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TEST SCORES FALL FOR MICHIGAN’S HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES: New High School Graduation Requirements Can’t Come Fast Enough

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“When our kids don’t take the subjects we test them on, they score poorly on the tests. But thanks to the Governor and bi-partisan support on the State Board of Education and the Legislature we are putting our high schools on a whole different track.”

In April, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) signed a new law mandating that all Michigan high school students complete a rigorous core curriculum, beginning with the class of 2011. Judging by the recent results on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test, on which students in the graduating class of 2006 showed decreases in all but one of the five subjects tested, 2011 can’t come soon enough.

“It’s not rocket science,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan. “When our kids don’t take the subjects we test them on, they score poorly on the tests. But thanks to the Governor and bi-partisan support on the State Board of Education and the Legislature we are putting our high schools on a whole different track.”

Under the legislation signed in April, the students in the graduating class of 2011 will have to pass 4 credits of math and English, 3 credits of science and social studies, 1 credit of physical education and health, 1 credit of visual, performing, or applied arts, and 1 online course. Beginning with the class of 2016, 2 years of foreign language, which can be fulfilled in elementary, middle school, or high school, will also be required. Previously, 1 semester of civics was Michigan’s only statewide graduation requirement.

Unfortunately, the new requirements will not help the students who graduated last month. Based on the results from the MEAP, only 52.4% of the students in the graduating class of 2006 were proficient in math, a decrease of 4.5% compared to the class of 2005. In reading, only 70% of 2006 graduates scored at the proficient level, a decrease of 7.8% from 2005. Writing scores were down 2% from last year while science scores decreased by 1.6%. The social studies assessment, on which test scores rose from 33.8% last year to 36.8% this year, was the only assessment on which students’ scores increased.

A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education blamed this year’s drop in part to the fact that more students are taking the test than in the past in order to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. “What we’re seeing is more students who wouldn’t have taken the MEAP test in the past, now taking it,” said Edward Roeber, senior executive director of the Office of Educational Assessment and Accountability at the Michigan Department of Education. “Now these students are taking the MEAP assessments without the essential academic foundation, and it may be a factor in the lower test scores over the past four years as well.”

“It is important that every student at least gets some exposure to this more rigorous content, and taught in a way that is relevant to them,” Flanagan added. “We will find that all students can learn it and will succeed when given the opportunity and tools.”

Because this fall’s rising eighth grade class will be the first group of students to which the new legislation will apply, more opportunity and tools must be available to rising freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors if future declines in test scores are to be prevented.

More information is available at http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-140–147256–,00.html.

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