Students outscore MEAP averages
Most still opt out of state's revised tests
Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills high school juniors who took the state's revamped academic performance test last spring outscored both county and statewide averages.
But participation at both Birmingham high schools is still down in spite of the re-aligned test. In Birmingham Schools, participation fell dramatically from 50 percent in 1996-97 to 9 percent In 1997-98. Historically, students have opted out of the controversial test instead of risking a low score, which ends upon a student's diploma.
"I believe the state department of education was very sincere in its attempt to make changes to the test, but in Birmingham the damage had been done in terms of parents knowing they could opt out if they chose," said Shirley Bryant. spokeswoman for the district.
"We support the exam as a district," she said. "We have been on record many times saying it has helped educators raise standards. We were shocked the first year when 50 percent dropped out. There seemed to be a run on that decision at one school. A story was written, then there was a run at another school."
There were 560 juniors eligible to take the test last spring, Bryant said. There were 52 who took the math test, 40 who took the reading exam, and 44 each who took science and writing tests.
Statewide, between 24.6 (reading) and 26.1 percent of pupils did the test, according to Chris Schram, state supervisor for the MEAP.
"There is no teeth in the ability of students and parents to make that decision (to opt out)," Bryant said. "It also hasn't helped any that businesses and universities have said they pay little attention to results of the test."
Participation was higher In Bloomfield Hills, where out of 436 juniors, 292 students took the math test, 300 took the reading test, 290 took the science test and 271 took the writing test.
Students who participate in the Michigan Education Assessment Program receive a state endorsement in each subject area, with the designation placed on their transcripts.
The test was changed last school year in response to concerns raised by students, parents and education officials.
The total time taking the test was shortened from 100 minutes to 75 in math, from 100 to 80 in reading, from 110 to 80 in science and from 160 to 120 in
Category names were changed. Gone are the terms "proficient," ''novice" and "not yet proficient," replaced by level 1 (endorsed at basic level), Level 2 (endorsed met Michigan Standards), Level 3 (endorsed at basic level) and Level 4 (unendorsed).
Of the Birmingham students who took the latest MEAP, about 95 percent achieved a Level 3 or better m math and reading; 99 percent in science and 93 percent in writing.
"We're very proud of our students who took the test," said Birmingham Public Schools Superintendent John Hoeffler. "They did a good job of representing Birmingham Public Schools. Their scores are something to be proud of."
In Bloomfield Hills Schools, 95.5 percent of students achieved a Level 3 or better in math; 94.3 percent in reading; 96.2 percent in science and 94.1 percent in writing.
Bloomfield Hills Schools Superintendent Gary Doyle has long been an outspoken critic of the state Department of Education for its Michigan Education Assessment Program and the proficiency test. He anticipated the release of the latest scores at last week's board meeting.
At that meeting, Doyle cautioned that schools and districts should not be compared because of widely varying participation levels. He also criticized the test for cutting valuable class time.
"It is an enormous intrusion on instructional time," Doyle said.