MEAP Results Are Encouraging

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State education officials say they are encouraged overall with results on the latest round of Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests, but a concern is that math scores tend to drop as students get older.

Results for tests taken by elementary and middle school students in the fall of 2005 were released Thursday. The Michigan Department of Education said it appears students are adjusting to recently adopted tougher curriculum standards.

"We believed that if we raised the bar in education and expected more of our teachers and students, they would meet and exceed our expectations," Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. "These results show that we were right; higher standards will lead to higher achievement for Michigan students."

Changes in content and student performance expectations, as well as an earlier testing period this school year, make it "inappropriate" to compare this year's MEAP results to last school year, the Michigan Department of Education said.

This is the first year that nearly all students in grades three through eight were assessed in both math and English, in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Michigan third- and sixth-graders had not taken MEAP tests in recent years.

Nearly 1 million Michigan students were tested, roughly double the number from last school year.

About 87 percent of public school third-graders met or exceeded MEAP math standards in the tests taken in the fall of 2005. The percentage dropped to about 60 percent in seventh grade and 63 percent in eighth grade.

The state is moving to address the score lag. As part of her fiscal year 2007 budget proposal, Granholm has recommended $15 million for a new after-school program for middle school students to focus on math, science and computer technology. Rep. John Moolenaar, a Midland Republican, has introduced a bill that would boost funding for middle school math programs.

“We must focus on mathematics in the middle school so students not only will meet state standards, but will have the foundation for the more rigorous requirements in high school and later in the workplace," state schools chief Mike Flanagan said in a statement.

Scores in other subject areas were mixed.

Eighty percent or more of students met or exceeded standards in reading tests for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, the state said. More than 70 percent met or exceeded standards for reading tests in sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

Writing scores were among the lowest in the subject areas tested. Just more than 50 percent of students in third- and fourth grades met standards, while scores improved slightly in higher grades.

More than 75 percent met or exceeded expectations in science tests for fifth- and eighth-graders.