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Another State Facing Major Uncertainty Over Common-Core Tests

Michigan has become the most recent state to face significant uncertainty about its assessment plans under the Common Core State Standards for the 2014-15 school year, with legislators essentially telling the state education department to go back to the future for its state test next year.

What do I mean by that? Language approved by both the Michigan House and Senate, in separate school-aid bills, would require the state to develop a new version of the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) for both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. The MEAP is the state's current assessment program, and it is officially slated to be replaced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test in 2014-15.

According to a legislative analyst for the Michigan House, Bethany Wicksall, districts would be required to use this new MEAP test in order to qualify for state funding. For the 2016-17 school year, meanwhile, the state would have to seek a different summative assessment, although the language doesn't prohibit the state from selecting Smarter Balanced for 2016-17. 

The proposal hasn't yet reached Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican. But with both chambers of the legislature essentially refusing to financially support Smarter Balanced, there's a serious chance that the test could be scuppered in Michigan, despite state Superintendent Mike Flanagan's adamant stance that MEAP's time in Michigan is over.

The legislature's refusal to accept the test would be a remarkable turn of events—the co-chairman of Smarter Balanced's executive committee is Joseph Martineau, the executive director of assessment and accountability at the Michigan education department.

And remember, last year, the state enacted a temporary freeze on spending money on both the common core and Smarter Balanced, until lawmakers ultimately allowed that spending to continue. The Michigan department also issued a report stating that Smarter Balanced remained the best choice for the state's assessment needs.

At the start of the year, when I wrote about state legislative sessions, I highlighted how lawmakers might use the budgetary process to dictate whether certain common-core assessments were used or not. The quote I used from Dan Thatcher, an analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, seems particularly prescient when thinking about the present situation in Michigan, as well as Louisiana: "It's around assessments where states will make the biggest changes. The budget is probably one of the best levers that legislators have to influence the direction of this."

For a summary of the language approved by both the Michigan House and Senate prepared by state Senate analysts Kathryn Summers and Cory Savino, see below:


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