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MEAP Exam: "Target That is Constantly Moving"

9:55 AM, Apr 30, 2012   |    comments
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FOREST HILLS (WZZM) - If you've raised or are raising your children in Michigan, you're familiar with the MEAP test. It's been around for decades.

This school year, the state raised the passing standards. Now this fall, some lawmakers want to get rid of the test all together.

A Michigan Senate subcommittee recently introduced legislation to move to computer adaptive testing this fall.  Educators are waiting on the decision and some are frustrated.

Forest Hills 5th Math Teacher Matt Meyer has given the MEAP to enough 5th grade students to remember seeing all of the changes the test has gone through in the last decade. He says the most recent is more difficult questions.

"The sixth grade science unit of study on exploration, has now moved to 5th grade, 4th grade has moved to 3rd grade," said Meyer.

While parts of the exam's difficulty have slowly crept upward, the standards - known as cut scores - shot up last year.  The proficiency bar jumped from 40 percent to 65 percent last fall.

"It's a higher hurdle for students to get over," said Dan Behm, Forest Hills Schools Superintendent. "Most schools saw a decline in the passing rate."

In his district, Behm says math and reading dropped 5 to 10 percent. At Grand Rapids Public Schools, spokesman John Helmholdt says scores dropped about 33 percent.

"But the number of questions the students answered correctly, from this year compared to others, they improved," said Behm.

"For the last five years, prior to the change in cut scores, we saw student proficiency increase at every grade level in every subject tested," said Helmholdt.

But soon, districts will have to start all over in tracking student proficiency, test wise.

"I think teachers sometimes feel frustrated with a target that is constantly moving," said Behm.

The MEAP will disappear in 2014-2015 as Michigan aims to get in line with the Common Core, national curriculum developed by the National Governors Association. Thirty states have already signed on. But some Michigan state legislators want the exam gone this fall.

The spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Education says the senators' argument is, if schools are moving in that direction anyway?

"The legislature thought it was really important to move there sooner," said Jan Ellis.  "The problem with interim is that you put the schools through tremendous turmoil."

She says it also puts $600 million dollars in federal money at stake.

The exam will be computer-based, and it might not match Michigan's curriculum.

"When you move to a test that has not been validated and not has been confirmed by the federal government as aligned to our standards, what happens is the feds could deny us a substantial amount of money," she said.

Ellis says many districts have voiced frustration. Behm says it's hard not to when they're always forced to abide by the newest trend in education.

"The designers of this test are saying they're learning from all the previous errors and mistakes that this will be a new and and bigger and better test," he said. "I have enough time in education to be somewhat skeptical of those claims."

The Michigan Senate doesn't have the support by Governor Rick Snyder or the House at this time.

For more, click on the story from USA Today.













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