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Posted on Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 11 a.m.

Ann Arbor schools prepare for ‘next steps’ to address higher MEAP, MME standards

By Danielle Arndt

It will take a lot of work to reduce the impact of the state’s decision to raise Michigan Merit Exam (MME) and Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) standards, said Deb Mexicotte, Board of Education president for Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Alesia Flye, deputy superintendent of instructional services for AAPS, and Jane Landefeld, co-director of research services, presented a list of “next steps” for addressing the new standards with students, teachers and parents at Wednesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

The steps include realigning the district’s curriculum to the new core standards, evaluating teachers, developing building data teams to shape future classroom programming and comparing the fall 2011 MEAP/MME results to results from other standardized tests that evaluate college readiness.

“It’ll be a challenge when scores get released to parents,” said Trustee Christine Stead, explaining parents may “freak out” when they see their child’s scores drop significantly. “Really, it’ll be a challenge for the whole state. The timing, in some ways, couldn’t be worse, when we are trying to rebuild as a state.”

The core subjects that will be most impacted by the higher standards are math and English/language arts, Flye said. The changes include separate standards for literacy in the English portion of the test and the science and social studies portions for grades 6-12, she said. The test also will put more emphasis on reading for comprehension.

The changes made to the math portion vary based on grade level. Elementary pupils must show a “solid foundation in basic conceptual understandings and procedures;” middle schoolers must build on that foundation through “hands-on” learning, probability and statistics; and high schoolers must apply mathematics to more real-world challenges, Flye said.

Michigan students took the MEAP in October.

A memo explaining the cut-score changes already was issued to parents in the Ann Arbor district.

The state took the new, tougher standards for passing the exam and applied them retroactively to 2010’s test results. To see how Ann Arbor Public Schools stacks up against other districts in the area, visit the Statewide Education Dashboard.

Staff reporter Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Sat, Dec 10, 2011 : 8:17 a.m.

I'm so tired of hearing about change this, more money for that, parents this, let's just go back to the basics, it seems to have served all the older folks well.


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

As a parent of three elementary schools students in the AAPS system it is disappointing to know that our teachers are driven to base their academic curriculum for the students based on the MEAP. My children all learn at different ways and different levels. Their teachers put pressure on them to perform well on the MEAP. Leaving no room for their differences in test taking and the way they assimilate the classroom material. As a result the teachers throw material at my children all day long and then send it home with them when they don't have time to complete it. The teachers are children are husband and I are stressed. AAPS has even started making the "specials" teachers such as music,art and library teach classroom material. My child came home from school and told me that he had to do a written report in his music class on products made in Michigan. Seriously???? Whatever happened to singing songs in music class??? My children use to enjoy school but now they dread going in the mornings anymore. It saddens me deeply. Oh and now. thanks to the budget cuts, my kids have a new bus driver who has too many kids on the bus and no time to be concerned with kids hitting other kids and using foul language on her bus. When I can I drive my children to school. My dream is to have my children go to school and be seen as individuals and to be taught individually. My dream is to have my children enjoy going to school. My dream is to have my children come home and say they had a great day and their teacher smiled and them and she didn't seem stressed out. I am saddened that our teachers are forced to teach in the matter. I hate the MEAP testing.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 8:59 p.m.

Teachers already know who is doing well and who is not. They work with the kids who are struggling. The testing is more of a standardized documentation to show the overall level of kids throughout the State. Kids that are struggling and subsequently may not perform well on the standardized test are either limited by a learning disability or have outside influences (broken home, single parent house, other isssues) that cause a distraction to the learning process. Increased classroom sizes are not helping the issue either. What is very disturbing is the potential to use these test scores in evaluating teacher success. Teachers that have troubled kids will show a lower overall success rate and may then be subjected to performance review, through no fault of their own. A very unfair situation.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

&quot;They are completely at the mercy of outside forces. &quot; Apparently you think not, DonBee. So please render your &quot;expert&quot; opinion on these questions: 1) How does a teacher improve the performance of a student who will not do the work necessary for true learning to take place? 2) How does a teacher overcome the influences of family and/or friends and/or culture that all too frequently discourage working hard at school? As a sideline to this question: Asian-Americans as a group do remarkably well in school. Do we think this is because they all got lucky and got the &quot;good&quot; teachers, or is there something else going on? And if it is &quot;something else&quot;, might we recognize that in other families there are other influences at work that are not nearly so positive? 3) There are 8760 hours in a year. The typical elementary school child spends a little more than 1000 hours per year in class. Is that student's teacher expected in 1000 hours to overcome all that happens in the other 7700, much less all that happened before that student set foot in their classroom? 4) The average HS teacher sees a student 1 hour per day. If that teacher has the same student for two semesters, they will see that student for 180 hours per year. See the question in 3) above and change the numbers. Your disdain for the teaching profession is apparent. So is you ignorance of the magnitude of the problem. And note the discussion regarding the proposed balanced school year. Parents' priorities become loud and clear there: <a href=""></a> This is a simple potential fix. There is no doubt that, no matter the race, students fall backwards in the summer. This is a way to fix that. And look who is objecting. Not the teachers Not the union. The parents. Time to focus on the real problem. Except that bashing teachers has become habit, hasn't it?


