here in Michigan, some parents are opting out in Grand Ledge.  WILX.com, April 14, 2015.  Further, some parents are opting out here in Okemos.  In particular, Michigan State University Professor Mitchell Robinson, who has written on this blog before, and his wife opted their children out.  He wrote on his blog about the ease of opting out and the painless response from the district:

Having read and heard about much more hostile responses from schools around the country to similar requests, we were both relieved and encouraged by our school's reply. Not only was our request for our child to opt out greeted with respect, but provisions for our son's attendance on those days when the test was scheduled were provided without argument or hassle. The approach was understanding, positive and student-centered--everything we have come to expect from our school district.
I also believe that this response is an indication of a tipping point of sorts when it comes to the issue of opting out and school testing. More and more, teachers and administrators are understanding the negative impact of these tests on students, teachers and schools, and are joining the fight with parents and other groups advocating for a reduction in the number and uses of these tests. [wwwmitchellrobinson.net, March 25, 2015.]

It's worth noting that the M-STEP is considerably different from the MEAP you took as a child.  The test is taken on computers, and the questions are of a very different format and content.  You can see sample questions here: Michigan Department of Education.

If you choose to opt out, you should be able to accomplish it with a phone call or letter to your school.  Sample letters can be found  at United Opt Out Michigan.

Mitchell Robinson - Pull the plug on standardized testing.

By Mitchell Robinson

As a parent, I sit down and talk to my children's teachers at least twice per year at parent-teacher conferences about their work in school, and receive regular updates about their academic, social and musical development.
Mitchell Robinson

I check their homework, help them with projects and talk to them about their studies every day.

I can check their grades online any time of the day or night.

I attend their soccer games, band concerts, piano recitals, and school events, so that I know not just what they are doing, but have the chance to meet their friends and their friends' parents--many of whom have become good friends.

As a teacher, I engage in continuous formative assessment, tracking my students' progress as learners, and using the information gathered to improve my practice as a teacher.

I provide formal and informal updates on my students' development, and offer mentoring and guidance whenever asked--and often when not asked.

I know my students as persons--their strengths and challenges, their goals, their aspirations--and am fully committed to helping them achieve their dreams.

Why would I need standardized tests to tell me anything about my children, or my students when I already know so much about them?

The only purpose for these tests is to evaluate teachers and schools--even though we know that these tests are neither valid or reliable for those specific purposes--and to make millions of dollars in profits for the corporations that develop them.

Stop the madness. Let kids learn. Let teachers teach.

Pull the plug on standardized testing.

Mitchell Robinson is associate professor and chair of music education at Michigan State University. Prior to his current position, Dr. Robinson taught music for 10 years in the Fulton (NY) City School District, and held collegiate appointments at the University of Connecticut and the Eastman School of Music. Dr. Robinson recently concluded a term as Academic Editor of the Music Educators Journal, and has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Music Teacher Education, Arts Education Policy Review, the Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, the International Journal of Education and the Arts, and Research Issues in Music Education. His research is focused on education policy and the mentoring and induction of new music teachers.