M-STEP results elicit different responses

M-STEP results elicit different responses

Ninotchka Valdez, Editor-in-Chief

During the month of May, the graduating class of 2016 took the first Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) administered at RHS on a computer. It was created to replace the 44-year-old Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP). The district provided an overall report on Dec. 18 and individual student reports were provided to students.

Along with the release of the data, the district cautioned parents and others about comparing the MEAP results and M-STEP results because they are two very different tests that measure different standards, with the M-STEP addressing the more rigorous Common Core State Standards. According to the Executive Director of Elementary Education Michael Behrmann, the overall scores for RCS remain above the state and county averages.

RHS principal Mr. Neil DeLuca discussed the M-STEP results.

[The M-STEP] results can definitely show room for improvement, but it was our first time taking the test so there are a lot of variables that could impact our results,” Mr. DeLuca said. “But it’s not something that I could say reflects our student population based on data from other tests.”

Mr. Deluca also explained some difficulties they found in terms of analyzing the results.

“Usually you could go off past data to see where you’re at and to set a goal,” Mr. DeLuca said. “With [the M-STEP], it seemed like we were focusing a lot on tests logistics and nuts and bolts and not the the test content, whereas now, we see the nuts and bolts and the structure of the test and we can focus on the content more.”

There is less of a data gap for this year’s juniors, who will take the SAT, WorkKeys and M-STEP tests on April 12-14, because they took the PSAT in October and Mr. DeLuca explained how teachers can use the data to help prepare students for all of the standardized tests.

“[Students will perform better on the SAT because] I think a lot of our instruction that we do relates to the Common Core and the teacher focus on Common Core correlates with the PSAT and the SAT suite,” Mr. DeLuca said. “Because the PSAT and SAT are aligned, I can use the data from the PSAT and SAT to make instructional enhancements.”

Mr. DeLuca explains how the PSAT and SAT data is easier to use to generate focused instruction, whereas the M-STEP is a one-and-done test.

“Juniors took a PSAT in October, and they take the SAT in April or March. I can [then] look at the data from the PSAT and see what we need to improve on in order to improve on the SAT,” Mr. DeLuca said. “The M-STEP is just a one time flash. The students take the test and it’s done. There’s nothing to correlate it with.”

Senior Amanda Szczesniak spoke out about the differences in the testing methods, and how taking a standardized test on a computer instead of pencil and paper may have played a role in how students treated the test.

“I feel like people would have tried more if it was on paper,” Szczesniak said. “We are so used to taking all of our tests on paper that by taking it on the computer, more effort had to be put forth in order to use some of the tools, such as in math.”

Senior Andrea Cremonesi agrees.

“[The M-STEP] didn’t seem as serious, I guess,” Cremonesi said. “The ACT is very clinical. You’re in a room, and there’s just a clock and a teacher. It’s just very strict. By doing it on a computer, it makes it seem less important.”

In regards to how the test could be altered in order to change how the students treat it, Cremonesi believed more emphasis to do well should have been implemented.

“If we knew that [the M-STEP] counted for something, [we would try harder],” Cremonesi said. “Like you need an ACT score to get into college, but the M-STEP was kind of like ‘hey, let’s take a test that doesn’t matter at all.’ They need to stress what’s important about it, like what’s it gonna do for us.”

Szczesniak had a different idea.

“Maybe some sort of recognition [would lead students to try harder],” Szczesniak said. “Maybe at the Honors Convention they have before graduation, some people could be named for reaching above a certain percentile.”

Mr. DeLuca spoke about how M-STEP preparations would be done within the classroom.

“I can’t say that we’re going to prepare for the M-STEP, but I think that when we prepare our students for the SAT, which is what we’ll begin to do in the classrooms beginning in February, it will only enhance our M-STEP results,” Mr. DeLuca said. “It’s difficult because right now, students are taking the M-STEP online, on a computer, and it’s very hard to prepare them for that when we only have five labs. [So the question is] how do you run students through that unless they’re doing it on their own?”

Media center specialist Julie Harris and counselor Kelly Messing-Mirabito are going to meet with all juniors through their English classes from Feb. 1 – 5 to help them get signed up for a Khan Academy account and get their PSAT scores linked so they can get targeted practice, which will help them improve scores on any standardized test.

“Right now we have a team of teachers working on ways to enhance student involvement in replicating an environment that might look like the M-STEP and one of those is Khan Academy,” Mr. DeLuca said. “Although Khan Academy is really directed towards the SAT, it would help students perform in a virtual setting [where they would be] reading a timed summary and then maybe answering questions that go along with it.”.

Mr. DeLuca believes in utilizing incentives for students to prepare for and do well on standardized test. Those incentives will include getting raffle tickets for test prep in the classroom and after school, as well as participating in SAT Question of the Day.

“Some of those incentives might be gift cards,  drawings, raffles or t-shirts,” Mr. DeLuca said. “I know those are goods where people will say ‘wow, they’re really tying goods with student performance,’ but I know that an incentive motivates people inherently.”

Mr. DeLuca also sees alterations to the date when the M-STEP will be administered as a significant factor in how students will perform on the test.

“I’m definitely in support of doing the M-STEP during the SAT testing suite, [which is] that three-day period,” Mr. DeLuca said. “It’s very important because I think students are very focused on testing at that point and the school setup is focused on test taking at that time period. I think teachers are prepared to do classroom activities as well as talk about testing strategies whereas in May, it was totally off the radar.”