Return to Award-winning journalism
to school: Mastering MEAP not child's play
By RYAN OLSON
The Daily Mining Gazette
November 19, 2002
It was the multi-purpose room at Houghton-Portage
Elementary School, but it could have been Ms. Williams 10th-grade
Last Thursday, I sat at a cafeteria table staring
at my test booklet trying my best to remember enough math to figure
how many video rentals it would take to make Plan 2 more economical
than Plan 1.
Algebra? When was the last time I used enough math
to consider it really math?
The Houghton-Portage Township School District, among
others throughout the Copper Country and the state, offered adults
the opportunity to take some sample questions from the Michigan
Educational Assessment Program tests.
Although the 35 people were seated at cafeteria tables,
my mind shifted back to the comfortable all-in-one desks
of elementary school.
Test-taking has changed over the past few years. Imagine
having almost all the time you want to complete a section of the
test. I remember trying to rush through my algebra to make sure
I had time to double-check my answers.
And I remember the teacher making sure that everyone
had their No. 2 pencils sharpened and all ready to go.
The questions seem to be more difficult than when
I was going through school. Most of the people taking the test agreed
that students are being tested on a broader range of skills and
During the sample tests, there were no scantron sheets,
no teachers reading the directions at each phase of the test. What
we looked at was a sample of questions from five fields math,
social studies, science, reading and writing from the fourth-,
fifth-, seventh-, eighth- and 11th-grade tests.
Taking state-required tests were an infrequent part
of my K-12 education in Utah, Texas, Colorado, Georgia and California
during the 1980s and 90s. Future students in Michigan wont
be so lucky. In 2006, students in each grade will take MEAP tests
in each field each year.
Some of the things I experienced taking the test were
familiar the nervous twitch in my stomach even through mentally
I knew the test wouldnt count for anything. I felt pangs of
jealousy when someone was able to finish the test and leave before
me. I shouldnt feel too bad I was taking the test with
school board members, Michigan Tech University professors and other
One advantage the parents had over their children
the answers were passed out on the way out. Talk about instant
gratification. I found out right away that I missed two points out
of a possible 36.
Of course, the test cant recreate what every
student has to go through. The schools cant accurately recreate
a weeks worth of testing in just an hour, and most grown-ups
played hooky, skipping out on the essay questions.
The sample test also cant recreate the pressure
as some students try to get passing marks to be eligible for $2,500
college scholarship, which is based on test results in high school.
While no test can be a totally accurate measure of
a students education or ability, the MEAP definitely tests
for knowledge that is used in real life. There werent any
inane word analogies like the type that get mocked on Conan OBriens
late-night talk show.
OK, this is the end of the section. Please put your
pencils down and wait until the teacher gives instructions on what
to do next.