By: Benjamin J. Gohs, Associate Editor
In a move Michigan Department of Education officials say will increase student achievement, the state has upped MEAP scoring minimums from 39 percent to nearly 65 percent.
Late last week the State of Michigan, in an attempt to give school districts an idea of how the new scoring system will affect them, released the last four years of MEAP and Michigan Merit Exam (MME) scores under the recently passed scoring method.
“I understand they set the old cut scores kind of minimally,” said Boyne City Public Schools Superintendent Peter Moss. “We still have 55 or 60 percent of kids prepared to go on to college and, normally, that’s not shabby. But, now the state wants all kids on track to go to college.”
According to the MDE, the new cut scores better reflect how well schools are preparing their students to be ready for first-year community college courses without remediation.
The MEAP is taken annually by all Michigan public school students in grades third through ninth.
Eleventh-graders are required to take the MME.
“These data will provide educators, parents and communities with a more accurate understanding of
what student achievement would have been if the new cut scores had been in place during the past four years,” stated State of Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan in a Nov. 3 press release. “These retro-scores can serve as a tool to guide instruction, professional development and student support.”
Applying the new cut scores to historical MEAP and MME data shows a dramatic decline in student test scores across the state. Third-grade math scores in 2010, for example, go from 95 percent proficient to 35 percent.
According to Moss, the MEAP and MME cut scores separate test takers into various categories including: advanced, proficient, partially proficient and not proficient.
According to the state, the retro-scores are merely for illustrative purposes and will not be used to recalculate any school accountability measures such as Adequate Yearly Progress.
In his news release, Flanagan explained that the previous standard was based on the very basic knowledge that students needed in the old industrial manufacturing economy – where students could get a high school diploma and go into a factory and get a very good paying job. Those opportunities are mostly gone now, he said, with students needing at least a two-year community college education to compete in the tech-driven, knowledge-based economy of the 21st Century.
“We have to be honest with ourselves about where we are in preparing our kids for the reality of today’s global economy,” Flanagan said. “These updated scores, while they may be difficult to accept, will help lead Michigan forward. Just looking good is not better than being good.”
While college may not be a magic bullet that will guarantee success, Moss said much of the current data on education points to increased mobility for skilled workers.
“A person with some sort of college education can apparently adjust in an economy like we’re experiencing,” he said. “They seem to have better skills at adapting to a changing economy.”
But, Moss added, “You take a guy like Steve Jobs, who dropped out of college … I think there are some very successful people out there who never considered college education, and there are a ton of people out there with a college education who are not in the position they were trained for.”
Ultimately, Moss said, it is important to keep these test scores in perspective.
“This is the assessment of a student’s ability on one day of testing,” he said. “In the long run we look at our programming and our body of work, and we’re finding our kids are going off to some of the finest schools in the state, and they’re able to compete for positions in jobs in the medical field and law field.”
Moss added, “That tells me we’re doing a good job. Can we do better? Absolutely. Do we have some kids we lose? Yeah. And we (strive) to find ways to make sure all kids have the same opportunity.
Currently, only Michigan, New York and Tennessee have raised their scoring standards.
“Like school districts across the state, Boyne City Public Schools’ MEAP and MME proficiency results are expected to decline when publicly released next spring,” Moss stated in a Nov. 5 press release. “While we anticipate an initial drop in the number of students reported as ‘proficient,’ we are confident this change will be temporary due to ongoing school improvement efforts and student support.”
He further stated, “If a student is reported as ‘not proficient,’ it does not mean that he or she isn’t gaining academic skills or knowledge expected for his or her grade level. It means that on the day of the test, this student was not yet proficient on the material being tested.”
Moss said some students require additional help and/or time to master skills.
“Actually, by the time parents and the school receive the MEAP/MME results from the state, many students identified as ‘not proficient’ will have closed the gap,” he further stated.
Moss said Boyne Schools will be examining their curriculum to respond to this more challenging level of test scoring.
“In addition, our staff will focus our professional development efforts on enhancing our abilities to rise to the challenge presented to these recent changes,” Moss said.
According to Flanagan, the MDE has worked with national and statewide experts, including: ACT Measurement & Research staff; the National Center for Educational Achievement; the department’s own Technical Advisory Committee consisting of local stakeholders; and other experts as appropriate to develop the methods to be used to identify career- and college-ready cut scores for the MME.
Likewise, MDE worked with the same group of experts to develop the methods to be used to identify cut scores representative of being on-track to proficiency at the next grade for MEAP.