School Takes Initiative to Reduce MEAP Stress

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It's no secret tests aren't fun, but the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, or MEAP, has an especially bad reputation with its young test takers.

"Before the MEAP, it's always so nerve wracking," said Ireland Bebee, an 8th grader at Hayes Middle School in Grand Ledge. "You're always so scared. Like, oh my gosh, what if I don't have enough time and if I don't fill it in, I'll get a bad grade and stuff."

Those are common feelings for MEAP takers. In fact, student surveys at Hayes Middle School find the thing they least look forward to is the MEAP, and it's the state's sole snapshot for assessment.

"It's tough to say that your whole district is being graded on one little window, but we're all on the same scale," said Principal Christoper Groves. "Some kids don't do well on the MEAP, but they're really brilliant students. Part of it is just test anxiety. It lasts almost two weeks, there's five days of actual testing, and some kids just really stress out with taking tests."

So, this year, they're giving MEAP week a makeover.

"It's important to the community, to the district, and to the school," Groves said. "We want to make sure our kids can do their best."

Instead of scheduling just the allotted time for MEAP exams - for instance, 60 minutes for one test and 60 minutes for another - students will be given a total of 140 minutes, no matter what. Groves and students expressed concern about feeling rushed or pressure when students finish early, and they felt this was the right solution.

The school is also offering nutritious snacks in the morning, and an extended lunch period. Rather than 25 minutes, students will eat with their entire grade for an hour. Other activities like karaoke and outside athletics will be available as well.

"We're hoping they can unwind and recharge their batteries for afternoon periods of class time," said Guidance Counselor Lisa Treirweiler.

Teachers have been asked to strike a fair balance between classwork and MEAP tests, too. Groves suggested big projects and assignments can be scheduled accordingly.

"I think this year will be a lot less stressful," Bebee said.

The Michigan Department of Education recommends students get plenty of rest and eat nutritious meals.

Testing ends Oct. 17, though make-up tests run through the end of the month.

The state is replacing the MEAP with a new standardized test in Spring 2015.

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