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The Meek MEAP

January 14, 2011

Meek: 2. spineless or spiritless; compliant

Do you believe that your school is doing great because 95% of the third graders or 82% of the seventh graders are proficient in math according to the MEAP?  Well, the MEAP is lying to you.  The standards of the MEAP are spineless and compliant to schools that wish to claim they are adept at teaching your children.  What is considered proficient for the MEAP?  Well, according this site, in 2009 a math score of 33% for third grade and 34% for seventh grade was proficient!  These sample MEAP math questions have three answers.  A score of 33% (proficient) can be obtained by random guessing.  How is that proficient?

Lori Higgins in the Detroit Free Press wrote an article about the Michigan State Board of Education proposing to raise the cut scores for the MEAP.  Instead of passing with only a basic understanding of the material, students would actually need to know the material to pass.  Increasing the standards will lead to more students not passing the MEAP, but it will be a more accurate indicator of student performance.  Estimations are that only 34% of third graders instead of 95% and 39% of seventh graders instead of 82% will pass under the new MEAP standards.  Unfortunately, this is a more accurate representation of the state of education in Michigan.   According to Amber Arellano, Executive Director of The Education Trust-Midwest, while 84% of Michigan fourth graders score proficient in reading on the MEAP, only 30% scored proficient on the national exam.  For eighth grade math, 70% scored proficient on the MEAP, but only 31% on the national exam.  Michigan’s low-income eighth graders ranked 47th in the U.S. and higher-income ranked 38th.

What does this mean for your child?  Plenty.  Many children are reading below grade level, yet many of their parents will be told they are proficient according to MEAP standards.  Parents won’t work with their children to provide them the additional help they need.  In the Duke Gifted Letter, “Since teachers and schools feel pressure to ensure that their students perform well on state tests, curriculum often includes only content covered on those tests, and instruction looks a lot like test preparation. … By failing to organize content in meaningful ways around overarching themes, such instruction denies gifted students the opportunity to acquire deep and enduring knowledge.” Once a teacher knows that a student has reached the minimum level to pass the MEAP, they no longer need to spend time educating that student.  Gifted and advanced students who enter a classroom already above the MEAP minimum will not get specialized instruction at their accelerated pace, but ignored so that remedial students can be brought up to the MEAP minimums.  Remember, a pass is a pass for the MEAP.  100% correct is the same as 35% correct in reporting MEAP proficiency.  It is better for a teacher to have her students average 40% correct with 90% being proficient than for her students to average 80% correct with 85% being proficient.

This shouldn’t be taken as a knock on teachers.  If you are told by your boss that meeting certain criteria are important, you are going to feel a need to work towards those criteria even if your personal goals suffer.  When teachers are told that it is more important that students score as proficient than every student be educated at their level, one ideal has to suffer.  Teachers only have so many hours in the day to meet both goals.

It is important that the Michigan State Board of Education raise the MEAP cut scores.  They must reflect the actual truth of what is occurring in our classrooms.  We have a right to know if our children are being rated as proficient when they are not actually meeting grade standards.

I also call on the Michigan State Board of Education to release for each school the average percent of questions correct on the MEAP.  This will help ensure that children who are advanced and gifted are given accelerated education to help raise MEAP averages for all students.

Raising the MEAP cut scores will meet with opposition from various groups.  Schools like to brag how many of their pupils pass the MEAP and this will lower that number drastically.  It will also place more pressure on educators to provide grade level instruction.  And there are parents who will not be happy that their child is no longer scored proficient.  But this proposal is not about the schools, the teachers, or the parents.  This proposal is about making sure that our children get a proper education.  The Michigan State Board of Education needs our support on this.

If you wish to contact the Michigan State Board of Education, their email addresses are as follows:
flanaganm@michigan.gov ; varnerdan@comcast.net ; ulbrichc@michigan.gov ; strausk@michigan.gov ; mmcguire313@gmail.com ; ndanhof@earthlink.net ; jccurtin40@hotmail.com ; bauere@michigan.gov ; jcaustin@umich.edu

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