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Posted on Fri, Mar 12, 2010 : 5:08 p.m.

MEAP scores show overall gains statewide and in Washtenaw County

By David Jesse

Washtenaw County school districts generally got good news on the fall Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests, number released by the state today showed.

For example, in Saline, scores were up in nine of 16 categories, stayed the same in four and went down slightly in three.

“We want to make sure we keep moving forward and being innovative and creative,” said Steve Laatsch, the district’s assistant superintendent for instructional services. “Every one of our MEAP scores is 90 percent or higher proficiency, so that’s a pretty telling state.”

The local increases were generally mirrored across the state, the department of education said in a press release, which stressed gains in reading.

According to the state, student reading scores on the MEAP test rose in all grades compared to the previous year,

Statewide, students gained 3 percent to 8 percent in every grade except fourth, where the gain was 1 percent. Ninety percent of third graders, 84 percent of fourth graders and 85 percent of fifth grade students attained basic proficiency.

Students in sixth grade climbed from 80 percent to 88 percent, seventh graders increased three points to 82 percent and eighth graders increased from 76 percent to 83 percent.

For the fifth consecutive year since Michigan began implementing more rigorous K-8 grade level content expectations, math scores for students in grades 3-6 have continued to rise. The largest gains occurred among low-income students, students of color, those with limited English proficiency, and students with disabilities, the state said.

Topping the achievement for students on the math test, 95 percent of Michigan third graders attained basic proficiency in math, while 92 percent of fourth graders, 79 percent of fifth graders, and 82 percent of sixth graders also met the basic proficiency levels set for math, the state said. Math scores for seventh and eighth graders declined slightly after four consecutive years of growth.

Milan also saw growth in its scores.

“The test data demonstrates that the implementation of new reading and math initiatives over the past five years are having a positive effect on our elementary scores,” Superintendent Bryan Girbach said.

Laatsch said the gains in similar areas make him slightly skeptical of how much gain is from changing the test.

“We always do wonder, is the test changing? It’s sometimes hard to interpret the success of the MEAP," he said. "It does appear a majority seems to be moving up.”

All Washtenaw County districts saw at least one grade level or subject where there was a decrease.

“Scores were released in 15 areas, and in nine of 15 areas, or for 60 percent of the scores released, the Manchester Community school district showed improvement,” Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin said. “While we saw an overall improvement in our scores, there were a handful of areas in which our scores declined. We can not gloss over these areas. Rather, our challenge now is to learn why and to work to improve the instructional issues we identify in the process.”

Ypsilanti had more gains than losses, said Richard Weigel, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational quality.

“Our teachers take their data very seriously and they’re working to improve on all areas. They consistently work harder to get better.”’s Erica Hobbs contributed to this story. David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.


Dr. I. Emsayin

Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 7:29 a.m.

Middle and high schools would need an entirely different approach to educating students were they to go all year. Classes would need to be more project based, students would need more time for clubs, lunch, physical activity, career skills, vocational education, enjoyable electives, etc. Most adults cannot imagine going to 6 or 7 hours of class a day, taking notes, absorbing material, practicing the material, and then going home to do hours of homework a night. That is what our achieving students are doing. If the students with lower achievement followed the same activity pattern as the high achieving students, then they would achieve better as well. Some of the impetus comes from home where parents have high expectations for their children and make them do their work, practice their instruments, attend enrichment activities, etc. Keeping students in school for the sake of repetition without really allowing the top students to excel and without diversifying instruction, would make students so unhappy with school that the ones who do most poorly would miss the most and gain the least. We would see many of those who could afford it choose private schools. We would continue to have a two tiered system unless there was a big overhaul in how curriculum was delivered.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 3:02 p.m.

Michigan Mom, The schedule I am talking about does NOT increase contract or professional development time. Not one day. If you increase either, than sure, you should pay us more.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 2:04 p.m.

