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Testing in Michigan: An Overview

A GreatSchools guide to standardized tests

By GreatSchools Staff

Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. Michigan's tests are standards-based tests that measure how well students are meeting the state's grade-level expectations. In 2009-2010 Michigan used the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) to test students in grades 3 through 8 in reading, writing and math. Students in grades 5 and 8 were also tested in science, and students in grades 6 and 9 were tested in social studies. The MEAP is administered in the fall.

Michigan also administered the Michigan Merit Examination (MME), which combines a state standards-based assessment with the ACT college entrance exam and WorkKeys assessment. The MME is administered in the spring to grade 11 students and tests math, science, social studies, reading and writing. The ACT tests English, math, reading, science and writing. The ACT WorkKeys assesses students' preparation for employment by testing reading for information and applied mathematics.

Michigan uses student scores on the MEAP and MME, along with a school's self-rating on performance indicators, to assign Education YES! Grades to schools.

How are the tests scored?

MEAP and MME results report the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are rated at one of the following four levels: advanced (level 1), proficient (level 2), partially proficient (level 3) and not proficient (level 4). The goal is for all students to score at or above the proficient level.

The ACT results are reported as mean scale scores which range from a low of 1 to a high of 36 for all subjects except writing, which ranges from 2 to 12. The Composite score is an average of the English, math, reading and science scores.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

For each subject on the MEAP and MME, the combined percentage of students scoring at or above the proficient level is displayed. MEAP and MME results are displayed for all public and private schools for which the Michigan Department of Education released data. Unlike public schools, private schools are not required to give the MEAP or the MME, but some do on a voluntary basis. State averages displayed on private school profiles for the MEAP include private schools only. State MME averages displayed on private school profiles include both public and private schools. Private school results are not included in GreatSchools Ratings.

ACT composite scores and each subject score are also displayed for all public and private schools for which the Michigan Department of Education released data.

Why do the tests matter?

Although Michigan does not require schools to use test results to determine whether a student is promoted from one grade to another or graduates from high school, the tests do have consequences. High scores on the MME tests can qualify a student for a Michigan Merit Award, which provides scholarship money for postsecondary education. Though the state does not mandate it, some local districts do use the MME as a graduation requirement. ACT scores can be used to gain entrance to colleges and receive college scholarships. MEAP scores are important for schools because they help determine whether a school will receive financial rewards or penalties from the state.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall score for his school. If your child scores below the standards, contact his teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home.

If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you can do to help. If your child is in a failing school, ask what your options are for transferring and obtaining supplemental services.

Test results don't tell you everything about the quality of a particular school, although they can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final assessment.

Comments from readers

"I think you mislead when you do not introduce idea of cut scores with proficiency. Changes in cut scores can make a school rise or fall in %proficient. You should make that clear. "
"It would be great to see Stanford - Binet test score averages for the schools as well as the number of National Merit Scholars each graduating class has recently had. This would allow us to compare schools better from state to state. Thanks for providing this valuable information! Laura Smaling"
"I am very concerned that you do not explain to parents that any testing done in the fall is of serious consequences to the school and student. Data shows that students loose a great deal of content over the course of the summer and return to be tested over the content from the prior year. Additionally, the data does not reflect the fact the the content tested has been changed practically yearly. It is frustrating for me as a teacher as we are 'graded' on the testing results but never is it taken into consideration that the climate of the community for the testing has a substantial effect on how students test. An example would be the state changing the testing for the year 2007 for high school students. the decision was shared with teachers in the fall to prep students to the ACT. The testing format was completely different than the prior years for the high school MEAP. It is very important for the students to be ready to take the test and to understand how the testing proce! ss happens. Additionally, if we are testing for outcomes, are we then teaching to the outcomes?"