An annual educational activity everyone hates — but is necessary particularly in the wake of the pandemic — will roll out at the end of this school year. It is assessment. That is the measurement of learning. The COVID-19 pandemic wrecked the school year 2020-’21.
Assessment will tell us just how wrecked it is.
Education officials on all levels want to know this information, but the normal ways of getting the information won’t work, said Michael Rice, the Michigan superintendent of public instruction. That is what he told the U.S. Education Department when he asked that assessment conducted at federal levels be waived.
Changes like this require a public comment period. Nearly 300 comments were given, and an overwhelming majority, 96%, backed up Rice. I am right there with them, up to a point. That point is, the assessment is going to be conducted to the benchmark of state education standards, not national standards.
That’s not cool. Michigan is doing poorly on the education front. We used to be a premiere education state with public universities including the Harvard of the Midwest, the largest single campus medical school in the nation, and the premier land-grant university. And Black students aspired and were admitted to these schools.
But now we are an education experiment, including charter schools cannibalizing public school districts. Michigan K-12 education ranks 38 of 50 states, the National Center for Education Statistics reports. Only 50% of our high school graduates go to college.
“Over the last fifteen years,” wrote the advocacy group, The Education Trust-Mid-West, “Michigan’s relative rank has fallen dramatically in early reading and math student achievement compared to the rest of the country. Gains made by the nation are not being shared in Michigan. Data suggest Michigan’s K-12 education system is witnessing a systemic failure.”
The Education Trust-Mid-West is concerned with Michigan students, especially African-American, Latinx and poor students. The nonpartisan, data-driven education policy, research and advocacy organization is an affiliate of a national group, The Education Trust. It is supported by foundations located in these cities: The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Battle Creek) The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (Flint), Skillman Foundation, and Max M. and Marjory Fisher Foundation (Detroit) and Steelcase Foundation (Grand Rapids).
The Education Trust-Midwest said Michigan is among the worst education states in the country, worse than traditionally abysmal states such as Nevada and Mississippi.
If you haven’t heard Michigan called Miss-chi-gan, you aren’t talking about schools enough.
Let’s talk about educational measures.
Assessment is not just another test. Assessment measures where the student sits relative to where they should be. And the entire district is judged by that. It is a system by which instruction and learning is judged against a standard.
Assessment looks at both teaching and learning by requiring certain achievements of all students studying the same subject. That is called the standard. The faculty decide what students should learn and agree to teach to that. How they teach that is the educator’s business, or used to be.
In the end each student needs to know the same basic skills and knowledge. A good example is grade three reading. Michigan’s Read by Grade Three Law requires third graders be up to snuff on reading by the end of that year, or they are not promoted.
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