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Posted on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

School official: We're committed to raising MEAP scores

By Cindy Heflin

When you’re used to looking at passing rates of 90 or even 97 percent, 37 percent doesn't look so hot.

But that’s the reality Ann Arbor Public School officials confronted Wednesday when the state released MEAP results.

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Students prepare for the MEAP test at Abbot Elementary School in Ann Arbor in this file photo.

The 37 percent figure, in fifth-grade science, was nothing to crow about, but it’s not that Ann Arbor students have suddenly gotten a lot worse at science. It’s that the state changed the way the test is scored: It now takes more correct answers than in prior years for a student to rank as “proficient.”

The Ann Arbor results on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test were a lot better in reading and math, with passing rates in the 60 to 80 percent range, but the district says it’s committed to improving scores under the new system.

“We know the level of expectation," said Alesia Flye, deputy superintendent for instruction. "Our scores are usually higher. We feel optimistic that … we can get our scores back to the level that the community accustomed to seeing.”

The state released scores today in reading and math for grades three through eight for all public schools, including charter schools. Scores were also released in writing for grades four and seven, science for grades five and eight and social studies for grades six and nine.

The State Board of Education approved raising the passing rates or cut scores last year. Districts have been warning parents for months to expect a dramatic change in passing rates.

The higher cut scores bring Michigan into a more comparable standing with states across the country and will improve upon college readiness, the state said. The old scores painted an inaccurate picture of students’ proficiency, the state said.

Despite the higher cut scores, Ann Arbor students still scored above the statewide average in every category, as they usually do.

Flye said the district has aligned its curriculum with Common Core State Standards, which should help to bring the scores back up. She also said an interdisciplinary approach to curriculum should especially help boost scores in science and social studies, which were much lower than reading and math scores.

In Ypsilanti, proficiency rates were much lower, with math proficiency rates dipping as low as 9.6 percent for third-graders. Fourth-graders did the best, with 23.7 percent scoring proficient.

In Saline, Steve Laatsch, assistant superintendent of instructional services, said the district was pleased overall with students' performance on the test. When compared to the recalculated scores from last year, students' scores went up a bit in about half the categories and down a bit in about half the categories.

"What it's showing me is that we're relatively consistent," he said.

Laatsch noted science scores are low across the state. Saline's scores reflected that trend, with a passing rate of 26.7 percent in eighth-grade science. Laatsch said the district will definitely take a look at whether there are weak spots in the science curriculum, but he said Saline students are performing well in upper-level science classes and on the ACT, which would seem to indicate no serious weaknesses.

Sixth-graders in Ypsilanti had the highest proficiency rate for the district in reading at 52 percent, and seventh-graders the lowest, 39.6 percent.

Ypsilanti school district spokeswoman Emma Jackson said district administrators were at a conference Wednesday afternoon and not available for comment.

County charter schools also had varied proficiency scores. Eastern Washtenaw Multicultural Academy averaged the lowest among the charter schools, at 34.8 percent in reading and 12.3 percent in math.

South Arbor Charter Academy averaged the highest of the charter schools in reading, 86.7 percent, and math, 69 percent.

The state average proficiency in math is 36.6 percent and reading is 64.2 percent.

Jan Ellis, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education, said lower percentages were expected with the change to a tougher MEAP scoring scale.

"We increased the passing score because it was set at a basic skill level,” Ellis said. “We found that the cut score needed to substantially increased to ensure students are career and college ready.”

Ellis said districts with substantially low scores should be establishing a plan to help raise test scores, which should involve teachers and students alike.

“It’s likely to be a large concern of a district,” she said. “They would need to look at the entire school and how they can support their students, teachers and staff and have better scores.”

To view your school's results, visit the state's website. reporter Danny Shaw contributed to this story.



Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 10:23 p.m.

Here's a novel idea....How about teaching kids to think instead of teaching to a test.....

A Voice of Reason

Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 2:48 a.m.

How do you know they are learning?


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

I would love to get a look at this new test that is longer. Are more questions necessary to measure a students knowledge about a concept? Are the questions redundant and designed to confuse? Aside from the validity of the test,did the test developers and publishers get more money for this new addition? A comparison of last years testing materials with this years should be reviewed.

Chancey's mom

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

While I do agree that Michigan students need to compare to other states' students, I would have to ask for all aspects being equal. Currently Michigan has students beginning Kindergarten often when they are 4 (must be five by Dec. 5) while other states have set theirs at Aug. 31 or Sept. 1. While at first those few months might not seem important, but any child care professional can attest that four more months of growth is critical at that young age! Imagine a Kindergarten classroom in which a quarter of the children are less than 5. Then imagine that same group in a Kindergarten a year later. This makes a big difference! Now add to this that some parents, with the economic ability to do so, hold their 4 year old back a year to give him or her another year to be "school ready." This widens the gap between the students from the get go. Michigan should change the starting age of schooling to be five years by Aug. 31!

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

"The 37 percent figure, in fifth-grade science, was nothing to crow about, but it's not that Ann Arbor students have suddenly gotten a lot worse at science."....yes it is something to crow about!! We are finally being compared to the national standards and no longer is 35% right on the MEAP a passing grade. Our kids were never proficient in science when compared to the kids in other states and are behind. Dumb down the test passing score and we can all look successful. The truth is in the MME results and how many are passing the MME. Eventually these kids are tested when they take the ACT, so until colleges stop requesting the ACT or SAT as a measure of proficiency for incoming students, testing is a must.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

I don't always agree with you, but I do wholeheartedly on this post.


