Tough Questions: Fall Too Soon For MEAP Test? 9-07-2010 - WNEM TV 5

Tough Questions: Fall Too Soon For MEAP Test? 9-07-2010

The first day of school is typically a day met with both anticipation and anxiety.
But the real stress could come when students realize they'll have to take the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test in October, just a month after starting school.
TV5 set out to discover why such an important test is given to students earlier in the year, rather than later.
"There is such pressure on the kids to perform," said Carrollton Public Schools Superintendent Craig Douglas. That performance could be affected by what is known as the "summer slide."
Researchers at the National Summer Learning Association said students can lose two months worth of math skills over the course of a summer, and low-income students can lose three months of reading skills.
Math and reading skills are just two of the areas on the MEAP test students will be tested on this October.
"We spend some time trying to bridge that gap, so it would benefit us a little bit if the test was a little bit later," said Saginaw's Thompson Middle School Principal Mit Foley. "But we're up to the challenge. The test is in October and we're ready, we'll be ready."
But it wasn't always this way. For an eight-year stretch, the state of Michigan gave the test in the winter. Then education officials moved it to the fall.
"That's something that we think is actually very good because one of the things we did see is that some people spent from October to February preparing for MEAP," said Joseph Martineau, with the Office of Educational Assessment and Accountability, Michigan Department of Education. "And there's kind of a diminishing return for preparation for the test."
Education officials said less prep time is OK because students are tested on last year's content. If the test was held during the year, it's harder to determine what to put on the test. Also, officials said the later the test is given, the longer districts are left waiting for results, which mean less time to make changes during the school year.
Still, the test date is open for debate. "We did survey the principals and superintendents and teachers and so on, to ask them what they thought of a winter versus a fall test," said Martineau. "And when we did that survey, it came back 50/50. We don't have a clear sense from the field that one is better than the other; it continues to be about 50/50."
"There's probably no choice in the matter, we just simply have to respond the best we can," said Douglas.
That means students better start studying.
Michigan is partnering with at least 30 other states to create one standardized test.
Eventually, that new test could replace parts of the MEAP. Education officials said they don't know what time of the year that new test would be taken.
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