Michigan changes testing for eighth-graders

DETROIT (AP) -- Michigan eighth-graders will see changes in state testing this spring in a step that could better prepare students for college entrance exams. 

In April, the College Board's PSAT 8/9 test will replace the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress in math and English Language Arts, known as M-STEP, The Detroit News reported. 

Preparations for the switch began two years ago when the Legislature called for testing to better align with college entrance exams. Michigan will be the first state to require the PSAT 8/9, said Bill DiSessa, a spokesman for the state Department of Education.

"The state is confident that the PSAT 8/9 is aligned to a range of Michigan's rigorous standards, and that it will provide parents and educators with data that depicts a student's trajectory toward career and college," DiSessa said.

The PSAT is the practice version of the SAT, which students take in the 11th grade during the college admissions process. The College Board says the PSAT 8/9 will help educators and students identify what skills students need to work on.

"The PSAT is a valuable tool that can set a starting point to begin progressing toward success on the SAT," DiSessa said.

The PSAT is a timed test that students take using only paper, a pencil and a calculator for some sections, while the M-STEP is not timed and allows the use of paper as well as online materials. 

The M-STEP is designed to measure how well students are mastering state standards. Eighth-graders will still take the M-STEP in science and social studies.

The PSAT has a variety of advantages, including providing access to actual test questions and providing detailed reports that highlight areas of strength and improvement with test results, said Wendy Zdeb, executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals.

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent in Detroit, said he's worried about the testing change.

"We feel that an eighth-grade literacy and math exam specific to the standards is a fairer and more relevant way to evaluate student achievement, teacher performance and a school's performance," Vitti said.