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Just the Facts: New Test to Replace MEAP

The new online assessment will replace the MEAP and MME tests in math, reading and writing beginning during the 2014-15 school year.

Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, students throughout Michigan will be given an online exam to test their knowledge of core subjects.

The test replaces the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) and the Michigan Educational Assessment Progam (MEAP) in all subjects except social science and science.

Called Smarter Balanced, the exam was produced by The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a state-led effort to provide consistent and comparable standards, aligned to the Common Core State Standards, in English language arts, literacy and mathematics.

Timeline

  • By 2014-15, all assessments will be online.
  • All assessments will be given in the spring, with the exception of optional standardized interim assessments during the year.
  • Districts will still have paper and pencil option for the first three years.

Benefits of the online assessment

  • Scores given within 48 hours of the test
  • Fewer questions compared to fixed-form tests
  • More accurate measurements of student progress over time
  • Assessment tailored to student ability - question difficultly increases when students answer correctly and decreases when students answer incorrectly
  • Greater security because not all students receive the same questions
  • Retake option available for online only

Disadvantages of the online assesment

  • It could take up to 12 weeks to test all students
  • Students who take the test later could have an advantage
  • School districts will have to invest in more technology
  • Test results will likely be shared with the public on a staggered, rather than all at once

Is your district ready?

Smarter Balanced recently released a Technology Readiness Tool for districts  to measure readiness to move to an online assessment program. Martineau said only about 6 percent of districts have taken the evaluation.

Want to know more?

Go to www.smarterbalanced.org.

What do you think?

Tell us in the comments area below.

