Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has
announced drastic changes for the Michigan Education Assessment
Program this week. Granholm ordered the transfer of authority of
conducting the statewide standardized test back to the Department
of Education from the Department of Treasury. This executive order,
if not rejected by the Legislature, reverses former Gov. John
Engler’s transfer and has been acclaimed for providing those who
teach a means of testing the state’s students.

The Ann Arbor News also reported Tuesday that Granholm is
considering abandoning the MEAP in favor of another test, most
likely the American College Test Assessment. Concerns about delays
last year in returning MEAP results, which were caused by
bureaucratic mix ups sparked a push to consider alternative methods
for testing.

One of the main reasons Granholm proposed this switch is
finances as the state stands to save over $4 million a year by
purchasing a ready-made test. While Michigan, like many other
states, is experiencing funding shortages and budget cuts, the
state can certainly save more money by removing all statewide
standardized tests. There are a number of reasons why such a policy
would be beneficial to both the state’s budget and the state’s
educational system.

The state currently spends $28 million dollars a year to
administer the MEAP. This money goes exclusively to administering
the test and could just as easily be put to more useful and
productive purposes if standardized tests were completely removed
from the state’s educational priorities.

But more importantly, standardized tests disrupt the educational
priorities of the classroom, where the prerogatives of teachers and
the interests and needs of students most directly interact. The
MEAP test detracts valuable classroom time from teachers who are
required to proctor the test. All too often, public school
curriculua are geared toward mastering the MEAP, leaving little
room for the creativity and self-expression of both students and
teachers that is so necessary for worthwhile education.

While the ACT takes less time from school curricula to be
administered, and its use would drain less of the state’s
resources, it is still a standardized test for which school
districts would inevitably set aside more classroom preparation
time largely because school funding is linked to standardized
tests. Another major problem from this is that these tests have
consistently been proven to be biased against minority and poor
students. Tying school funding to test scores, either the MEAP or
the ACT, means that predominantly minority and poorer districts
will continue to be marginalized.

Another issue is that currently, the state awards money through
the Michigan Merit Scholarship Program to college-bound high school
seniors based on MEAP scores. Given the biases in the tests, the
monies have and will be awarded disproportionally to non-minority
and economically wealthy students. Granholm has already had to cut
the money awarded through the MMSP from $2,500 per student to $500
per student. If standardized tests were eliminated from the state’s
priorities, more money would also be available for these
scholarships, which should be awarded to students based on
financial need. Granholm’s drive to revamp the faulty MEAP should
extend to removing state-mandated standardized tests









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