Is getting rid of the MEAP a mistake?

This week, the Senate K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee finally listened to education experts who have repeatedly said that the MEAP is not an accurate measure of student growth and pulled funding for it in favor of a new computer-adaptive test that would more accurately measure student growth. The new test is expected to cost $18 million as opposed to the $27 million for the MEAP. However, many education experts aren’t so sure this is a wise move.

With computer-adaptive tests, students would take the test online at the beginning and end of each school year. Not only would the test show student growth, the results would be available immediately.

This year, the state increased MEAP test standards. The entire system will be changed in 2015 as Michigan adopts a common core curriculum and tests.

Generally, the MEAP is not viewed as a particularly effective measure of student growth, but it does meet No Child Left Behind requirements. If the federal government decides that a new computer-adaptive test isn’t rigorous enough, Michigan stands to lose $600 million in federal money. More money is at stake since the state has contracts with outside companies to administer the MEAP.  It would cost another $15 to $20 million to break those contracts.

There is also a logistical problem for some school districts. Not every school district has the facilities or equipment so every student can take a computer-adaptive test. For many schools, access to computers is limited to a classroom or media center with 30 computers.

Mark D. Reckase, a professor of measurement and quantitative methods of Michigan State University, recommends caution. He is concerned with the quality of test items and accommodating the number of students who will require increased seat time to take the test.