mstep-testing-parents-guide

It’s beginning to look a lot like testing season here in Michigan. State-testing begins next month for Michigan’s public school students. This a parent’s guide to M-STEP testing from a teacher’s perspective.

A Parent's Guide to M-Step Testing Title picture
What is the M-STEP?

The M-STEP tests are our yearly state-wide assessment in Michigan that measures how well a child has mastered the common core standards at their grade level. Essentially, the M-STEP is the old MEAP tests you may remember taking if you were in the public system in Michigan.

When does M-STEP testing begin?

Children in grades 3-11 will be given some form of a state assessment. The window for M-STEP testing begins in April and ends in June. The state dictates when each test will be given for each subject and for each grade level. Essentially, tying up a schools technology for the remainder of the school year.

What subjects are covered? 

It truly depends on the child’s grade level. Children are “required” to be tested over English-Language Arts which covers Reading, writing, listening, and research. In grades 5 and 8, there are two parts to the test. There is the computer test and a performance task. Grades 3,4,6, and 7 have just the computer test.

This test is a computer adaptive* test given at grade level. It’s key that you as parents understand this test is NOT given at your child’s individual reading level, but at their grade level. So if your child struggles with reading, this test will be an extra challenge for them. There is ZERO assistance from the teacher. They cannot help the child in anyway. No reading words, very limited help on student questions, and no defining words they don’t understand. Yes, accommodations can be given if they have a 504 Plan OR an IEP, but I will explain more about those later.

*A computer adaptive test will adapt to each individual child’s level. For example, if a child gets so many right, the questions will get harder and the opposite happens if they miss them. The test questions will get easier. Please don’t miss understand this though… the test questions regardless of level will still ONLY remain inside the child’s GRADE level. It will not adapt beyond grade level for children who excel and it will not come down grade levels for children who may be working below their grade level. It still is NOT a true representation of a child’s knowledge.

Children are also tested over math in grades 3-8 and it also is a Computer Adaptive test. It also contains a performance task on the computer which means children are asked to preform a question in order to show what they know. For example: children could be given a number problem and then they need to drag the correct number from a number box and insert it into the problem.

Science tests which are simply online multiple choice questions are given 4th and 7th grades. Social studies are also online multiple choice questions are given in 5th and 8th grades.

Who takes the M-Step?

M-STEP testing is required for students in grades 3-8th grades in public and public charter schools take the tests every spring. Non-public schools can elect to take the M-Step test, so this includes any private schools. Homeschool parents can also elect to take the test, but I’m honestly not sure why you would. I gathered this info from here.

What about High School students?

9th and 10th grade students take the P-Stats and 11th grade students take the MME which includes the SAT and M-STEP math and English Language Arts. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of info on these tests because I have no previous experience at the high school level.

What about Test Results?

First let’s begin by who scores the tests. Well, that seems to be a mystery at least to me. Michigan’s Department of Education’s website offers no links and after a quick google search the only info I seem to be finding is info about how schools preformed on the test. Hmmmm… interesting?

Is it the computer scores the test? If so, who is in charge of double checking the computer is scoring accurately? If not, then who? I know some test companies hire people specifically to score tests because I’ve actually personally have applied for these type of jobs since being home as well as have seen the ad on job search websites. If you have found info on this, drop the link in comments. Personally, as a parent I’d like to do more research on this. As a teacher, we were never actually told, but I do remember having to tell my students to remember they don’t who would be scoring their writing, so be detailed as possible.

When does test scores get released? 

The scores are released much faster now due to the online component. However, they are still released at the END of the year, so how is this really helpful for teachers. In my opinion, it’s not. The teachers won’t be able to adjust their teaching to help each individual student or group them because the year will be over.

What does the test results mean to parents?

Well, let’s look at test scores first. The children are scored on 4 levels. Not Proficient is the lowest score and this means the child is not performing near grade level. Think of this as a D grade. The next level is a Partially Proficient and this would be like a C grade. This means the child is slightly below grade level. The next level is Proficient, so this would be like a A. The child is mastering grade level content.Finally, the last level is advanced and this means the child is excelling past grade level content.

The thing about M-STEP testing results is neither the teachers nor the parents receive the exact questions they missed, so they can help the children with the concepts they missing. This also means we don’t know which ones they preform well on, so we can challenge them more in this area. The only thing both parents and the schools receive are info on the numbers. In fact, if your child takes the test you can be expecting a piece of paper printed with 4 different colors. Yup, in a world where budgets are tight the school will print out one test result paper on color for each parent. This seems like a crazy waste to me… but that’s my opinion.

Test Results for the parent's guide to Mstep testing
How to read test scores from the MDE

What If My Child Has Special Needs?

The M-STEP testing does allow for accommodations such as the computer reading some testing items, multiple day testing, testing in special ed setting, testing in small groups, and many others. This should be outlined in your child’s IEP.

There is also a different version of the test for those who children who are functioning much lower than grade level. This test is called the MI-Access.

However, I would just opt out my child from M-STEP testing altogether.

Can I opt my child out of testing?

YES and YES at least in Michigan! In fact, I highly encourage you to consider opting your child out, but first check with your state and district requirements. We have chosen to opt out our oldest. The process was very simple. Check out our blog on the process here.

The opt-out form for state testing
My best advice to you as a parent is educate yourself about state testing through your own research. Then consider what is best for your child. It’s our job as parents to stay informed and advocate for them.

