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MEAP results mixed bag

February 15, 2012 - The district's MEAP scores came in Tuesday morning with a mixed bag of results.

According to Dr. James Schwarz, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Oxford Community Schools, the district saw proficiency scores decrease across all grade levels in math, writing and social studies, while reading and science proficiency scores varied depending on grade level.

Schwarz noted due to the State of Michigan increasing the proficiency cut scores, there was a dramatic decrease in the number of students deemed proficient from scores reported last year, which he anticipated.

"When the new cut score calculations are applied to previous years of test scores, we find the level of student performance in Oxford, overall, has remained similar to past years, with slight deviations up or down, depending on the subject and grade level," Schwarz wrote in a letter to parents explaining the new cut scores.

2011 MEAP results compared to 2010 MEAP results (with 2011 cut scores applied to 2010 scores), as provided by the district:

Third grade - Math: 41 percent proficient (down six percent); Reading: 64 percent proficient (down two percent).

Fourth grade - Math: 56 percent (down four percent); Reading: 72 percent (up one percent); Writing: 49 percent (down six percent).

Fifth grade - Math: 61 percent (down three percent); Reading: 80 percent (up four percent); Science: 27 percent (up four percent).

Sixth grade - Math: 52 percent (down one percent); Reading: 80 percent (up five percent); Social Studies: 45 percent (down five percent).

Seventh grade - Math: 50 percent (down two percent); Reading: 71 percent (down two percent); Writing: 58 percent (down nine percent).

Eighth grade - Math: 42 percent (down eight percent); Reading: 76 percent (up 14 percent); Science: 16 percent (scores stayed the same).

Ninth grade: Social studies: 31 percent (down 12 percent).

According to Schwarz, the only subject not affected from 2010 to 2011 was writing, which saw the new scores implemented last year.

The district achieved scores above county levels of performance in fifth grade math and science, sixth grade reading and social studies, seventh grade reading and writing and eighth grade reading.

Schwarz said in a interview Tuesday morning parents should not be alarmed if their student was deemed not proficient on the MEAP score.

"This is one measure on a single point in time when they take this test," Schwarz explained. "We have multiple measures that kids are scored on. We look at the ACT, the Plan test, the Explorer test. There are several other district wide assessments we use."

He added it was an "adjustment phase for us instructionally" and parents should not panic.

"Competitively it is not going to hurt anyone," he added.

Additionally, Schwarz said the test was different than last year's version.

"Every year, it's a new set of questions, and the rigor on the questions can be different than the year prior, so the tests aren't comparing apples to apples as it is often portrayed," he said.

When asked why the rigor of the test changes every year, Schwarz said it was due to the subjectivity of the panel of teachers that puts the test together.

"There are committees of teachers that get together and compile questions, and it is a subjective exercise," Schwarz explained. "Just by the nature of bringing people together, you are going to have groups that are going to be different from year to year that bring up questions to put on the exam."

He also said test questions could not be repeated due to test security and worries about kids cheating. Schwarz explained the new scores "better reflect how well schools are preparing their students to be on track for career-and-college readiness in high school, and on track to proficiency in the next grade."

"This was a movement to move Michigan more competitively to where other states draw their test scores," Schwarz said in an interview Tuesday morning.

He added the cut scores were also increased to "gear up for where the cut scores will be drawn with the new common core exams that will replace the MEAP in the 2014-15 school year."

Schwarz explained previously each state had the privilege to create their own curriculum, which resulted in varying tests.

Now there is a movement to create one national curriculum that all states follow, called the "common core." So far, only two common core subjects have been developed - math and language arts.

"With that nation-wide curriculum comes national wide assessments," he said. "Since the state has adopted the common core...they also in a sense have adopted the assessments that go with it."

Starting in 2014-15, grades one through 12 will be tested every year instead of the current format of grades three through nine and high school juniors (for MME).

"It gives us a better feel for how kids are progressing annually...instead of just have a little window between three and nine," Schwarz said. "This gives us the whole spectrum of how kids are doing."

He said teachers are already beginning to implement strategies for common core standards in order to raise test scores in the upcoming years.

The new common core standards already has a lot of ACT college-readiness standards embedded in them Schwarz said.

"So as we are revising curriculums, we are embedding those new standards, new benchmarks, and in some cases we have to move standards from grade level to grade level," he said.

"For instance, we may have a topic in math that was a traditional sixth grade topic, where under the common core or ACT college-readiness standards, they moved that benchmark to fifth grade or fourth grade," he explained.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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