LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Many Michigan 11th-graders would no longer have to take a workforce-readiness test as part of the state's standardized assessment under a bill approved Thursday by the House and sent to the Senate for further consideration.
The measure was passed 85-24 with broad bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled chamber. It would remove a requirement that the Michigan Merit Examination include a test that employers can use to evaluate job applicants, which currently is the ACT WorkKeys assessment.
The bill sponsor, Republican Rep. John Reilly of Oakland Township, said superintendents told him that businesses are not using WorkKeys to screen candidates for trades and other jobs not requiring a four-year college degree.
"This test is not getting used and we're spending money on it," he said, noting that districts could still administer a work-readiness test on their own. High schools typically set aside half a day for the WorkKeys component, Reilly said.
The legislation would save the state up to $4.4 million annually, according to the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency. The state would reimburse districts and charter schools that still choose to give a workforce assessment.
Twenty-two Democrats and two Republicans opposed the measure.
Democratic Rep. Lori Stone of Warren said WorkKeys is the only state-required exam to test students' applied math and reading skills for preparedness for career and technical education.
"Keep my in mind only about 25%, or one in four of Michigan's population, pursues a college education. Yet 80% of our standardized testing in 11th grade is to assess college preparedness. Does this seem out of focus to anyone else?"
She said trade unions and several businesses and industries have used the assessment for apprenticeship and job placements, and she credited a K-12 district in her district for awarding WorkKeys certificates along with diplomas to recognize achievement.
"If implemented, it has a place in education," Stone said.
The bill was applauded by the Tri-County Alliance for Public Education, which represents superintendents from every district in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. It called the test "pointless" and said removing the requirement to administer it would free up classroom time instead of padding the pockets of "special interest" vendors.
Democratic Rep. Matt Koleszar of Plymouth, a former teacher who voted for the legislation, issued a written statement saying he has seen firsthand "how excessive and often unnecessary mandatory tests dictate our curriculum and dominate our students' time. Students wishing to explore opportunities in skilled trade professions will still be allowed to take the exam without the requirement, but removing it enables us to shorten mandatory testing times and save millions of dollars spent annually on administering it."
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