from the Detroit News

Monday, November 22, 1999

   Students do poorly on state test Low scores in social studies
mirror U.S. trend;  officials blame  changes to exam

By Edward L. Cardenas and Mark Puls / The Detroit News

    BERKLEY -- Public school teachers will be changing the way they teach
social studies to fifth- and eight-graders following their low scores on
the new Michigan Educational Assessment Program test.
    The tests measure students knowledge on civics, economics, geography,
history and decision-making. Michigan scores released Friday were poor and
mirror a national trend, which found many students know little about how
the government works.
    State administrators say the low scores reflect students' unfamiliarity
with the new test.
    "The statewide scores for the social studies test reflect the historic
trends we've seen every time changes are made to the MEAP," state Schools
Supt. Arthur Ellis said. "The good news is that Michigan has a clear set of
standards and a reliable means of assessment. I'm confident we will see
social studies scores throughout the state increase dramatically (in the
    The State Department of Education said only 1.7 percent of
fifth-graders exceeded state standards and 17 percent met the standards.
The scores for eighth-graders were higher, with 4.8 percent exceeding state
standards, and 23 percent meeting state standards.
    Parents like Kim Migliore, a teacher herself who has children in the
fifth- and eighth-grades, said students will improve on the social studies
test once they get used to it.
    "They haven't taken it before," she said. "So it's usual to get better
at a test from the very first time."
    As a second-grade teacher in Allen Park schools, she served on a social
studies committee.
    "We revamped our social studies program to meet the benchmark by the
    Students are taught history and government in elementary school, she
    Bloomfield Hills schools had the highest number of fifth-graders
exceeding state standards, and Birmingham schools had the highest number of
eighth-graders exceeding state standards.
    "We have to adjust our curriculum when the state comes out with a new
test," said Gwen Ahearn, director of communications for Berkley Public
Schools. The district exceeded the state average for fifth- and eighth
    East Detroit schools had the highest number of fifth-graders meeting
state standards in Macomb County.
    "Adapting civics and economic instruction was a great challenge, but
our teachers rose to the challenge," said Cheryl Bosley, East Detroit's
director of curriculum.
    Associated Press contributed to this report.