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State releases first batch of Michigan Merit results


Most of last academic year’s Michigan high school juniors did well enough on a new standardized test to eventually get some college scholarship money from the state.


But fewer than half of the students met or exceeded state standards in some of the subject areas and likely won’t get the scholarship cash up front, according to test results released Wednesday. That means they would have to wait until successfully completing some college work before receiving any of the up to $4,000 per student allocated through a scholarship program.


State officials said the first year of results on the new Michigan Merit Exam were about what they expected. The new test measures learning linked to tougher high school graduation standards that are being phased in during the next few years.


“As the new rigorous state graduation requirements are implemented, and students are exposed to more knowledge, we will see an improvement in the scores,” State Board of Education President Kathleen Straus said in a statement.


The state said about 94 percent of the juniors who took the Michigan Merit Exam had valid scores, which would eventually qualify them for at least a chunk of the Michigan Promise Scholarship. Only about 40,000 students, however, met or exceeded standards in all the subjects required to get the upfront cash. More than 113,000 public high school students took at least one of the subject area tests.


The best performance on the tests came in social studies, where 83 percent of public high school students met or exceeded state standards. About 60 percent met that mark in reading, along with 56 percent in science, 46 percent in math and 40 percent in writing. The combined percentage passing English language arts was 51 percent.


Students who meet or exceed standards on each of the tests will get $1,000 at the start of their freshman year of college and the same amount at the beginning of their sophomore year. Once they successfully complete two years of college or training, they will get $2,000 more.


Students who didn’t score well enough to get the money up front, but still have valid test scores, would be able to tap the entire $4,000 after two years. Students must maintain a 2.5 grade-point average in college to earn the money.


Students who didn’t make the initial cut can retake the Michigan Merit Exam as early as October.


The Michigan Merit test also includes the ACT college entrance exam, taken by 122,820 Michigan high school juniors this spring. They received a composite average score of 19.


That’s below the 21.5 composite score reported this week by the ACT for the Michigan graduating high school class of 2007. But the state says those marks are not comparable because the 2007 graduates’ score reflects the best possible results and includes students who may have the test multiple times to improve their scores.


The Michigan Merit Exam replaces the old high school Michigan Educational Assessment Program test, which some educational leaders say had become irrelevant and wasn’t taken seriously by enough students. State officials say the new program will better help students prepare for college.


The state also released the last round of MEAP test results Wednesday, taken by the high school graduating class of 2007.


The state said 125,760 of last year’s seniors qualified for the Michigan Promise Scholarship through various options, with 54,182 qualifying for early receipt of the scholarship funds.


The education department said 53.5 percent of public school students met or exceeded state standards in math, along with 59.8 percent in science and 55.9 percent in writing. All are improvements from scores from the prior year.


In reading, scores dropped to 68 percent meeting or exceeding standards.


Scores in private schools were higher than in public schools.


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