Source: Sherman Publications

Editor's column
Joe From The Block

September 28, 2011

Joe St. Henry

Review Editor

When I was in third grade, I was most worried about getting my knuckles smacked by a ruler from my teacher Mr. Lynn, a truly bitter man with Napoleon’s syndrome.

In eighth grade, I got suspended for a day for having a firecracker in my locker, thanks to a kid who narked on me. In tenth grade, we got in trouble for using the school darkroom to access the space above the school’s drop ceiling and spy on other classes. (Yeah, a friend fell through one day.)

And that’s just the stuff that took place in school.

Looking back, if someone would have asked my teachers if I was college material, I am not sure what they would have said. I was a good student, but struggled in my high school math and science classes. I had to work hard to just get Bs.

My wife still points out that she made the list of Top 50 in our high school class based on grade point average and I did not.

Well guess what Mr. Lynn, I graduated from college in four years, have enjoyed a decent career so far and become a fairly productive citizen.

That is why I question the state’s new acceptable proficiency levels (cut scores) based on the MEAP and MME exams that supposedly determine a student’s readiness to succeed in college.

I have no problem with the Michigan Department of Education raising the bar on educational proficiencies in a school’s core subjects. Quite frankly, the previous standards were lax.

But the state should clearly separate the notion that these scores are the only factors that determine if a kid is going to do well in college.

How can one or two days of assessment testing every couple of years – starting at the age of eight, for gosh sakes - gauge how a student may do ten years later if they choose to continue their studies after high school.

While the numbers do not lie, they also do not tell the whole story. The MEAP and MME tests may determine if a kid is book smart, but provide no way to measure his or her drive, perseverance and motivation to set goals and succeed.

Another question I have is who determined what it really means to be college-ready? It may vary from one school to the next. What does a school like Albion look for in a prospective student versus Michigan State or Oakland Community College?

Let’s face it, college can be a big adjustment for valedictorians and slackers alike. Receiving a degree is more of an endurance race that requires focus than a sprint toward instant gratification.

For that matter, every once in a while a person like Bill Gates (Microsoft) or Steve Jobs (Apple) comes along. They’ve enjoyed a little success and, from what I’ve read, were not the greatest students in high school or college.

The teachers and administrators in Lake Orion know the new proficiency levels are not going away. They know they are going to have to figure out new ways to teach our kids. The students themselves are going to have to work harder to meet the new requirements

At this point, when a student takes the MME exam, their scores are reported back to them with comparisons to how they did versus the state’s students overall. Moving forward – at least for a couple of years – I guess our kids and their parents will be in for a shock.

I just hope the state never labels them college-ready or not on an individual basis, based on a quick snapshot of their “progress” every couple of years. There is no reason to kill a kid’s confidence in his or her abilities or the future before its even started.