I agree with RAM, most teachers will admit when asked that they spend the first half of each school year reviewing what the students forgot over the summer break and don't get to new material until January each year. Michigan Mom wrote, I agree year round schools would help boost scores, but could someone please tell me how we would pay for it? Unfortunately, all of us Michigan taxpayers are already paying for the failure of our schools to help all of our children to become literate functional members of the information age society. As proof of my assertion I present as Exhibit #1 the fact that the Michigan Department of Corrections absorbs 21% of the State of Michigan general fund budget, or $1.93 billion for the 2010 fiscal year. This equates to an annual cost of $38,600 for each of the roughly 50,000 prisoners. Ive seen estimates that a true year-round school program would add $1,000 per child and there are 1.9 million children between 4 and 17 years of age in Michigan, so $1.9 billion a year. So, pay now or pay later (with higher crime added in). Lisa Starrfield noted some interesting ideas on ways to do it without increasing costs. Perhaps they would work? Anyone else have some good ideas to bring to the discussion? Exhibit #2: think of the businesses chased away from cities with failing schools systems, e.g. Detroit & Flint (and then the rise in crime and prison populations), or the loss of opportunity to grow jobs because companies wont locate new facilities in an area despite it being low cost because of poor public schools because the managers of those firms dont want their own children to get a poor education. Unfortunately our beloved Michigan now is Michissippi, a low cost place to do business. Our per capita wages are 80% of the national average and we rank in the bottom 10 states in the country for average wage rates. If our schools were first-rate, businesses would flock in, considering all the other natural advantages our state has to offer. In Japan, 99.9% of the population has mastered the ability to read their complicated language it took me two years of intensive work in college to get minimally proficient at it with its 5,000+ characters and three alphabets. Japanese children typically go to school six days a week and well into the evenings, with time out for recess time, more electives/specials time as Lisa Starrfield correctly notes, which is required. Luckily, our language is a lot less complicated than Japanese and that kind of schedule isnt required. Unfortunately however, because or our less than rigorous agrarian era scheduled school systems, 21-23% of all Americans are not functionally literate (see "This government study showed that 21% to 23% of adult Americans were not 'able to locate information in text', could not 'make low-level inferences using printed materials', and were unable to 'integrate easily identifiable pieces of information.'" In addition to the 21-23% who are utterly failed by the system, even more received a very substandard education and are unable to earn a decent wage in the modern information society as a result. This is a huge social justice issue and its a scandal that we arent taking immediate action to fix the problem. As a society we will fail if we dont fix this problem. We pay the cost through the higher cost of our prisons and lower economic growth rates from a poorly educated work force. Interestingly, the MEAP score data for our own county supports the 21-23% functional illiteracy rate estimate I quoted above. Here are the 2008-2009 8th grade reading scores sorted from highest to lowest by school district: Ann Arbor Learning Community100.0% South Arbor 98.6% Dexter 90.6% Ann Arbor 90.3% Saline 89.6% Chelsea 89.3% Manchester 88.2% Milan 80.7% Whitmore Lake 78.5% Fortis Academy 78.4% Lincoln 76.5% Honey Creek Community 75.0% Central Academy 61.5% Ypsilanti 57.9% Eastern Washtenaw Multicultural 53.8% Willow Run 53.8% Kudos to Ann Arbor Learning Community, but the pure average (but not weighted by population in each district) is 78.9%, meaning 21.1% failed the reading test and now you see why property prices are much lower in Ypsilanti. The median score for all districts is 79.6% meaning 20.4% failed the reading test. The MEAP scores decline each year a child progresses, as was noted in the discussion above. So, lets fix this problem and come up the *process* to *improve* the system now that we have the data. We urgently need a solid strategic plan detailing what resources it will take to fix this fundamental problem. The benefit would accrue to all of us. Imagine how great our schools and MEAP scores would be if we were among the first to bite the bullet and step up to fix this problem? Imagine the positive impact on attracting jobs to our community and increases in home values if we had the strongest K-12 schools in the region on top of some of the best public universities? The money problems will be solved if we had schools of this quality and that raised the value of our homes and the non-residential properties in the city.