dswan May 01, 2012 at 01:23 PM
The goal is to measure the growth of each student over time; instead of proficiency. A student that's below grade level may take multiple testing cycles/years to attain a "Proficient" score; while an improvement in growth would be reflected quickly. Progressive questions allow the test to determine a baseline for each student, while subsequent testing will show changes to that baseline. By measuring growth, we'll know better what's working sooner. In a classroom where the teacher is evaluated based in part on growth, a below grade level performer becomes an opportunity to demonstrate growth - instead of a student that continually is rated less than Proficient.
dswan May 01, 2012 at 01:24 PM
This does sound very similar to NWEA's MAP test and I wonder if the state will create a new test from scratch or use/improve upon the existing MAP format.
Diana Noone May 01, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Sorry, any sort of testing that will give a more accurate picture of what children are learning in school I am all for. MEAP has never given an accurate picture of what the INDIVIDUAL child is learning. Isn't that what we as parents are looking for?
dswan May 01, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Absolutely
Joshua Raymond May 01, 2012 at 02:20 PM
The MEAP and MME are benchmark tests. They determine what percent of that grade's material a student knows. However, if the student is sufficiently ahead or sufficiently behind, they are relatively useless in determining where that student's level actually is. An adaptive test can allow a more accurate measure. Since I advocate for gifted learners, I'm more familiar with that end of the curve. The MEAP could say that a student knows 100% of that grade's math, but wouldn't tell you if that is all he knows or if he actually knows two grades more. An adaptive test could do that. Used properly, this could result in the student heading to an upper grade classroom for math instruction, resulting in a better learning experience for the student. These tests can also give a better picture of how well a teacher or school does in instructing all children, not just students near the average. A standard bell curve would be ideal. A bell curve truncated on the right could show that gifted learners are not being appropriately differentiated for, a concern of many parents of gifted students in our district. Also, as dswan mentioned, this is a better instrument for measuring growth. A struggling student entering third grade reading far below grade level may make more than a year's growth with the right teacher, but the MEAP would not see this growth, penalizing both the student and the teacher for what was actually a success.
Joshua Raymond May 01, 2012 at 02:24 PM
I had not realized this was posted across multiple Patch sites. The "our district" in my post above refers to Rochester Community Schools.
David Pacifico May 01, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Hopefully it will reduce the amount of time it takes to learn the results. Now it takes months.
Diana Noone May 01, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Right, we will know the results in days now with this testing scheme.
Lee Jacobsen May 01, 2012 at 03:17 PM
As dswan mentioned, the goal is to measure growth. An analogy would be a tree. All trees grow, but some trees bear 'fruit'. This test makes all the students feel good with some measure of growth progress, but not all students will reach the 'bearing fruit' stage. That's ok, the construction trade needs wood, and trees are needed for that as well. Of course, there are different fruits, and they vary per the area the trees grow in. Also, some areas are not conducive to growth, poor soil or whatever, and those areas will bear very little fruit. In other words, Dearborn has more fruit bearing trees than Detroit, which must have contaminated soil or something, as both areas seem to be spending plenty of money on fertilizer. Perhaps a different pruning method? Grafting? What's your favorite fruit? Apple anyone??
Lee Jacobsen May 01, 2012 at 03:26 PM
David, some schools actually give the parents a written evaluation of their student's academic and other progress 'every week', not months. Of course, these are private schools, with teachers usually earning less than public schools, and parents paying tuition less (or a lot more) than what the govt hands over to the public schools each year, but , of course, the parents have to still pay their fair share of school taxes, but they want the best for their children, and, as a result, will pay more That's our system, at least we still have the freedom of choice, and that choice is getting larger, ie the public charter schools starting in Detroit. Parents are choosing schools based on performance, not the other way around. It's about time!!
jholeton jr May 01, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I have an unorthodox idea for the readers of Shelby Utica Patch. Oakland University has one of the toughest math and science programs in the country. Why dont we get a hold of some of there standard tests and use that as a way to gauge the strengths of our students. China and Japan are teaching advanced calculas at the middle school level. In order for our children to be able to compete globally, they have to have as much, if not more, skills than their overseas competition. At one time in the United States, WE were at the math and science levels China and Japan are now. Its just an idea to throw at Superintendant Christine Johns.
dswan May 01, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I think this could offer benefits to parents in struggling districts looking at their options. Rather than picking from a handful of schools that have low percentages of students scoring proficient; you could look at the growth data for each school. Remember, moving kids from non-proficient to proficient can take years, but growth would give an early indication of which schools are most effective.
Diana Noone May 01, 2012 at 06:15 PM
The only problem there is that China and Japan 'stack their deck' so to speak....they use the test scores of their best students. They do not represent a true picture of the national student populous.
dswan May 01, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Terry, I think a lot of people will have a similar reaction to this change. I agree that many parents and most teachers already know where each student stands. But do the students? Seems like a silly question. I've seen the NWEA MAP test (addaptive test that measure growth) deployed so that the student understands their strengths and weaknesses. The students develop goals based on specific weaknesses, and shares them with Mom and Dad at student-led conferences. You can't do that with the MEAP - mainly because the result don't come out until January. Sidebar: While driving a group of sixth grade boys home from school, I heard one ask "What did you guys score on the Math MAP?" When I was a kid, we compared our times in the mile run, or levels on Super Mario Bros.
dswan May 01, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Check out Washtenaw Technical Middle College (themiddlecollege.org), a charter high school where students in grade 10-12 transition to college classes at Washtenaw Community College. Upon graduation from high school, students either have an Associates Degree or certificate and credits transferable to 4 year colleges at NO COST to the student or their family. Imagine earning your bachelor's degree at 20 or 21 at half the cost. Would it work for every 15 to 18 year old? No. But it's an option that should be available for kids that are capable. It would increase competition among colleges, many of whom charge an arm and a leg for classes led by teaching assistants. More could open if Rick Snyder included offering a high school program as one of his best practices for community colleges.
Mark H. Stowers May 01, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Way too much time and effort are put into MEAP testing. The whole first six weeks of each school year is spent reviewing last year's material in order to take the test. Meanwhile, kids are getting further and further behind on what they should be studying and accomplishing. Would they have passed their previous grade if they didn't know the material?
