DETROIT — Michigan authorities have picked two companies for a three-year, $103.7 million contract to give standardized tests to public school students, the state Department of Education announced Thursday.

The test will continue to use the name M-STEP, short for Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, and be administered by the same companies that are doing so this year, the department said in a statement. They are Maple Grove, Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corp. and Durham, North Carolina-based Measurement Inc.

The M-STEP program this year replaced the 44-year-old Michigan Educational Assessment Program, widely known as MEAP.

Schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan said the companies are "among the most experienced education service and test administration providers in the nation." He said the awarding of a multi-year contract "now allows Michigan schools and teachers to move forward and fully transition ... to M-STEP, a 21st century assessment system."

The companies were among five bidders for the contract, which went through a review by an 18-member committee that included school administrators and testing experts, the Michigan Department of Education said. The actual choice was made by the education department and the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget.

The state's largest teachers union said it's taking a wait-and-see approach to the new tests.

"The important thing here is that whatever test is used needs to be aligned to the curriculum our teachers are asked to teach," Gretchen Dziadosz, executive director of the Michigan Education Association, told The Associated Press. "We believe that that's a goal of M-STEP. The proof is in the pudding."

The larger issue, she said, is the proliferation of testing and the fact that it is taking away from learning.

"There is way too much standardized testing in our schools," Dziadosz said. "It's getting in the way of teaching."

The contracts still await a review process that allows objections before final approval from the State Administrative Board. They would take effect with the upcoming school year, and Michigan would have the option of extending them for up to five years through the 2022-2023 school year.

The tests themselves will include some materials developed in Michigan and others developed by multistate consortia, the education department said.

The Michigan Legislature passed a law requiring M-STEP to begin this spring and cover English, math, science and social studies in grades three through 11. Students will take them online with a paper-and-pencil option. State law also requires writing tests for additional grades and more questions that test problem solving.

"M-STEP will be aligned to state education standards and will continue to be administered online each spring," the state said in a fact sheet.




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