Michigan Mom

Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 1:16 p.m.

@Lisa - thanks for the information, but I disagree that this type of format would not increase costs. Wouldn't teachers expect higher compensation? Especially if you are pushing professional development days during breaks? One of the perks they see in their already "lower" pay is the fact that they get the summers off. I would expect the union to demand a higher pay schedule by going to what would be perceived as a longer school year. Also, buildings would be utilized year round therefore eliminating shutdown periods used to decrease expenses. @Ram - I agree from a learning perspective this is a great format, however until we get a handle on current education funding I do not see this as a viable model.


Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 12:59 p.m.

Year round schooling will have the same amount of school days, with a shortened summer break. This reduces the amount of knowledge students have to relearn at the beginning of each school year because they have been away from the material for so long, and allows our public schools to be more productive. Win-win if you ask me.

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 11:18 a.m.

Michigan Mom, Most year round programs I see do not actually increase contact time or classroom days. Instead, they get rid of 10 weeks of vacation lumped together in the summer by spreading those 10 weeks out across the year. The idea is that children lose ground because they go so long without being in a classroom but that being off 2 or 3 weeks at a time won't be detrimental. So, a typical calendar might look like this.. 9 weeks on 3 weeks off. Each quarter will usually have some kind of break in it as well. Many school on this schedule offer 'enrichment classes' for each of the 3 weeks that they are off but parents have to pay for those. Teachers continue to teach the same amount of time that they had in the past. Professional development is pushed to the breaks though. This kind of plan should not increase costs.

Michigan Mom

Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

I agree year round schools would help boost scores, but could someone please tell me how we would pay for it? School funding is already a serious issue. We are losing good teachers left and right. I just want to scream when I heard Mr. Obama say we need to go to year round schools - why don't we focus on saving the schools we have today?

Lisa Starrfield

Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 8:24 a.m.

Stephen, Extended year is becoming more common though typically, the format I've seen still has the same number of weeks off. Rather than lumping most of them in the summer, they are spread out... 9 weeks on, 3 weeks off. Some schools even have rotating schedules so the school is always in session except for two weeks at New Years but only 75% of students are in attendance at any given time. It's one way to consolidate buildings. However, extended day would have to look very different. There is no way a small child (or even a middle schooler) could sustain instructional levels of focus for 10 hours; most adults can't do it. IF we extended the day, we would have to include more recess time, more electives/specials time. While this would be an improvement for the latch key child who is babysat by the TV, it is not an improvement for most of the kids in Ann Arbor.


Sat, Mar 13, 2010 : 4:26 p.m.

There is plenty of research to support that kids need their down time, too, not the over-structured days so many of them currently have. It might be convenient for working parents, but let's not stress kids out even more.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Mar 13, 2010 : 4:15 p.m.

@SH1 - my source is Prof. Nisbett of UofM and his research is more up to date than Piaget. In addition, if children were required to be "in school" which of course includes athletics and extracurricular activities, during the same hours that their parents were working, it would greatly reduce "latch key kids" or to avoid that the need for very expensive child care that low and moderate income families can't afford and this would greatly reduce the related social ills that flow from the "latch kid kid" phenomenon.


Sat, Mar 13, 2010 : 3:33 p.m.

@Stephen: Extended year and extended day are not the same thing. I support year-round schools, but a 7:30-5:00 day for young children is not educationally wise. My research? Read Piaget.


Sat, Mar 13, 2010 : 2:23 p.m.

I'm in favor of slimming down the summer vacation, but I don't think kids need to be in school over 9 hours a day. That is a little excessive...

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Mar 13, 2010 : 1:37 p.m.

