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In defense of testing

Re: The Detroit News’ June 17 letter, “New tests pose challenges”: As a high school teacher, it is my responsibility to make sure that my students are prepared to succeed when they graduate. This includes implementing and facilitating Michigan’s higher academic standards, and assessing student learning to measure progress and inform instruction. After all, tests don’t end at high school graduation.

It is going to take time to introduce the students to the new assessments, including the M-STEP and SAT. In addition to local assessments — which take place in all kinds of ways, every day — it is also important to measure learning from student-to-student, classroom-to-classroom, and school-to-school. This is the role of our state assessments.

Change is difficult, and there is no question that our teachers and students have been expected to adapt to many changes to our education system in recent years. While it will take some time to adjust to new tests, like M-STEP and the SAT, they are looking to see whether our students can apply what they are already expected to learn in the classroom. It is also worth noting that the ACT WorkKeys, which is taken by high school juniors, has not changed.

High-quality assessments provide feedback on whether your student has mastered the skills and content that they are expected to have learned. Both the Michigan and ACT WorkKeys standards provide the “what” skills and content students should develop and master to become lifelong learners, excellent readers, writers, and mathematically sound for a career, college, and life. Newer assessments can better measure the ability of a student to read, analyze, write, and solve problems, and record that in real time using online technology, or a paper-pencil test.

Gone are the days in which students can just get by through reading a one line question and choosing or guessing the answer. The biggest change; students have to show how they got to the answer. There it is; the new assessments ask students to show their work.

Just as stronger learning standards and more rigorous assessments demand more of our students, preparing for this type of assessment also requires more from our classroom teachers. More focus and rigor has to be present in the classroom. Delivery of instruction may need to change or improve, incorporating formative assessments, spending more time providing feedback, and staying focused on building literacy and mathematical skills using the subject that they are certified to teach.

Regardless of the name of the test, it is about the students applying their academic skills to show that they have achieved and reached the targets embedded in the standards. While these changes may be difficult, they are helping to make sure that more of our students are prepared to succeed.

Rachel Snell, teacher and instructional coach

Bay City Central High School

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