Allendale schools talk end of the year testing

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) — State education leaders are working to change standardized testing in Michigan in hopes of giving educators a better idea of how students are progressing in real-time especially in the midst of their pandemic style of learning.

Educators at Allendale Public Schools say it’s important to them that their students do well and that teachers have the tools they need to make sure those students are successful. 

“We feel we already have a good understanding of how our students are doing and how the pandemic has impacted their learning,” said Beth Voss, an instructional coach with APS. 

As part of Michigan’s Return to Learn legislation, districts were required to identify educational goals expected to be achieved for learners during the 2020-21 academic year. The law states that those goals locally administered benchmark assessment to all students K-8th within the first nine weeks of school and again before the end of the school year to measure proficiency in math and reading.

Voss says at APS those benchmark exams give district educators a better understanding of how students are progressing, even with varying types of instruction. 

“We’re able to see what progress are they making and be able to measure their progress whereas the state assessment like the M-STEP just measures in that given year their achievement or their proficiency, not so much progress,” she said. 

Students were not required to take the year-end standardized test last year, but that won’t be the case this year. State leaders, however, have requested the U.S. Department of Education allow those benchmark exams to take the place of traditional standardized tests. 

“It’s important for us especially this year to be able to see progress,” said Voss. 

As for high schoolers, Assistant Superintendent Julia Reynolds says the district still planned to administer the PSAT and SAT just as they did last fall regardless of whether or not a waiver was granted, because it can be a gateway to college. 

“It’s been really important to us to keep that sense of normalcy for kids and to say yes, you know you’re planning to go to college, you’re still going to go to college. College might look different with the way things are going but we want to keep that going,” Reynolds said. 

The state’s request to waive the state assessments and allow districts to use the locally administered benchmark assessments instead is still on the table. 

Allendale educators say they are still prepared to conduct traditional standardized tests in the event the waiver is not approved, but Voss added that there is a concern with how much time it will take away from learning. 

“More than ever we want to make sure that we can maximize all the instructional minutes that we have with our students and these state assessments are given over multiple sessions, over multiple days and eat up a lot of our instruction time. So, I think that bigger concern is not so much using time to prep students, but the time that will be lost to instruction just to take the assessment.”

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