Contents of this issue:
  • State to recalculate results of MEAP tests after low scores

  • Audit shows insufficient reviews of district pupil counts

  • Flint may attach guarantee to high-school diplomas

  • State law makes ISD budgets more accountable to local districts

LANSING, Mich. — The state Department of Education recalled preliminary results of fourth- and seventh-grade MEAP writing tests last week in response to "alarmingly low" scores as compared to last year's test for the same age groups, according to The Detroit News.

The writing section scores were almost 10 percentage points lower than last year's marks, which, according to state officials, is the result of more challenging test questions rather than a decline in student performance. "After analyzing the test and the results, assessment experts determined this year's writing 'prompts' (essay questions) were more difficult than previous years, requiring a revised scoring scale so the results are statistically comparable," said Education Department spokesman Martin Ackley.

The decision to recalculate the scores was worrisome to some, as the state has said in the past that it would toughen the test to meet requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. "What kind of message are we sending to students when we lower the bar just because we don't like the outcome?" said Rob Minard, executive director of the Grand Rapids-based Great Lakes Education Project. "You can't suddenly change the rules of the game just because you are down 10 points at halftime. If there is a need for improvement, we won't know where to begin if the problem is glossed over for fear that the results might not look good to the public."

The Detroit News, "State to pad MEAP scores," Apr. 29, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "How Does the MEAP Measure Up?" December 2001

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "POLICY BRIEF: Which Educational Achievement Test Is Best for Michigan?" May 2002

Michigan Education Report, "Markets, not MEAP, best way to measure school quality," Spring 2000

HOLLAND, Mich. — A report released last week from the Office of the Auditor General called for the state Department of Education to resume its quality control reviews of district pupil counts, which are used to allocate state funds to school districts.

The Department of Education said that in 1997 it lost three state auditors who checked the accuracy of district per-pupil counts, and could only replace one, who was cut from the budget in 2003, ending all such reviews, according to The Holland Sentinel. The report from the auditor general found that the education department is "somewhat effective" in confirming the quality and veracity of pupil count claims from school districts.

Recently, the education department placed an auditor in the quality check position part-time, but, according to spokesman Martin Ackley, cannot do much more due to budget restrictions. "With fewer state resources, you have reduced ability to oversee," Ackley said. "We're using what we have."

The Holland Sentinel, "State plans stricter school reviews," Apr. 27, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Funding: Lack of Money or Lack of Money Management?" August 2001

FLINT, Mich. — The Flint Board of Education academics committee approved a program last Thursday that would guarantee that the district's high school graduates meet minimum standards for employment, including reading, writing and math, reported The Flint Journal.

If the policy is approved by the whole board, the district would re-educate graduates that are not properly prepared in those three subjects. "If you're a business and you hired a guaranteed student who doesn't make it, then we'll take them back and retrain them," interim Superintendent Ira Rutherford told The Journal. "We're introducing this starting with our ninth-graders (this fall), and when they graduate in 2009, we will guarantee their diploma and that they'll be able to function in the world of work and in the business community."

A similar program in the Flint district was started in 1993, but "went nowhere," according to school principal John Clothier. Referring to the current guarantee proposal, Clothier said, "It's a great (public relations) move, but it's going nowhere. I've been around long enough to see most of this stuff come around." But if the current program is approved, said Rutherford, "We will be the only district in Genesee County guaranteeing that our graduates have the prerequisite skills for the world of work."

The Flint Journal, "Flint grads could come with guarantee," Apr. 30, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education," Sept. 2000

BAY CITY, Mich. — Intermediate School Districts must have their budgets approved by the local districts they serve or present their budgets to local districts under a new accountability law passed earlier this school year, reported The Bay City Times.

Local districts must approve or reject the budgets by June 1, a process that adds a new legal requirement for ISDs. "It's a good thing that we present our budget because (the districts) are the ones that send their children to us," said Bay-Arenac ISD Superintendent Michael Dewey, whose district has three budgets totaling about $32.5 million.

The law was passed as part of a package of bills meant to strengthen the financial accountability of ISDs following misconduct in the Oakland County ISD. "(The law) is necessary because someone abused it," said Bangor Township Schools Superintendent Michael Andress . "As a result of that, there are a lot more rules. It created a lot more work for the local ISD." Additionally, the improved communication between ISDs and local districts is "a good thing in a lot of ways," said Bay City Public Schools board member Marie McFarland.

The Bay City Times, "New law makes ISDs more accountable with local schools," Apr. 28, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "Financial scandals exposed in Michigan school districts," Fall 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Eliminate Intermediate School Districts," August 2003

Michigan Education Report, "What Are Intermediate School Districts?" Winter 2000

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 130,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Neil Block at

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