Newspapers still powerful – 260,000 students must retake test after details printed

by Shawn Smith on October 11, 2007

Hundreds of thousands of Michigan fifth- and sixth-graders must retake the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test after details regarding an essay portion of the test were printed in the Jackson Citizen Patriot earlier this week.

According to a statement, a Cit Pat reporter was given permission to interview students about the MEAP test and was not told that any questions were off-limits. While reporting on the story, the reporter learned of details about the essay questions in the test, which were later printed in the story for the Cit Pat.

Here’s how the details came out, according to the reporter:

Lowder then asked one student what writing prompt did he have: the person he was thankful for or how to be in a group or on a team? The child, a fifth grader, corrected Mr. Lowder saying fifth graders had the question about someone “you were thankful for” and sixth graders had the other question. I wrote down what they were saying, but understood Mr. Lowder may have mixed up which students have what tests because he teaches two separate grade levels.

What happened next? The state is requiring students to take that portion of the test again because they didn’t want any students yet to take the test to have any unfair advantages.

So what what did the Cit Pat do? Printed the story and put it on the front page of!

The story included a link to the original story and a link to the reporter’s statement.

I feel for the reporter, who did nothing wrong in this situation. That’s a reporter’s job, to report. C’mon! But, I’m sure the fallout is going to smart for a while.

I think the transparency of the Cit Pat is incredible for getting this story out front and center. It’s what I’m reading about right now in several books. If there’s something going on and it’s going to hit the internet, get out in front of it and tell your side immediately. The story may have been the catalyst for this huge event, but I think they’ve handled it smashingly.

What do you think about this situation? Should Michigan require students to retake the test? Would many other students have found out the test question anyway? What do you think about the way the Cit Pat handled the situation?

The AP got in on reporting the story with some quotes from the Cit Pat’s editor:

Citizen Patriot Editor Eileen Lehnert said the reporter, Chad Livengood, got permission to interview students about the test and was not told that doing so was off-limits.

“We had no idea we were doing something that could hurt the school, the district or the state,” she said. “I’m not convinced the principal or teacher knew there were guidelines either. It was supposed to be a positive story and it’s turned into a fiasco.”

Lehnert asked if security is so important, why students around the state take the test on different days.

I think many people are wondering why students aren’t all taking the test on the same days. Some journalists are already wondering how this will impact education reporters around the state. My guess is getting questions answered by schools won’t get any easier.

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