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State Board Moves Up MEAP Testing Dates

LANSING -- Michigan school children will take Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests nearly four months earlier beginning in the fall of 2005.

The state Board of Education voted 7-1 Tuesday to move the MEAP tests in English language arts and math from late January to early October. The decision covers students in elementary and middle school.

The change will coincide with federal mandates requiring annual testing of reading and math in grades three through eight beginning in 2005-06. It will also help teachers pinpoint students' weak areas while they can still do something about it that year, officials said.

"I think, bottom line, we're gong to be giving teachers data they can use to help kids learn,'' said Ed Roeber, head of the state MEAP office.

He said schools would get MEAP results in December and the public would get report cards by March, giving parents time to make decisions about where to send their children the following school year.

Roeber said state officials must next decide whether to move science and social studies MEAP tests to the fall. Michigan policy-makers are also debating whether to eliminate high school MEAP tests, substituting them with college-entrance and job-readiness exams.

MEAP is now given in late January and early February, and kids are tested just twice in reading and math prior to entering high school.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 also requires schools to notify parents of children at schools not making "adequate yearly progress" on state tests that their children are eligible to attend another school.

Long delays in releasing MEAP results meant state officials were unable to notify parents prior to the start of school in the fall of 2002 and 2003, although officials say they will be able to do so for the fall of 2004.

State board member Marianne McGuire, D-Detroit, voted against the move, saying schools are tired of MEAP being a moving target.

"I feel it's too much of a disruption to put on schools at this point,'' she said of the change.

Jim Ballard, executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, representing some 800 middle school officials, said educators are frustrated because they work to align teaching with MEAP only to have the test constantly change.

"We're not crazy about it, but it's their bat and their ball,'' Ballard said about moving up the MEAP testing times.

There have been several MEAP directors in the past decade, and the date of testing and the items tested also have changed, Ballard said. "If history tells us anything, it will be change again,'' he said.

Opposition to the move cooled since discussions began this spring on moving the date. Roeber assured groups the fall test would cover material from the previous year and teachers wouldn't be expected to cram a year's worth of learning into the first few weeks of school.

"I personally think it will be just fine,'' said Roger Swaim, legislative liaison for the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association. "One of the reasons I think people may have been against it before is they didn't have an understanding that the testing would be of material of the previous year.''

Board President Kathleen Straus, D-Detroit, said teachers unions had withdrawn their opposition to the proposal.

— Judy Putnam
Ann Arbor News


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