LANSING (AP) — The high school MEAP test would be replaced
with a version of a college entrance exam under legislation
introduced yesterday in the state Senate.

It is one of many possible changes in store for the Michigan
Educational Assessment Program, the state’s K-12 standardized
testing system, in both the state Senate and House.

“People question the validity of the (high school) test
and wonder whether we should be using it,” said state Sen.
Wayne Kuipers (R-Holland), a sponsor of the legislation and
chairman of the Senate Education Committee. “Do we stay with
what we have or move forward? … That is the issue we need to
explore.”

Kuipers plans hearings as early as tomorrow on the legislation
to switch the high school MEAP. Other bills in the Senate package
are sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats.

Kuipers said his legislation would not specify the replacement
test, but other supporters of a switch want a combination of the
academic ACT and a work skills ACT to replace the MEAP.

Supporters of the switch, including the Michigan Association of
Secondary School Principals, say the ACT is a more widely used and
respected measure of high school students’ academic
performance. About 75 percent of Michigan high school students take
a version of the ACT each year to determine their eligibility for
college admissions.

Advocates say the ACT test would be shorter and easier to give,
saving hours of classroom instruction time.

Opponents of the switch say the ACT is not in line with Michigan
standards. The MEAP test is written to conform with state
standards, they say.

State schools superintendent Tom Watkins has said the MEAP may
be do a better job meeting requirements of the federal No Child
Left Behind Act, a law intended to make sure all students can read
and do math at grade level. Nearly 900 Michigan schools in January
failed to meet the law’s yearly progress requirements based
on MEAP tests taken in 2003.

A House subcommittee yesterday also recommended replacing the
high school MEAP with the combination of the two ACT tests. The
recommendation includes making changes to assure that the switch
does not add extra costs to the state budget.

The House Education Subcommittee on Standardized Testing and
Assessment, headed by Republican Rep. Joanne Voorhees of Wyoming,
also suggested other changes that could affect how the MEAP is
developed, administered and scored.

The panel recommended establishing a MEAP advisory panel that
would oversee and report on the program annually. It also
recommends establishing fixed deadlines for the program from when
schools receive materials to when results are released, and
penalizing schools or testing companies if the deadlines are not
met.

Delays in getting test results have been a major concern for
school districts and lawmakers the past few years.

Ed Roeber, a state official overseeing the MEAP for the past
five months, acknowledged there are problems with the program,
which was recently returned to the Department of Education from the
state Treasury Department.

“Problems that have taken years to fester will not be
fixed overnight,” he said, adding that he expects to see
improvements in the MEAP system each year.

The State Board of Education next month could vote on a proposal
that would change the time of year the MEAP is taken, possibly
consolidating all the exams into October and November starting in
the 2005-06 academic year.

The tests now are given in the winter and spring.

An autumn testing date would allow schools to get their MEAP
results in the middle of the school year. That would leave time to
work on weaknesses exposed through the testing, supporters of the
date switch say.

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