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 3:22 a.m.

gyre - As I understand the teaching mantra these days, nothing that goes wrong in a classroom or a school is the teacher's fault. They are completely at the mercy of outside forces. I believe that great teachers can achieve great results, regardless of outside forces. I don't think evaluating how children did during a school year (progress while in a teacher's class) is unfair. If a student started out with a 4th grade level in 7th grade and finished the year with a 5th grade level, they made 1 year of progress. That seems a fair evaluation to me. What should change is social promotion. If you have not mastered a subject, you should not advance. This is a major problem in today's schools.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 1:30 a.m.

Thanks for your comments, grye. I do worry about my evaluation being based on how all students from my class do on the standardized tests. There are a tremendous number of children (in SOME schools more than others in the AAPS) who have disabilities, or outside influences, and they do find it challenging to meet the expectations of the rigorous AAPS curriculum. One issue that is evident these days is that there is an increase in students who have developed a work habit referred to as &quot;learned helplessness&quot; - unless a teacher sits right next to them and helps them do their work, they won't do anything. Having several of these children in a class is challenging, it is impossible to sit next to this many children constantly during the day, and what about the other children? It is sad when a capable student doesn't receive individual teacher time because we are always working with the &quot;learned helplessness&quot; students!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 8:49 p.m.

My understanding, based on articles in the Free Press, is that the change applies to what's considered 'Proficient.' For example, up until now, 39% correct in Math was good enough to score Proficient. One wonders whether the actual score was included in previous test results rather than just the category - if yes, parents who read the results would not be suprised by the new results as only the category will change. This isn't clearly explained above. There were many naysayers when the state raised the high school graduation requirements, opponents feared more drop outs - kids couldn't be expected to pass 4 years of math. Instead, districts rose to the challenge; offering math labs in addition to lecture for those who needed it. The end result is fewer students taking remedial classes in college. Evaluations for teachers, building teams that meet to discuss curriculum; if implemented would all be benefits of the standards change; in addition to a more accurate picture of each student's academic performance. Let's take it a step further and implement the MAP test in all districts; this comupter based test with progressive questions gets a snap shot of the student's baseline at the beginning of the year; the progress in January and again in June. Real time data teachers can use to make changes that target individual students; parents can see whether their son/daughter actually got a full year of learning. Ann Arbor is piloting MAP; NHA Charters use it in all of their schools. Perhaps it could replace the MEAP.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 6:39 p.m.

&quot;The end result is fewer students taking remedial classes in college.&quot; Really? You have stats to back this claim? Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

This is not more testing, it is rather being honest about what the scores mean. Getting 40 percent of the answers right does not make one &quot;HIGHLY PROFICENT&quot;. Michigan choose to &quot;dumb down&quot; the scale to make the schools look better. The reality is that the schools are NOT making the right progress for many students, and they were lying to themselves and the parents. This is a much more honest situation. Yes, this means more work, and potentially changing HOW the schools teach. But, it also means students, parents and teachers have a much better chance to intervene before a student is too, too far behind. I am happy to see this change, I am sad to see the district present it in this light.

say it plain

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

I realize it is not *more* testing, but the reality will be that schools will spend more energy focusing on getting the kids 'ready for the test' now than they did before with the softer standards. I agree that there are some important issues with HOW the schools teach, and I hope that this motivates changed instructional strategies and techniques! I hope that the 'next steps' doesn't merely look like catch-up exercises for those who will now be 'shocked' by their scores according to AAPS, but rather something more like real consideration of how and where schools are failing our kids, so that remedies can be found as early as possible.

say it plain

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

On the one hand, I hate the idea of more testing. I'd prefer to see *less* testing, and more acceptance of students' moving at different rates on many many things... and more acceptance of the idea that, especially in the elementary and middle school years, what they are learning in school is at least as much *how to learn* and *how to become socially intelligent and manage one's own emotional issues as well* as anything academic. That we pay so little attention to that--and do so less and less as the state/feds control what teachers must 'cover' to test well on the government-purchased testing packages and thusly stay funded--keeps us from serving all our students well. Furthermore, all the focus on scores scores scores can be very discouraging to children who are not developing as quickly as their peers, and it's not so hot for even the students who do well on tests, in my opinion. *But*, if higher 'standards' might allow for deeper consideration of some of the early curriculum--particularly the *math* curriculum imo--and whether teachers are doing the best for their students in the early grades especially, then I think it can only be a good thing.