Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Change of the M-STEP Due to Public and Teacher Feedback

Teachers, parents, and students often felt powerless when it came to government-mandated standardized tests such as the Michigan Student Test for Educational Progress (M-STEP).
It was difficult for teachers and parents to understand if the amount of time spent on standardized testing was necessary and beneficial to students. Hours were taken away from teaching and learning time last school year in order to administer the M-STEP. This was a problem.
The M-STEP was also an online test. This took computer time away from teachers and students who needed them for instructional and learning purposes. This was another problem.
There were also technology problems such as software failures, which also ate up teaching and learning time.
Teachers across the state had issues with the M-STEP. Many felt that standardized tests were an unreliable and inaccurate measure of student growth.
Standardized testing increased stress and wasted time, creating a toxic environment that hurt teacher and student morale.
Educators argued standardized tests should not be on the cutting edge of education because it promotes teaching to the test, which can impede, rather than promote, learning.
Alternative assessments such as observations, performance tasks, and portfolios should also be used to measure and improve student educational progress.
Frustrated teachers and parents of Michigan finally demanded less time for standardized testing and more time for learning. They’d had enough.
Time for a Change
After listening to public opinions, complaints, and feedback, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) shortened the length of the M-STEP.
This shows the importance of teachers’ voices in education policy. As a Michigan Educator Voice Fellow, I play a role in the engagement between Michigan teachers and the MDE.
Teachers need to be respected as other professionals. They need to have a say in education reform efforts.
In Michigan, lawmakers seem to have accepted the importance of teacher input when developing education policies. Most states have projects similar to the Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship to teach teachers the best ways to make an impact on education in their states.
All teachers have valuable experiences and insights from the classroom that could be shared to help shape and influence education policy.
Support for Teachers Who Lead
The Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship provides support and training for teachers and administrators who want to share their experiences and insights with local, state, and federal policymakers. Fellows learn how to effectively engage policymakers and the public through blogging, social media, and public forums.
All teachers should start a blog and share their education stories and initiatives on social media. This would enhance the teaching profession in addition to building a stronger professional learning network (PLN).
Most bloggers do not get paid. They do it because they want to share their experiences. We can improve education with better communication systems. Teachers need to celebrate and encourage innovation in schools.
Teachers seem to be “sharing people” by nature. Better communication systems would allow more opportunities for teachers to connect, engage, and collaborate with each other.
New teachers need to have coaches and mentors to help them learn the ropes. Such collaboration can assist with professional development and improvement. All schools should create a professional learning community (PLC).
Edtech Help
The effective technology resources available for communication in schools are endless. There are Twitter Chats everyday allowing teachers to collaborate with each other and share their united voice. Voxer Groups are an excellent way to communicate within a PLC or PLN.
Technology resources can also be used to involve parents and community partners. Such a strategy can improve school culture by increasing communication about expectations and student progress. It is essential for teachers and parents to communicate and work together to close achievement gaps and improve attitudes in schools.

Teachers, administrators, and community members are all needed to play a role in education reform and policy decisions. Communication is the key to creating and maintaining high-quality schools.