Mindy Leichty of Fenton Township has two kids attending Fenton Area Public Schools, but if she has her way, they won’t be taking any of the standardized tests mandated by the state.
She’s one of a small but passionate group of parents statewide who are fighting against M-STEP and other standardized tests based on the Common Core Standards, debuting this week in all public schools in Michigan.
The M-STEP (Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress) began its eight-week testing time frame Monday, the first time state testing has ever been done in the spring. It’s also the first state test to be conducted online, with 80 percent of districts online compliant, including the local districts of Fenton, Lake Fenton, Linden and Holly.
M-STEP has replaced the 44-year-old MEAP test assessing English and math in grades 3-8, science in grades 4 and 7, social studies in grades 5 and 8 and the Michigan Merit Exam for high school juniors.
Even though Leichty’s daughters, one a kindergartener and the other a high school freshman, aren’t being tested this spring, she wants to lay the groundwork now to make sure her daughters won’t even be prepped for those tests. “I’m getting into the fight against it now so that hopefully all of us parents together can stop this,” she said.
“It’s dumbing the kids down,” said Leichty, who has watched a series of videos showing Common Core Standards in action. “It took a fifth-grader 30 minutes to show her mom how to do a simple addition problem. My daughter brought homework home called ‘My Identity,’ which asked a bunch of personal questions. We’re not allowing her to do it again. It’s just nosy. It has nothing to do with education.”
One local first-grade teacher and parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “I think standards, in general, are important. We need to have them in place for guidance. However, our Constitution says schools have local control. With Common Core Standards, the parents really don’t have a say in what their kids are learning. They have to fit in this box, even though kids grow and learn at different rates. We’re so ‘married’ to the schedule of testing that there’s no time left for teachers to provide developmentally-appropriate activities. As teachers, we have to do what we have to do. But parents who don’t believe in the assessments should opt out. It’s a parent’s right to dictate their child’s education as they see fit.”
Wayne Wright, superintendent of Lake Fenton Community Schools, supports the Common Core State Standards, saying, “It makes sense. It shows what kids should have learned and comprehended at each grade level. If I have a transfer of a student from the U.P. down here, he (or she) should’ve been taught the same thing. We’ll see how the testing goes before I comment specifically on M-STEP.”
He’s had a couple of parents who have opted their children out of taking M-STEP. “I’m hoping it isn’t more than that. It does count against us as a school district.”
Dave Nuss, superintendent of Holly Area Schools, has had two phone calls from parents who wanted to opt out, “but I was able to allay their fears and now they’re allowing their kids to take it,” he said. “I’ve had two other written requests, and I’m working with those parents now.”
Each district must achieve a 95 percent participation rate or there may be an “accountability issue” for that district, according to Bill Disessa, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education.
“The bottom line is, if a parent wants to opt out their child for the test, they can do so,” said Disessa. “From our standpoint, there’s no state or federal law that allows them to opt out, but there’s also no law that says they can’t. We urge parents to by all means have your student attend school that day, take the exam so they can be measured. There are no punitive consequences for a student. Prepare well for it and have a good nutritional breakfast the day of the test. “
Common Core State Standards – what are they?
The Common Core State Standards have been in place in Michigan since 2010, adopted by the State Board of Education. They were developed to provide a consistent set of clear K-12 expectations that outline the knowledge and skills students need in English, language arts and math to lead to career and college readiness.
Michigan is one of 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and many private and parochial schools to have adopted the Common Core State Standards.
Source: Michigan Department of Education