I disagree with SH1, who states, This doesn't fit at all with what we know about child development. Even President Obama and the Secretary of Education have come out in support of eliminating the traditional summer vacation at schools (see because it is now well documented that the long summer break is detrimental to the education of our youth. Talk to any teacher and you'll find out that they generally spend the first half of each school year reviewing what the students were taught the prior year. The fact that the traditional Summer vacation is a major cause of illiteracy is now known from *facts* and *observations* of scientists who have studied the matter. If you want a good overview of the issue by a non-scientist, go read Malcolm Gladwell's current best-seller "Outliers: The Story of Success" which has a chapter devoted to some of this research - it's an excellent read and I highly recommend it! His conclusion is that low and moderate income children fall behind and fail in the system because of the traditional school Summer vacation. In fact, the research shows that 100% of the achievement gap in school they suffer is driven by the traditional school Summer vacation during their primary school education. Once they start down the path towards failure it is very difficult to get them back on track. In Chapter 9 of his best-seller, from pages 257-258, Gladwell writes, "These numbers come from research led by Johns Hopkins University sociologist Karl Alexander. Alexander tracked the progress of 650 first graders from the Baltimore public school system, looking at how they scored on a widely-used math- and reading-skills exam called the California Achievement Test". Scores are broken out by high, medium and low socioeconomic class. Reading scores for example are measured at the end and beginning of each school year for each grade. This determines the total change in scores during the Traditional Summer Vacation: Class // After 1st / After 2nd / After 3rd / After 4th // Total Low // -3.67 / -1.70 / 2.74 / 2.89 // 0.26 Middle // -3.11 / 4.18 / 3.68 / 2.34 // 7.09 High // 15.28 / 9.22 / 14.51 / 13.38 // 52.49 [I apologize that the rows and columns don't format properly on] "Do you see the difference?" Gladwell writes, "Look at the first column, which measures what happens over the summer after first grade. The wealthiest kids come back in September and their reading scores have jumped more than 15 points. The poorest kids come back from the holidays and their scores have *dropped* almost 4 points. Poor kids may outlearn rich kids during the school year. But during the summer, they fall far behind." "Now look at the last column, which totals up all the summer gains from first grade to fifth grade. The reading scores of the poor kids goes up by 0.26 points. When it comes to reading skills, poor kids learn nothing when school is not in session. The reading scores of the rich kids, by contrast, go up by a whopping 52.49 points. Virtually all of the advantage that wealthy students have over poor students is the result of the differences in the way privileged kids learn while they are *not* in school." Just this week, I attended the 2010 Henry Russel Lecture at UofM given by Prof. Richard Nisbett, who is the Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and author of the 2009 book, Intelligence and How to Get It, a topic hes been studying through years of research. FYI, the honor of being the Henry Russel Lecturer is one of the highest academic honors bestowed by UofM on their faculty. At the conclusion of his talk during the Q&A in response to a question about content he briefly touched upon in his lecture, he agreed with the questioner (me) that if the Ann Arbor Public Schools wanted to do the right thing by the students in the district they would send children to school 7:30am to 5pm five days a week, year-round to achieve at their full intellectual potential. So SH1, where is your research study to prove Prof. Alexander & Prof. Nisbett (and every teacher I've ever talked to in my life about this subject) is wrong?! So, what I'd like to know is why aren't our schools stepping up to the plate to fix the school year now that we know that it is the #1 cause that hinders childhood education? We need the *process* to *improve* the system now that we have the data. We urgently need a solid strategic plan detailing what resources it will take to fix this fundamental problem. The benefit would accrue to all of us. Imagine how great our schools and MEAP scores would be if we were among the first to bite the bullet and step up to fix this problem? Imagine the positive impact on attracting jobs to our community and increases in home values if we had the strongest K-12 schools in the region on top of some of the best public universities?


Sat, Mar 13, 2010 : 12:51 p.m.

"K-5 Students need to go to school year-round, and 7:30am to 5pm."?! This doesn't fit at all with what we know about child development. Also, why just K-5 kids? MEAP scores are best at third grade and deteriorate as the students get older.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Mar 13, 2010 : 12:38 p.m.

