MEAP tests really do mean something

Guest Editorial
If your son or daughter attends public schools, you probably know full well that MEAP testing began this week. Test-takers have gone through practice runs or been sent home with reminders for parents to make sure their little ones get a good night’s rest.

The preparation may go overboard, but only because the results matter more and more. Increasingly, policy makers and the public are looking to test results to measure the quality of schools — and even teachers.

There are critics of this shift, but they should limit their gripes to whether the MEAP is the best way to measure student, teacher and school performance. The idea of holding a yardstick next to classrooms should be here to stay.

In most professions, employee performance is measured constantly. Workers are evaluated and paid based on the quality of their output, and if they are in business for themselves, they won’t make a penny if their product is substandard.

What do teachers and schools produce? Students who are ready to move on to the next level. Testing is a valuable way to be sure that time and money are being spent effectively.

No, children are not assembly-line products like cars. They come into the classroom with wildly varied backgrounds and abilities. Still, it is possible to measure how well they learn, to gauge their improvement, over time.

There is plenty of room for argument over Michigan’s approach to standardized student testing. But you say your child shouldn’t be stuck taking tests this week? You would deny the public a chance to see how well schools and teachers are doing their job.