WUOMFM

MEAP

There’s a war raging in Lansing over the future of academic testing in Michigan.

Last fall, Michigan school kids took what was supposed to be their last MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) test, ever. The state was pushing forward with a new kind of assessment, based on a set of standards called Common Core.

State Republicans weren’t so thrilled, for lots of reasons. We’ll get to those in a minute.

heritage exploratory academy kids and project
Heritage Exploratory Academy

We've written here about some new thinking on "grit" and how to set a kid up to have enough to make a difference in their future success. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Today we have an update from a story we brought you in January. For that story, a documentary we called "The Big Test," I spent six weeks following a third-grade class at Congress Elementary in Grand Rapids. I watched as students got ready to take the state-mandated MEAP test for the first time. Students took the test in October. But the results of the test didn’t become public until last week.

So now, we're going back to Congress to see how students did.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

 The big test is coming. 

"I don’t even want to take it, says Musa, a third grader at Congress Elementary in Grand Rapids. "I'm not a big fan of tests."

Musa carries himself like an adult: hands casually in his pockets, shoulders back.  He stands on the edge of a cracked asphalt basketball court.

It’s picture day at Congress, and Musa has on a red t-shirt with black sleeves. He says it’s for special occasions, only.  

On the shirt, the words, “Destined for greatness," are laid out across Musa's chest.

"Did you pick it?" I ask him about the shirt.

"Yeah," he says.

"Why did you like what it says?" I ask.

"Because I didn’t want it to be something bad," he said. "So I put ‘Destined for Greatness,’ so people think I’m good, not bad."

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Last week, the House Education committee at the state capitol passed a piece of legislation that would force schools to flunk any third grader who failed to get a score of "proficient" on the state's standardized reading test.

The legislation still has to pass both the full House and Senate and get a signature from the governor before it could become law. And, late in the week, there was news that state leaders may be putting the idea on hold while they gather input from teachers and school administrators (most of whom oppose the idea of flunking third graders based on a single test score). 

So while everyone pauses to gather their thoughts about a proposal that could force nearly 40 percent of Michigan's third graders to repeat a grade, I thought it's worth taking a dive into the research to see how this plan has worked out in other places where it's been tried. It turns out, the idea has been studied quite a lot. So here are four main takeaways from the research.

flickr user biologycorner

I've been thinking a lot lately about standardized state tests. This fall, I spent about six weeks observing a classroom of third graders in Grand Rapids as they got ready to take their MEAP tests for the first time. 

I was interested in this because the MEAP has a big impact beyond the walls of a school. Standardized test scores have been shown to affect housing prices. And housing prices affect all kinds of things, from consumer spending, to municipal tax revenues to, well, school funding

So, test scores matter. 

 As I was working on yesterday's story about charter schools, I came across a problem that must be frustrating for many parents: It is incredibly difficult to find the right information to compare schools in Michigan. The information is all out there. It's just really hard to put it together in a way that makes sense. 

The first problem is figuring out where to look. So, here are five resources to help start the search: 

Michigan Department of Education

Race. We're going to be talking a lot about race and racial disparities over the coming months. I, for one, am working on an hour-long special about race and culture...so it's been on my mind a lot.

What does it mean to be born black in Michigan? Latino? Native American? Those are the questions we're grappling with here at State of Opportunity.