In July, the Michigan Department of Education released the official statewide results of the winter 1999 Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) tests. Scores were mixed overall, with four areas showing improvement and four declining.
In January and February 1999, fourth- and seventh-graders were tested on their math and reading skills. Fifth- and eighth-graders were tested in science and writing. According to the Department of Education, the MEAP tests are intended to answer the question, "How are our students doing compared to what we want them to know and do?"
Districts that showed marked improvement admit they are aligning their academic courses to cover the areas tested. Westwood schools, for example, whose students' scores improved more than those from any other metro Detroit district, focused on improving students' scores on reading and writing. "For two years, it's all we've been concentrating on," said Patrick McLaughlin, vice president of the Westwood Board of Education, to The Detroit News.
Michigan's public school academies, or charter schools, are also claiming MEAP success. Just four years after the state's first charters opened, students surpassed statewide averages for the first time on tests in science and writing.
Most notable is the charter schools' average in eighth-grade writing skills. The statewide average percentage of students who achieved satisfactory scores is 63.5 percent, but the average for all charter schools is 70.4 percent, up dramatically from an average 45.5 percent satisfactory last year, according to Dan Quisenberry of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.
Statewide averages for all schools were up slightly in seventh-grade math, fourth-grade reading, and eighth-grade science. The greatest increase in MEAP averages was in seventh-grade scores, up 4.2 percent. The largest decline was experienced in writing among fifth-graders, down 9.5 percent.