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

Recommended reading: John McWhorter's Losing the Race and Charles Murray's Real Education. They both address many of the real problems and offer thoughtful suggestions for solving them.


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

again, not being a charter school fan but... did I read this correctly that the WORST performing charter school did better than Ypsilanti's schools by twice?


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 4:05 a.m.

The changes to the cut score were decided by a Board of Education that was appointed by Governor Granholm. For years Michigan set the bar low, so everyone could pass. Just what our children need, low expectations. I don't care how much money you want to throw at some of the districts in Michigan, it will not help. They are broken. The schools need to re-think how they teach. Social promotion has to be dropped. Students need to perform or not move forward. Right now more than half of the students who graduate and go on to College need at least one remedial class to be ready for college. This to me is failure. If you graduate, you should be ready to start college.


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 11:15 a.m.

@Don, I'm not sure where you get your number but there are many public schools in Michigan that do very very well - they are mostly (lots of exceptions but mostly) located in homogeneous communities mostly affluent and rural. They set the bar very high and meet it every time. That is the elephant in the room that nobody will talk about - the fact that in order to learn, children from classes and races have very different needs and that translates to different funding.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

All i can say is what i have been saying all along. Our future is in our kids education. Cut what you want, test whom you want. But they need more support and more funds. You change things when you start from the bottom. Kids are the ones who will change our future. Thanks Mr. Rick for you know what blank things up for our future.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

We need more effectively spent funds not more funds.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 10:09 p.m.

Its time to start some more for profit schools in Michigan. We all know that anything done by private enterprise will be much better than what the government does. These schools won't have to deal with those pesky Unions, can pay all the teachers minimum wage, and the MEAP scores will go through the roof. Then we take the money saved on education and cut taxes on business again. Man, these Republicans who run this state are slick... Just as an aside, the Business Climate judged by the Tax Foundation has put Michigan at #18 this year, up from #17 last year (Granholms business climate number). It is interesting that all the tax cuts for business that the Rickster did, lowered us one place in the index. Maybe we should raise the taxes on business back to the previous rates and use that extra $1.8B for education? It would get our business climate back up to where it was when Governor Granholm left office. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 4 a.m.

Leaguebus - Nice try, but this is a comparison (your link) of 2011 to 2010. The new taxes take effect in 2012. Your article includes the following paragraph...(if you read beyond the first page)... &quot;Recent and Proposed Changes Not Reflected in the 2012 State Business Tax Climate Index Michigan Michigan passed corporate and individual tax changes in 2011. The flat individual tax rate will be reduced slightly beginning in calendar year 2013 and some credits and deductions will be eliminated. The corporate reforms are more significant from the perspective of the Index. Most importantly, beginning in calendar year 2012 the state's two-part Michigan Business Tax (MBT), which includes a 6.04 percent net income tax and a 0.98 percent gross receipts tax (both rates include a 21.99 percent surtax), will be replaced with a 6 percent corporate income tax on net income. The elimination of the state's damaging gross receipts tax will improve the state's score on corporate income tax.&quot;

Dick Snider

Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 9:10 p.m.

Hey? How did the Governors kids schools do??? Oh, I forgot, they don't attend our Public Schools. Let's cut the schools budgets again, reroute their monies to other areas, and blame the faculty for these scores. Four more years!!,

A Voice of Reason

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

Jennifer Granholms kids were in private schools too. I am trying to understand the point of your argument. If you are able to prove that more money has a positive impact on the quality of education, please let us know. Ann Arbor is one of the most well funded school districts in the state and our kids are smart and for the most part, easy to educate. How districts do with the difficult to educate shows the true quality of an educational system. We are not even doing well with the somewhat easy to educate.


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 3:51 a.m.

Mr Snider - Cheap shot here. The governor's son attended Huron with my oldest. Governor Snyder was very active in the school community then. His daughter decided she wanted to go to Greenhills, and asked. The Governor agreed to let her. He honored the request of his daughter, he did not &quot;Yank&quot; his child out of public schools. If my child wants a different education environment and it fits the child, I would work to honor it too, what parent would not?


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

We raise the requirements for the students without fixing the problem of instructing them. There are some kids who will do fine but I cannly see this as discouraging for many and I expect we will see a decrease in graduation rates to go with this. Instead of having so many AP classes how about just getting kids profiiecnt in the basics, let them have success, and then maybe they'll get excited about school and want to go higher. If not, they at least will have a good basic education. today we want all of our kids doing college level work by the time they are in high school.. No wonder so many are discouraged; too much stuff crammed into too litle time and not enough time spent on the basics. Lots of wasted instruction hours trying to teach everything, which most students will never use.


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

Why does teaching kids who struggle have to come at the expense of kids in the AP classes? ALL kids deserve to learn at their own level.


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 4:30 a.m.

Right, you wouldn't want academics in academia.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

You want to close the achievement gap? Get the high and mighty academics out of the teaching process and get people in there who understand how to teach the material and can make it interesting and relevant to students. You know the old expression; &quot;those that can't do teach&quot;. Many of them have no empathy for learners and leave them in the dust to fend for themselves........


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

Great. Raising MEAP scores is a laudable goal if the test includes information that is of value to the kids. Now, you want to know how to help the teachers achieve this goal? REDUCE CLASS SIZES. It's simple math. It's probably on the MEAP.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

Tests, tests, and more tests. Step away from the window Johnny, we wouldn't want you using your imagination or anything crazy like that.