I would love to hear what other questions you have or what other info I should add to our parent’s guide to M-STEP testing?

Resources:

http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,4615,7-140-22709_70117—,00.html

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homeschool-preschool-routine

We recently made the decision to homeschool my kiddos instead of placing them in school. Along with starting my own nursery school in our home, I can make sure my toddler is getting the skills she needs for development. This is our homeschool preschool routine.

Our Homeschool Preschool Routine
We use free play inside and outside along with book time and other explorations. Explorations are planned activities by me, but are not worksheets. They can be anything from painting, exploring the library, hiking at our local conservancy, nature art, play dough, etc. I try to keep the Explorations as open minded as I can.

So here it is….

Our Homeschool Preschool Routine

*This is the homeschool preschool routine of our day and not a ridged schedule. We are pretty flexible with the exact times we do things, but the routine still offers consistency and routine for the little ones.

6-6:30 wake up, meditation, set intentions

7:00- Breakfast, To Do List for the day

Breakfast as part of our homeschool preschool routine
Followed by: Get dressed, brush hair, and brush teeth

Brushing our teeth as part of our homeschool preschool routine
Next is mommy and me yoga

Read books togetherReading books together as part of our homeschool preschool routine
Then comes Free Play Inside (Inside now because it’s winter and it’s usually colder in the mornings. However, outside time in the spring, summer and first part of fall.

Free play as part of our homeschool preschool routine
Inside play time with our PVC pipes

 

Wash up and snack time around 9:30

Followed by our Exploration…

Some our favorites are coloring, playdough (Check our leaf and playdough exploration here), nature crafts (Check out our homemade bird feeders here) and visits to our library.

11:00 is nap time which allows mama time to prepare lunch and get a little work done.

12:00 is lunch time

Followed by outside time

Outside playtime as part of our homeschool preschool routine

2:00 we come in and get washed up for snack time

2:30- Quiet Time which usually means cartoons.

3:30- Free Play Inside

4:30- Mama prepares dinner while she plays with daddy.

5:00- Dinner Time Together as a Family

6:30- Bath, Get dressed, Brush Hair and Teeth

7:30- Book and off to bed

I included times which usually are rough estimates of when we do things. We don’t keep a set schedule, but live in a flexible routine. Thankfully this works for my daughter.

Our schedule is about to change as I am preparing to head into the hospital to have our son. This means be watching out for a new updated routine, once we are in a new establish routine.

Our Homeschool Preschool Routine

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multicultural-education-natural-learning

Multicultural Education is an important part of our homeschool preschool “curriculum”. Our goal as parents is to raise good humans. One way we can do this is exposing our children to different types of people and cultures.

Supporting Multicultural Education in Natural Learning
Standard Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a small commission when you order from my links. This money is used to support my blog and natural learning opportunities for our children. 

Here’s how we support multicultural education….

1. Books

We spend a lot of time reading together. Granted it helps that our little one loves listening to books, but we’ve also made reading a priority. This makes introducing and adding multicultural books to our home library one of the easiest ways to introduce different cultures to our natural learners.
Here’s a list of some of our favorites:

Ruby Bridges

Watson’s Go to Birmingham

One Love

I am Malala

Yeh Shen: A Cinderella Story from China

Baseball in April

*Just an added note, be sure to prescreen books for bias and stereotypes.
2. Multicultural Dolls

Our daughter is just now getting into dolls, so we’ve made sure to add dolls of other ethnic background to our doll collection.

Multicultural education with dolls
You can check out multicultural dolls here.

3. Traveling

Traveling to different places is a great way for children to experience new places and different people. You can travel to different parts of the world or simply travel to a different city near you. We live in a small farm town without a lot of diversity, so I love taking the kids to museums and different attractions in the big cities.

4. Introduce Different Holidays/Traditions

One exploration you and your family could do together is explore different holidays or traditions from different cultures. My husband and I come from different cultural backgrounds, so when we married we took a few of their traditions and fused them with mine. For example: We now hide a pickle in our Christmas tree. This is something I had never heard of before, but is now a tradition our kids will grow up with along with the baking of my Kolaches.

5. Different languages

I would love for my children to become fluent in another language besides English. I, however, am not bilingual myself, nor is my husband, so this can pose a problem with immersing them with a different language. However, I found some tools to help all of us learn. I’ll begin with apps. I discovered several free apps that help teach several different kinds of languages. My little ones are too small to truly grasp the concept yet, but they will be perfect for my stepson and them when they get a older.

Books written in another language are another great tool. Usborne books has a wonderful collection of books that teach other languages. We own Every Day Words in French and want to order others as well.

Multicultural Education Supported By Books
T.V. shows are another great way to immerse your children with new languages. Dora the Explorer uses a combination of English and Spanish. Netflix also has several cartoons in Spanish and other languages available.

You can also check you local area for toddler and kid friendly language classes. There are even language immersion preschool programs that could be available in your area if that is something that interests you and your child.

Why It’s Important

Exposing my children to multicultural education is important to me for several reasons. First, when they get older they will be working and collaborating with all different kinds of people. Second, I want them to develop empathy and acceptance of all different people. It’s crucial for them to understand that people are just people even if they look different. With given the state of our nation today, I believe it’s even more important for me to raise my kids to be kind and understanding.

Supporting Multicultural Education
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