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Michigan Drops Common-Core Test, But Might Still Use Its Questions

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder last week signed a budget that requires the state to administer its No Child Left Behind-era test, the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP), and not the Smarter Balanced assessment, for the 2014-15 school year. But that doesn't tell the whole story when it comes to the state's testing plans.

The K-12 budget approved by Snyder, a Republican, requires the Michigan education department to develop and administer MEAP for 2014-15, but it also has to ensure that the MEAP is aligned to the state's current content standards, which are the Common Core State Standards. I wrote about the situation about six weeks ago when lawmakers were discussing the budget language dealing with this issue.

The state education department was very strongly opposed to using the MEAP again, saying that it planned to use Smarter Balanced and that MEAP had become a thing of the past. But lawmakers ultimately disagreed, and Snyder, despite being a supporter of the standards themselves, didn't fight back to try to preserve the Smarter Balanced test.

So what comes next for Michigan, now that the Smarter Balanced test is prohibited there? MLive reporter Brian Smith reports that Smarter Balanced might survive in the state, but in a modified form. In revising the MEAP so that it aligns with the common core, the state education department would apparently be permitted to use test questions created by Smarter Balanced. Remember that Michigan, as a member of the consortium, has been involved in the development of those items. And Smarter Balanced has a policy whereby non-member states can access test items for a fee

That arrangement doesn't mean, however, that Michigan will be able to use the entire Smarter Balanced test.

In Michigan's recently signed K-12 budget, the state is required to issue a request for proposals for the new summative assessment by Sept. 1. It's unclear how that requirement will affect the use of Smarter Balanced test questions. A spokesman for Snyder said that the department can choose questions "from whatever sources it needs" in developing a revised MEAP.

When my colleague Catherine Gewertz and I created our map of states' testing plans for 2014-15, we put Michigan in the "undecided" column precisely because of the budget language regarding MEAP and the request for proposals that had progressed to a relatively advanced stage in the legislature. 

Some state lawmakers might not take kindly to the idea of Smarter Balanced surviving in Michigan through its test questions. But to the extent that lawmakers passed this new rule for testing because they opposed Smarter Balanced, it's notable that they did not follow the path of South Carolina, which in approving a bill to repeal the common core also explicitly prohibited the state from administering the Smarter Balanced test. And in case you're wondering, Michigan, unlike South Carolina, is still listed as a Smarter Balanced member.

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