It looks like there will be some changes to the MEAP in the near future: starting with a pilot program in fall of 2009, writing will only be tested in grades 4 and 7 (and of course, in the grade 11 MME). The rationale provided by the Michigan Department of Education (no use linking to their horror of a web site) is as follows:
Besides a more balanced testing program, there is a compelling technical
reason for this change – the current MEAP ELA Writing tests are too short to yield much useful information. Specifically, the current tests suffer from: 1) Incomplete coverage of standards; 2) A short scale that
makes it difficult to distinguish levels of performance, and; 3) Results that are not as stable (year-to-year) as OEAA would like, in spite of a good item-scorer protocol. These are all problems that will be addressed
with a longer, better test. By limiting the testing of writing on the MEAP to grades 4 and 7, OEAA can use their limited financial resources to construct more reliable and valid assessments at the tested grade levels.
Currently, the MEAP asks students to produce a “draft” quality response to a personal question (though the scoring rubic measures final draft qualities like accurate punctuation and spelling), revise an example essay, and answer multiple choice questions about a writing sample.
What a longer, better test might look like is beyond me: what this MDE move fails to do (again) is recognize that writing cannot be measured by a standardized test. Period. Yielding more information sounds like code language for moving toward more objective testing (read: multiple choice), which would be even further removed from actual writing than the current test. I imagine the MEAP doing away altogether with the written portion of the writing assessment. At least then we won’t have to pretend anymore.