Here are the 2009-10 3rd grade Reading MEAP scores for the numbers of students who passed the test by District, ranked highest to lowest: Manchester 99.0% Dexter 96.8% Saline 96.3% Whitmore Lake 94.1% Ann Arbor 94.0% Fortis Academy 93.8% Chelsea 92.8% South Arbor 88.8% Milan 88.0% Lincoln 85.8% Honey Creek Community 85.2% Central Academy 82.0% Ann Arbor Learning Community80.8% Eastern Washtenaw Multicultural80.0% Ypsilanti 76.9% Willow Run 68.3% New Beginnings 64.5% Victory Academy 54.5% Kudos to Manchester, but are any of you perturbed that between 3.2% and 45.5% of the other students are condemned to a life of poverty and government assistance already by the time they reach the 3rd grade??? If you can't read you can't be employed in the modern information era. If you fall behind you never catch up. If you don't believe me, look at the numbers for the higher grades that David Jesse assembled. The pass numbers get worse at each higher grade as fewer and fewer students pass the MEAP test. K-5 Students need to go to school year-round, and 7:30am to 5pm. The faster we fix this problem, the faster we'll turn our economy around, as the county would become a magnet for jobs if people could move here and have confidence their children would be properly educated.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sat, Mar 13, 2010 : 9:11 a.m.

Now that the state requires that all teaching is to prepare students for state testing, I would expect a rise in scores. Whether that teaching to state standards is the best educational practice may be another question. Certainly in the cases of poorly trained educators, having specific state mandated guidelines can be helpful. The best teachers can adapt to the guidelines decently. However, there is likely loss of creativity and wonderful special projects that are lost with the mandates of the state. An example of the loss of a fine curriculum is in the loss of student choice in the high school African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American civilizations courses in favor of a generalize World History course, which has an uninspiring curriculum. The specific courses drew students toward areas of interest and allowed them to delve deeply into a culture.

Otto Mobeal

Sat, Mar 13, 2010 : 7:24 a.m.

This sets a BAD presidence! This means that school funding cut backs directly correlate to MEAP scores! I expect will see even more improvement next year!


Fri, Mar 12, 2010 : 8:54 p.m.

My students MEAP results came home yesterday.

Andrew Thomas

Fri, Mar 12, 2010 : 6:48 p.m.

I think Happy Puppy's point is, now that test results have been released by district and school, individual results should also be made available within a week or so, not delayed a couple of months as was the case last year. The time-consuming process of scoring individual tests has already taken place, otherwise there would be no basis for providing results at the school or district level. The results are there, it should be a speedy and relatively easy process to distribute these results to parents. I share Happy Puppy's frustration that this took so long last year, and hope this year will be better.


Fri, Mar 12, 2010 : 4:29 p.m.

Happy Puppy- Students pay to take the ACT and SAT and that money can go towards paying people to score the tests. The MEAP test is a state test and thus costs the state money (which it obviously doesn't have much of these days) to score. The MEAP also includes much more writing than the ACT and SAT. Students have to write what is called "Constructed Responses" on all of the tests- math, science, social studies, and language arts. It takes much more time to grade all that writing.

Happy Puppy

Fri, Mar 12, 2010 : 1:54 p.m.

So we can expect to get our kids' scores when - end of May, just like last year? The slowness of individual score reporting is atrocious - six months. The ACT and SAT get it done in weeks, with far more kids.


Fri, Mar 12, 2010 : 11:55 a.m.

Kudos to the Second Grade Teachers at Lincoln's Brick Elementary School! I saw results on another news site indicating 97.7% of the Third Grade students enrolled in Lincoln's Brick Elementary met State standards in Mathematics. A 13% increase in only one year. Why Second Grade Teachers? Because the MEAP is administered in October, class results are indicative of the previous year's education. Why is this notable at Brick? Because Brick leads all Lincoln elementary buildings in each of the demographic categories commonly cited as contributors to low academic performance. What happened at Brick? A new Mathematics curriculum and a dedicated cadre of Second Grade Teachers who embraced the new methods as a group, and worked together for the success of their students. Congratulations! A entire grade level of students who have mastered matematics early in their educational process. These Third Grader Students and their Second Grade Teachers should equally proud of this result.