GLADSTONE - The Gladstone School Board discussed the district's Michigan Educational Assessment Program test scores and the future of testing during its meeting Monday night.
MEAP assessments are administered to third- through ninth-grade students annually, with elementary and middle school student testing in the fall. Students are evaluated in math, science, social studies, reading and writing.
"In almost every category, when you compared the prior year's student group taking the next year's test, almost every category showed a very sizable increase in performance," said Board Treasurer Paul Capodilupo.
Between 2011 and 2012, all classes increased or maintained the percentage of students rated as advanced in math skills when they moved up a grade level. During the same time period all classes increased the number of students with advanced reading skills except the 2012 third-grade class and the 2012 seventh-grade class.
While there may not have been an increase in advanced scores, reading scores were significantly higher across all grades than their math counterparts. For example, 1 percent of sixth-grade students are considered advanced in math and 34 percent are considered proficient; 23.3 percent of students from the same class are considered advanced readers and 41.7 percent are considered proficient.
"Math I think is our biggest area that we need to improve on in the lower grades," said Capodilupo.
Because the tests are different for each grade level, not all grades report scores in the same content areas every year. However, math and reading scores are reported from third through eighth grade.
"I have to say it was an eye opener looking at the way that tests are being conducted and some of the types of questions that students are encountering now that are light-years different from anything I ever encountered on standardized tests," said Board President Linda Howlett.
Also discussed was the new Smarter Balanced testing which the state has proposed implementing in the 2014-15 school year.
"(It's) more of a computer-based exam that could potentially replace the MEAP, but there's a lot of schools, I understand, that would not be ready to implement that type of testing, so what the future holds for that is hard to tell," said Capodilupo.
To prepare for the change, the junior high has opted to test the program. Students will be taking a math assessment starting today and continuing through Thursday.
"It's the methodology of the testing that's going to throw everybody for a twist," said Gladstone Junior High Principal Dave Ballard, who stated he had taken the test himself.
"We've had to spend a number of hours just preparing the two (computer) labs and shifting teachers out of classrooms and displacing them just so we can give the test to one grade level. Now when we have to do that for all three grade levels. Yeah, we're going to have a problem." said Ballard.