Letter: Give Michigan schools flexibility in testing

Re: Our April 24 editorial “Give Michigan schools stability with testing”: If the Michigan Department of Education were to continue the use of the two-year old M-STEP assessment, it would be a backward leap for Michigan’s schools and children.

In 2001, the Federal No Child Left Behind Act mandated annual standardized testing for all American students in grades three through eight and 11. Since then, educators, parents, communities, and lawmakers have come to accept single, annual test results as the be-all and end-all of student potential, school accountability, and teacher effectiveness. This mindset is rarely questioned.

For engineering students, standardized tests assess performance well. But asking artists, who may be equally yet uniquely brilliant, to demonstrate their knowledge on the same test is both impractical and nonsensical. Despite some with vast knowledge and demonstrated aptitude, a standardized mathematical and language arts assessment cannot adequately measure capabilities.

Standardization makes sense in several areas of life, such as bridge construction, disinfection and sterilization in health care facilities, traffic signage, 911 emergency systems, and water treatment. However, it does not make sense when it comes to measuring the intelligence and potential of children.

The new Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) allows states flexibility in student assessment, teacher evaluation, and school accountability. It is incumbent upon Michigan to embrace this flexibility in order to move our educational and assessment systems into a post-standardization era. It is time that the assessments utilized to measure the intelligence and potential of future engineers, welders, dancers, civil servants, computer programmers, and neurobiological psychologists match the technological, scientific, and research advancements of the 21st Century.

Standardized testing is the enemy of creativity and personalization. It is inaccurate and exclusionary in its intent and capacity. In the 21st century where innovation, critical thinking, and perseverance are at a premium, Michigan should abandon the M-STEP.

Rod Rock, superintendent

Clarkston Community Schools