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Michigan standardized testing show pandemic setbacks

standardized testing photo
Pixabay | CC BY 2.0
Standardized testing

Michigan standardized test results released Tuesday showed gaps in students’ learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, with state education officials noting lower than usual participation rates.

Children in third to eighth grade and 11th grade take the M-STEP test. All grades saw a decline in the percentage of students testing proficient or better in math from 2019 to 2021. Sixth-graders saw the biggest drop at 6.5% less students testing proficient or better in math.

A similar decline was seen in social studies. Students in third through seventh grades saw a decline in English language arts scores, while eighth and 11th grade saw improvements.

The state Department of Education noted that participation in different subjects in the M-STEP ranged from 64% to 72%, making comparisons to previous years tricky.

Michigan schools administered the M-STEP test in-person this spring after the U.S. Department of Education declined to waive testing requirements for the 2020-21 school year, as it did for the 2019-20 school year.

Schools in wealthier districts with the resources to offer more in-person instruction and accommodate a safer in-person test-taking experience were more likely to have higher testing participation. The Michigan Department of Education asserts that groups of students who are historically lower achieving did not have the opportunity to participate at the same rates as some groups of historically higher achieving students.

“The 2020-21 school year was such an uneven year with high health risks for students and staff, inconsistent technology, and variations in teaching and learning across the state,” State Superintendent Michael Rice said in a news release. “Any analysis of M-STEP results must factor in low participation rates in state testing.”

Michigan took steps to reduce inequalities between school districts by creating a 2022 state budget allocation of $17.1 billion that aims to create more equality in per-student funding between school districts.

Also Tuesday, Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative released a report on benchmark data, but also provided insight on the M-STEP test. According to the report, third graders — who are subject to a state law that requires schools to identify those within that grade with reading and writing struggles — saw a significant decline in participation.

The report says 96.5% of third graders took the M-STEP English language arts portion for the 2018-19 school year, while only 71.2% took it for the 2020-2021 academic year. Black students were the least likely demographic to take that portion of the M-STEP, the report said.

Also, economically disadvantaged students were less likely to participate than their non-economically challenged peers, the report said.