Study: MEAP Testing is a Mixed Bag
officials are rethinking the emphasis on test
© 2003 Detroit Free Press
March 5, 2003
By Lori Higgins
A new national study finds an increased focus on high-stakes testing is a mixed blessing for the way teachers teach.
In Michigan, where students take the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test, the study's findings were supported -- both by teachers and the state Department of Education.
"We've taken a simple, internal assessment test and turned it into a real estate calculator and a scholarship tool," said T.J. Bucholz, spokesman for the state education department. "We think there is an increasing need to de-emphasize this test."
Researchers from Boston College's National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy interviewed 360 teachers in three states -- Michigan, Massachusetts and Kansas -- to gauge the impact of high-stakes testing on classroom instruction.
The interviews were conducted in winter 2000 and fall 2001. Much has happened since then, as states attempt to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires an unprecedented amount of testing in U.S. schools.
Had the researchers interviewed teachers now, after the pressure that has come with the federal legislation, "we would have found even more concerned educators," said Marguerite Clarke, assistant research professor of Boston College's Lynch School of Education.
The researchers found that some of the impact is positive. Teachers reported a renewed emphasis on writing, critical thinking skills and explanation.
But teachers also report some subjects are overemphasized, there is less creativity in the classroom and more time spent preparing students for tests.
The emphasis on testing has improved reading, writing and math instruction in recent years, said Karen Zyczynski, president of the Livonia Education Association. But, she adds, "There's a point where you go over the line," Zyczynski said.