Re: We made the front page!
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- From: Margaret Davis <margd@FLASH.NET>
- Date: Sun, 3 Feb 2002 12:25:56 -0600
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What's the problem with the MEAP?
By:Frank DeFrank, Macomb Daily Staff Writer February 03, 2002
Macomb Daily illustration by Kevin J. Martin
A. Stakes too high for
it's a good indicator of student achievement
C. All of the above.
On a recent day in Lansing, a collection of educators opposed to the
emphasis placed on standardized tests invited state legislators to take a
portion of the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test.
About 10 lawmakers showed up, most already sympathetic to the cause.
"The MEAP makers refused to be MEAP takers," said state Rep. David Woodward,
a Royal Oak Democrat who submitted to the exam. "How hypocritical is that?"
>From now through Feb. 15, schools across Michigan will administer the MEAP
exams to an estimated 500,000 students in grades 4, 5, 7 and 8. High school
students take MEAP exams later in the year.
Depending on the grade, students will spend several hours huddled over exams
gauging their abilities in math, reading, science, writing and social
A few months from now, results will be tabulated and returned. Schools that
perform well will be rewarded; those that don't will be left to ponder why.
In theory at least, educators, lawmakers, parents and children will once
again have a good idea how well students are learning what the state says
they should learn.
"We have a $14 billion investment in public education," said Deputy State
Treasurer Michael Boulus, whose department administers the MEAP. "We owe it
to the public to be accountable. We have to have some measure of
"(The MEAP) gives us a good snapshot of how kids are doing."
But snapshots are just that, opponents argue. They offer a glimpse, but they
don't come close to telling the whole story. The MEAP "snapshot" has become
an entire photo album of public education, they contend.
"Kids are being separated and segregated by public schools," said Michael
Peterson, a professor in the college of education at Wayne State University
and a MEAP opponent.
"The MEAP is not a good measure of what kids are learning. You've got a
bunch of people mandating this stuff that either don't know it doesn't mean
anything or don't care."
Peterson is a member of a fledgling group - actually two groups merged for a
common cause - that has made it their mission to eliminate or at least
de-emphasize the MEAP.
The Rouge Forum and Whole Schooling Consortium staged the test for lawmakers
in Lansing last week, along with a "teach in" Saturday at Wayne State.
The groups' long-term goals include development of a model that
re-emphasizes teacher assessment, parental involvement and "innovative,
Their immediate goal is to draw attention to what they perceive as a huge
roadblock: too much emphasis on the MEAP.
"MEAP Schmeap," screamed a flier that publicized the Lansing event.
"Push Back the MEAP, Bring Forward Real Learning," offered another.
Peterson cites many flaws in the MEAP. The process takes too much class
time. Schools and teachers teach to the test. Quality of schools is judged
solely on the exams.
Near the top of the list is a built-in socio-economic bias, he argued.
Affluent districts perform well; poor districts don't, he said.
"High-income schools don't see MEAP as an issue," he said. "The lower the
income, the greater the pressure (to perform well)."
With school accreditation and even financial rewards tied to the MEAP, the
annual tests have become a high-stakes game. Sometimes, careers may ride on
the outcome, Peterson claimed.
"If we don't think principals' jobs are on the line (based on test results),
we're fooling ourselves," he said.
Peterson and the groups he represents have attracted a few allies. Woodward,
at 25 the youngest member of the state Legislature, is among them.
A 1994 graduate of Royal Oak Kimball High School, Woodward is young enough
to have taken the MEAP as a student. If he had his way, he'd scrap it.
"Because of how it's used, it's dysfunctional," Woodward said. "I have a
serious problem comparing a student in West Bloomfield and a student in the
city of Detroit."
James Edoff, superintendent of Fitzgerald Public Schools in Warren, is not
familiar with the Rouge Forum or the Whole Schooling Consortium. But he
agrees with many of their views, notably that the MEAP is overemphasized.
"I'm not only sympathetic, I can support it," Edoff said. "People
(educators) know good things are going on (in schools), it just doesn't
always show up (in good MEAP scores)."
Edoff said administrators "absolutely" feel pressured by MEAP tests.
"Principalships ride on it," he said.
The school boss said he has never been told his own job security is tied to
MEAP results, but conceded, "I have heard rumors of that."
But the MEAP, despite its flaws, serves a purpose, proponents argue.
"It's the only test I know ... that's a common measure," Boulus said. "It's
given to all kids."
"You can't resent assessment," offered Edna Robinson, a principal at Lewton
Elementary School in Lansing.
"Sure it's time-consuming. There is a lot of pressure on the students. There
are parents who select schools based on MEAP scores.
"But we're a public school and we're responsible to the public. The public
needs to know how schools are performing."
In a paper published on the Rouge Forum and Whole School Consortium Web
site, Peterson wrote: "The fundamental purpose of schools is to create
effective, literate democratic citizens, who can think, work, be creative
and continue to learn and grow."
MEAP doesn't measure that, he said.
"If our goal is to sort kids in different piles ... the MEAP is really good
and we should keep using it," he said. "The question is: Is that the kind of
goal we want?"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
©The Macomb Daily 2002
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