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Schools Pleased to Get an Early Peek at MEAP

Local educators are heartened by the timeliness of this year's release of MEAP scores after missing tests and scoring errors pushed last year's release into October of the current school year.

With scores in hand now, educators can tweak curriculum over the summer "and start the new year with both feet firmly running on solid ground," said Dan Hunsberger, testing administrator in Forest Hills.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook from schools, chatting back and forth," said Bob Theaker, director of assessment and measurement for National Heritage Academies, which operates 10 charter schools in Kent and Ottawa counties.

The state soon will send districts more detailed reports on individual schools, as well as reports for parents, to help preparations for next school year. Scores also were to be posted today at www.michigan.gov/mde.

The state's results are not error-free, but most of the bugs are minor, educators said. One glitch listed some students under a school they don't attend, administrators said.

"We're still a little anxious about the results, because we want to check those," Forest Hills Superintendent Mike Washburn told his school board Monday.

Statewide, Michigan Educational Assessment Program scores showed progress in seven of 10 areas tested.

Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins said he's encouraged by the progress, but he said more improvement is needed. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, all students must meet standards in reading and math by 2014.

Big jumps in achievement among minorities helped push the gains statewide. For example, black fourth-graders improved math scores from 43 percent to 53 percent passing, while white fourth-graders improved in math from 73 percent to 79 percent. Racial gaps also were narrowed in reading and writing.

Overall, the biggest improvement came in eighth-grade math tests, which jumped from 52 percent to 63 percent.

The gains are mirrored in local districts. For example, Grandville saw 89 percent of fourth-graders and 79 percent of eighth-graders pass the test this year -- up 11 percentage points and 12 percentage points, respectively.

Grand Rapids saw a similar leap among its eighth-graders, said John Harberts, chief academic officer. That said, the district still falls below the state average in that and other subjects, such as science, he said.

"We've turned a corner, but we need to grow faster," Harberts said.

Reading scores among fourth-graders statewide improved from 75 percent to 79 percent. But writing scores remained static at 61 percent for seventh-graders.

State leaders acknowledge work needs to be done in writing and social studies, even though No Child Left Behind emphasizes reading and math.

"To be successful in this 21st-century global economy, our children must be aware of the world around them and be able to clearly communicate," State Board of Education President Kathleen Straus said.

— Melissa Slager and Judy Putnam
The Grand Rapids Press


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