dswan May 02, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Terry, That's a good point. Although there are many jokes in the current system, it's tough to determine which is the biggest. Kids that were once separated from the general population to work on special needs have been merged into the traditional classroom; creating a lower lowest common denominator. What are the benefits/consequences? English language learners are placed in a traditional classroom, and may get an hour with a para-pro. There seems to be no discussion on this topic. I've seen the MAP test used to group kids by ability in an NHA charter school, in combination with class work. For core subjects, students are grouped together by skill in 'rotations.' Rather than teaching 6 subjects, teachers specialize in 3; and the students rotate through three classrooms during the day. For each grade, there's one math teacher, one science teacher, one social studies teacher; and your homeroom teacher does reading/ELA and spelling. I agree that students have a general understanding of where they stack up amongst their peers; but meeting one-on-one with your teacher to understand your weaknesses and set goals, and then follow up on those goals, is quite different than just knowing where you fit in the classroom hierarchy.
dswan May 02, 2012 at 01:07 PM
It's likely they would have passed their previous grade if they didn't know the material. Schools have elected to promote students regardless of their academic performance for social reasons. It's time to refocus our schools back on academic goals; not social, not sports; learning.
Joshua Raymond May 02, 2012 at 02:04 PM
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Do you really know how your child is doing? If the school's or teacher's standards are too low and your child is acing tests, is he really succeeding? If the school's or teacher's standards are too high and your child is getting D's, is he really failing? Are you viewing his success as relative to others in the school, which may not be equivalent to state, national, or world standards. Our MEAP cut scores were recently drastically altered because kids our state considered proficient were considered not proficient by national standards. How many of those parents thought their child was doing fine because the teachers and the state claimed they were? If your child is behind, do you know how far behind he is? If he is ahead, do you know how far ahead he is? Tests teachers and the state gives don't measure this. If your child flunks a fifth grade literacy test, is he reading at a fourth grade level or a second grade level? The teacher might be able to tell you this. If your kid aces a fifth grade math test, is he ready for math at a sixth grade level or an eighth grade level? The MEAP can't tell you and the teacher probably can't either since he likely has never been given math tests for those grades. We can have a sense of where our children are at, but appropriate testing can help pinpoint where they actually are and confirm or correct our estimates.
Joshua Raymond May 02, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Terry, some school districts are beginning to group by ability again and have shown great gains. Here are some articles on them. http://www.fox59.com/news/wxin-danville-high-school-students-on-the-cutting-edge-of-learning-20120426,0,3211774.column http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-07-05-grade-held-back_N.htm
Joshua Raymond May 02, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Terry, you and I assess our kids and where they are at, but do most parents go beyond the school assessments? I doubt it. Many teachers seem to believe that kids should be at the grade for their age level, no matter what their abilities are. We've had teachers tell us that our kids who are a year or two ahead in math and reading are at the right level. Trying to get academically aligned education for them becomes our word against the teacher's. At least this test will provide a more objective measure in efforts to obtain acceleration. Parents often struggle in determining where their kids are academically. For many, their child is the primary exposure they have had to a child meeting various benchmarks, so their child is the 'normal'. If you haven't read anything by Stephanie Tolan, I highly recommend starting with her Open Letter to Parents, Teachers and Others:From Parents of an Exceptionally Gifted Child. http://www.stephanietolan.com/open_letter.htm She is now well-known in the field of gifted education, but she didn't have a clue at first about her son's strengths or what he was capable academically. Like you, I also strongly believe parents are the primary educators of their children. Unfortunately, I think you and I are in the minority, as many parents have willingly ceded this over to the schools. However, I still look forward to having tests that help fill out the picture.
Aric May 02, 2012 at 07:06 PM
I have been following the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium for awhile (for my job), and I don't believe they have selected a test vendor yet. I would not be surprised if NWEA bids on the contract, but they will face competition from ETS, Pearson, etc.
Lee Jacobsen May 02, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Teachers in the public school system more than likely spend the majority of their time with the students that are struggling. The bright kids coast along, and don't get educationally challenged. At least with computers, there is a lot more available for kids to explore , along with AP classes etc. The biggest eyeopener for my kid was her first day at Henry Ford community college, taking an AP class. "Dad, none of the kids are sleeping!" Makes you wonder what is happening in the public school classroom. Are parents allowed to visit schools and observe?
Thomas Gagne May 07, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Dswan - ".. mainly because the result don't come out until January." People often wonder how technology may be used to improve education. Why the non-essay portion of the test isn't available the next day is ridiculous.
Amy Bruce-Stevens July 30, 2012 at 01:12 PM
@Joshua Raymond - I wish there were more people in our school district (Riverview) that thought like you! My twin daughters are going into 3rd grade this year and are very advanced, but are forced to work at the same level as everyone else in their classrooms. With 28+ students per class and no parent participation or "helpers" in the room, the teachers are forced to teach to the lower level students, and those who are advanced are left to fend for themselves. I was actually told by my daughter's teacher this year at conferences "They are so well rounded with all of the activities that they do (hockey, swim team, acting, etc.)... why push them?!" Really?! My question is... Why not?! They are at the age right now that they actually enjoy learning. If we let them be bored now, they will lose that enthusiasm and motivation and start to care less and less. I just don't understand how it is fair to these children to just let them fall by the wayside.
Concerned Parent October 16, 2012 at 06:21 AM
China and Japan? How about Russia? Russian 3rd grade Math is higher than American 6 grade. To talk about Science, Russian kids learn separate subjects such as Botanics, Zoology, Biology, Physics, Chemistry. Russian kids start LEARNING foreign language at 5th grade. I emphasize LEARNING, because our kids were introduced to Arabic, French, Spanish and German in 5 weeks during 5th grade. And the same nonsense continues in 6th grade. BTW, Russian classroom size is normally 40 kids, and parents are not allowed to be 'helpers' in the classroom. Russian teachers DO NOT have a union. So my unorthodox idea is - how about we learn from RUSSIA? Isn't that embarrassing?
Concerned Parent October 16, 2012 at 06:26 AM
Absolutely agree! And we are never given the test results till the end of the year. How can we improve on any weaknesses? Not to mention the actual test scores have almost nothing to do with the child's knowledge. The test can be easily attributed to child's ability to understand particular phrasing or the environment the test was given - we had a crazy teacher last year who managed to have half of the class take an exam while sitting on the floor. I would rather fire that teacher than take MEAP test results into consideration. The teachers are playing politics and our kids are paying for their career driven poor professionalism.
Sara boynstead February 12, 2013 at 09:25 AM
It says that you guys put MEAP scores out For 2012 test
Sara boynstead February 12, 2013 at 09:26 AM
Correct
Nicole Krawcke (Editor) February 12, 2013 at 02:46 PM
Hi Sara, you can find MEAP results here: http://patch.com/A-1PzQ

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