in dark on MEAP
by Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press, July 21, 2003
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Michigan teachers are still waiting for the results of last
winter's MEAP test -- information they need to determine how to
improve student learning.
The scores -- delayed by technical glitches for months --
determine which schools fail to meet academic standards
prescribed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Michigan has
760 such schools, all of which face penalties under the law.
With five months between the tests and results, "the opportunity
for districts to respond . . . is seriously impacted," said
Gayle Green, an assistant superintendent in the Macomb
Intermediate School District.
Last week, schools were told they won't get the elementary and
middle school scores until Aug. 4. The scores will be released
publicly Aug. 15, according to a memo from state Superintendent
Tom Watkins to school administrators.
The state Department of Treasury, which administers the test,
planned to release scores to schools in late May or early June.
"Clearly, it gives the schools less time to analyze the scores
and make any adjustments they would make based on the scores,"
said Terry Stanton, Treasury spokesman.
He blamed the delay on problems creating a database that will
allow the state to track individual student performance and link
those scores to factors such as gender, race, special education
status and English language fluency. Local school administrators
also need to verify the demographic data.
"It's the implementation of the software that it takes to do
that that is taking much longer than we expected. We're not
pleased with the time line," Stanton said.
The contractor, Enterprises Computing Services of Atlanta,
received $1.6 million from Michigan to create the software and
to complete an earlier project. Ideally, the scores would have
come before the end of the last school year, allowing teachers
time to analyze the scores, said David Vultaggio, director of
management information systems with the Waterford School
The wait may not be the most frustrating thing for school
administrators. Changes in the way the state gives schools an
analysis of how students scored is seen as an even greater
Michigan used to give an item-by-item analysis showing teachers
what percentage of their students chose each answer's option.
Because they were able to keep a copy of the MEAP test booklet,
they could go back to the test, see the question, and look for
reasons students scored poorly.
"That's always been what schools found useful," said Ernie
Bauer, testing consultant for Oakland Schools, the county's
intermediate school district.
This year, though, schools couldn't keep a test booklet.
"That way, we're certain no one is teaching to the test,"
And instead of a detailed analysis, schools will get an analysis
showing how students performed against broad standards.
"It will be different than it has been in the past, but
hopefully the schools will find it just as useful," Stanton
But some educators say an analysis telling them how well
students met certain standards won't tell them much. The
detailed analysis helped identify inadequacies in their
curriculum, they said.
"What you could do was look at a test item and say, 'We know we
taught this. Why in the world are they getting this wrong?' "
When Green was an administrator in Willow Run Community Schools,
an easy math question -- what percentage of a grid was not
shaded -- seemed to stump a large number of students. More than
half got it wrong.
Green said by going back to the test booklet, educators saw that
the wording -- asking about the portion not shaded -- confused
the students not used to questions framed that way.
"We started making sure it was asked in both ways. The next time
it was on the test, our kids aced it," Green said.
Contact LORI HIGGINS at 248-591-5625 or
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