OSCEOLA COUNTY — Schools throughout Michigan are preparing for a new standardized test students will take this coming spring.

The Michigan Educational Assessment Program or MEAP, is a standardized test taken by students in public school starting in elementary and ranging into high school. MEAP test scores are used to compare education standards established by the State Board of Education.

Recently, the MEAP was replaced with the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress or M-STEP.

The Michigan Legislature ordered the Michigan Board of Education to prepare for the Smarter Balanced test, but was unsuccessful at getting organized for the test in time, resulting in the M-STEP that passed as a “temporary test.”

The M-STEP is expected to last for only two to three years, but there is nothing official on the subject. The Michigan Legislature hopes by 2017, schools will no longer use the M-STEP.

The M-STEP was chosen as an alternative because of it’s close alignment with the Common Core Standards. The test can also be completely administered online.

According to Curtis Finch, superintendent of Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District, the biggest challenge school districts are facing is the transition from paper and pencil exams to online only.

“There’s both positive and negative aspects to the M-STEP,” he said. “Students are going to have to know how to type on a computer, know how to navigate the test and may have to understand how to troubleshoot if something goes wrong during their individual test,” he said.

Other concerns brought up were the number of computers available in the schools for students to use for testing. The level of technology available varies in each school.

The M-STEP only runs on a certain internet browser, Google Chrome. This forces schools to download Google Chrome to all computers used for testing.

Starting in April, testing will begin, and each grade will be allotted a three-week window to complete the exam.

“Teachers are concerned with how the test results will affect their performance,” Finch said. “This could affect professional development because teachers won’t want to take the kids out of the classrooms for field trips. They are concerned about prepping them for the test.”

According to Finch, the M-STEP is longer than the MEAP, which is also a concern school administrators have when it comes to the exam.

“There isn’t a one size fits all way to test students,” Finch said. “It depends on how the students work best. For some, online is best, and for others, pencil and paper is better. If the state legislature keeps with the M-STEP without changing it again, it could be beneficial,” he said.