1. The MEAP is really multiple tests. . . reading, writing, math, science, social studies.
2. It might not be obvious, but while the reading test is just that--a reading test--the other tests are really also reading tests. You might think of them as "reading +" tests. The reason I say that is that in order to answer the questions on, for instance, the social studies MEAP, you have to be able to read them. So if you don't read well, guess what? You're not likely to test very well on any of the other sections either, even if you are really good at doing experimental science or can identify the 500 most common insects in Michigan.
3. The MEAP is not like other tests, where a teacher gives the test, figures out that half of the class didn't really get the concept of a rhombus, and re-teaches the concept. No. The test comes at the beginning of the year, the results come at the end of the year, and they're never used for anything except. . .
4. Except evaluating schools. If enough kids don't take the tests. . . if the kids who take the tests don't do well. . . if a subset of kids don't do well, then guess what? The school doesn't make "Adequate Yearly Progress," which basically feels to the schools like they are getting a big fat F. Note my commentary about Skyline's MEAP tests last year.
5. It is this "high stakes" nature of the test that leads teachers to do a lot of pre-testing and test preparation. And the stakes are not high for the students, the way that a final exam worth 40% of a semester-long class might be. No--the stakes are high for the schools.
6. The test compares year-to-year results for a school. What I mean is that the test is comparing last year's fourth graders to this year's fourth graders, not last year's third graders to this year's fourth graders. If a student moves from School A to School B, the results do not follow the student. And if a new student comes into a school, the state's evaluation still assumes the student has been there for the last several years. That is not at all helpful for schools that have high turnover in students because of poverty and unstable households. Incidentally, the MEAP was neither designed for nor (scientifically) validated for use this way, and yet that is how it gets used.
7. One of my biggest objections to the MEAP is that it in no way benefits the students. Why should students spend a ton of time on something that doesn't benefit them?
8. The question has been raised to me: is there a way to opt out of the MEAP? In the past, many parents did (so obviously it should be possible). However, districts have gotten their backs up about this for one reason. And again, it's not something that benefits students. If enough students don't take the MEAP (and I don't mean, if enough students don't do well, I mean if they don't take it) then the school can fail to make "adequate yearly progress" solely on that basis. In other words, even if every student who takes the MEAP is proficient or better, if 10% of the students didn't take the MEAP, then the school could fail to "pass." See how it's not about the students?
9. Well, my friend said, "Why don't people who don't want their children to take the test just pull them out of school for the test?" That turns out to not be so easy. The MEAP has multiple parts (different parts in different grades), and is given during a three-week (or so) window. Most parents don't want to keep their kids out of school for three weeks; most parents aren't able to do so either (things like work tend to interfere). If you are able to take your kids out of school for three weeks, you might be a parent who is inclined toward home schooling, in which case you would not have to subject your child to the MEAP anyway.
10. So can you opt out? I believe so, despite what your district may say. Realize, however, that if you do so you may be putting your school in an uncomfortable position (see #7 above). I have one friend who has successfully (recently) opted out her child from the MEAP, and if I get permission I will share her family's technique--and I have heard of a couple of other techniques as well. (If you have had your own success story, and are willing to share it, send me an email at rlk234 (at) gmail.com.)
In the meantime, I will leave you with this excerpt from our state's Revised School Code:
380.10 Rights of parents and legal guardians; duties of public schools. Sec. 10.I will also leave you with this thought: the volume of tests in our schools increases every year; the high-stakes nature of the tests increases every year. It's time for us to say no to this. If you are an Ann Arbor parent, teacher, or taxpayer, I invite you to sign our petition to stop overtesting in our schools, and I invite you to join our facebook page as well!
It is the natural, fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching, and education of their children. The public schools of this state serve the needs of the pupils by cooperating with the pupil's parents and legal guardians to develop the pupil's intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive environment.
History: Add. 1995, Act 289, Eff. July 1, 1996
Popular Name: Act 451 (Emphasis added)