Michigan Reduces Test Consequences

K-12 Testing

Michigan’s new Education Superintendent Tom Watkins has postponed implementing the state’s new school accreditation process, saying the plan needs further adjustments. At the same time, the state adopted a new law which scales back previous grade promotion rules.


Under the accreditation plan, schools would have had to test 80 percent of their students and have at least 25 percent of students pass the state Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) exams in reading, math and writing. The Michigan Education Association, principals, superintendents, and some state Board of Education members criticized the plan for failing to account for other factors affecting school achievement, such as drop out rates, funding inequities and community poverty levels.


Saying the plan relies too heavily on the MEAP to label schools, Watkins invited business leaders, educators and politicians to meet and suggest improvements that will move away from a test-based system. “It should be about lifting and upholding schools,” he said, “not beating them down.” The superintendent also urged more schools and students to take the MEAP, saying “low participation is unacceptable.”


The accountability plan became the focus of heated controversy earlier this year when preliminary calculations showed that over 1,000 Michigan schools would fail to be reaccredited. This was partially due to an ongoing boycott of the MEAP by parents who have exercised their state-approved option not to have the MEAP administered to their children (see Examiner, Winter 1999). This contributed to reducing test participation rates at some schools below the 80 percent level that would have been required to gain accreditation.


Lawmakers also passed a new provision mandating retention only for students in grades four to six who remain at least one year behind grade level in reading after they have participated in both summer school and a two-year remed-iation plan. Students can only be retained once in that period. Special needs and students learning English as a second language are exempt from the requirements. The previous law, due to take effect his year, would have required students at all grade levels to remain in grade if they failed to meet standards.