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MDE urges districts to move third grade MSTEP test 1 week earlier

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published February 24, 2020

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FERNDALE/BERKLEY — The clock may be ticking a little faster for some third grade teachers, students and parents as Michigan Department of Education Deputy Superintendent of Education, Student and School Supports Venessa Keesler sent out two memos earlier in January “strongly urging” school districts to move up the third grade Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress a week earlier than planned.

The department memos state that moving the MSTEP a week earlier will allow parents more time to request appeals for their children if they are flagged for retention under the Read by Grade Three law. A score of 1252 or lower on the English Language Arts portion of the MSTEP would flag students to possibly repeat third grade.

The memos also strongly urge school districts to devise a plan, if one is not already in place, to send their own communications home to parents with students who are flagged for retention prior to when official communications from the Center for Educational Performance and Information are sent June 1.

The statewide testing window, which was previously scheduled for May 4-29, will now be open April 27-May 22.

While the MDE is strongly urging districts to make these changes, it is not mandatory, unless a district planned to test during the week of May 25; it would then need to reschedule its test to comply with the new window.

Following the assessment, parents will have a 30-day window upon receiving official contact from the state to submit a good cause exemption appeal, which is submitted to and handled by individual districts. Districts are required to notify families of their decision at least 30 days before the start of the 2020-21 school year.

The decision of whether or not to move the testing schedule varies by district. For both the Ferndale and Berkley school districts, they will be moving forward with the change.

“We did that because MDE wants all testing complete prior to Memorial Day weekend, so we had to scoot everything up a week in order to accomplish that deadline,” Berkley Schools Director of Communications Jessica Stilger said.

Ferndale Public Schools Superintendent Dania Bazzi said she understood the reasoning for the recommendation, in that the Michigan Department of Education wants to give schools enough time to be able to know which students possibly are facing retention so the schools have that information prior to leaving for the summer.

“MDE is in a difficult position because they have to adhere to the law, but at the same time, they want to make sure that there’s enough time before summer break,” she said.

MDE officials said they are not worried that moving the test a week earlier — and cutting into instructional time — will have an impact on student preparedness and outcomes, said Bill DiSessa, an MDE spokesperson. He said districts have had “time to prepare and practice.”

Anytime a school gives a substantive assessment prior to the end of the year, Bazzi said, that assessment should be based on what learning has taken place over the course of that year. For her, instructional time is very important, and she doesn’t think she could say cutting into instructional time would have no impact without any research.

“At the end of the day, though, do I think it changes it significantly? More likely that it does not, but I think to say that if you lose so many hours of instructional time, that it has to have some impact on it,” she said.

Stilger said Berkley’s tests are staggered enough so that there will not be testing fatigue and that kids have time for instruction blended in. On concerns from some educators about getting test results back in a timely manner, she stated that they know the testing is being moved up in order for test results to come back more quickly.

“We’re doing the best we can to comply with the MDE’s request, and we’ll respond when the testing results come back,” she said.

For more information on Michigan’s Read by Grade Three law and MSTEP testing, visit michigan.gov/mde.

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