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Michigan Announces Blended Testing Plan

Michigan, whose legislature barred it from using the Smarter Balanced assessment next spring, announced Thursday that it will use a blend of homegrown and Smarter Balanced assessment items on its new test.

In a nine-page explanation of its plan, Michigan Department of Education officials said that the new assessment system, the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, or M-Step, will include some questions and tasks designed by Michigan educators, and some from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium item bank.

Last spring, Michigan enacted a budget that requires the state to use its current test, the MEAP, in 2014-15 rather than transition to Smarter Balanced. That move compressed the normal time for test development from three years to nine months, the department said in its release.

"[The Michigan Department of Education] discussed options internally and with our assessment partners to identify possible sources of content for this year's test," the release said. "The only solution found for [English/language arts] and mathematics was to use content from Smarter Balanced as it was the only resource that could truly measure Michigan's standards in terms of content and nature, was available through existing contracts, and was field-tested in Michigan. In addition, Michigan educators participated in writing and reviewing the test questions."

As my colleague Andrew Ujifusa reported last spring, the state department of education didn't want to use MEAP again since it wasn't aligned to the Common Core State Standards, which Michigan adopted in June 2010. But lawmakers insisted that Michigan keep the MEAP for 2014-15, and adjust it to reflect the common core.

To make those adjustments, Michigan has chosen in part to use some of the items from the Smarter Balanced test. Like the other 21 states in the consortium, Michigan helped develop those items, and Smarter Balanced policy allows states to use items as long as they pay a membership fee. Gov. Rick Snyder's position was that Michigan can use items "from whatever sources it needs" in revising the MEAP.

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