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MEAP scores mixed bag for district

April 06, 2011 - The 2010-11 MEAP results are in, and overall, it's a mixed bag for the Oxford school district.

On the one hand, the percentages of Oxford students who achieved mastery levels in reading, math, science and social studies never dipped below the 80s.

On the other hand, of the 42 mastery level percentages reported for the four elementary schools, middle school and high school (see table left), 28 dropped from last year, five increased and four stayed the same.

"In large parts, we send trends in language arts going down, and that was evident somewhat statewide," said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum James Schwarz. "We have seen some decreases this year, which has been atypical for us."

Schwarz said they were looking at the item analysis of each test to determine why student scores dropped.

"We haven't gotten into the crux of the language arts test yet. We are just beginning to start those item analysis to see why these tests seem to be different from the tests prior because we have seen a trend where we have fallen in language arts really across the board compared to the year prior," he said.

"Usually you have an anomaly when you have a dip in one year, but when you are seeing in all grades across 3-8, for us that means it is more of a testing issue than it is a performance issue from the kids," he added. "Something has changed with the test when you see that kind of change across grade levels in one year."

Writing was the only subject tested this year that was not tested last year and that's the subject in which Oxford students didn't fare very well.

Only fourth and seventh-graders took the writing portion of the MEAP. The percentages of students achieving mastery levels in writing were considerably lower than what was achieved in the other subjects.

The percentages of students achieving mastery level in writing were as follows Lakeville (42 percent), Clear Lake (63 percent), Oxford Elementary (59 percent), Leonard (42 percent) and Oxford Middle School (68 percent).

"In the area of writing, we are most concerned with informational writing, toward which we are strategizing throughout our school improvement plans within each building and also addressing through the designing of our IB unit planners," Schwarz said.

"Through our newly designed curriculum designed to meet the needs of IB, students will have more frequent and more meaningful experiences utilizing informational writing," he added.

According to Schwarz, the writing test was eliminated last year because it was too costly for the state to score.

"You have to have panels of people to review it and that is much more costly than throwing a piece of paper through a machine," Schwarz said.

On the third grade level, reading scores were down eight percent in 2010-2011, from 95 percent to 87 percent; Math levels stayed the same at 98 percent.

Fourth grade reading levels were down three percent (94-91) from last year and math scores fell two percent (99-97).

Fifth grade reading scores were down six percent (96-90) from last year. Math scores fell two percent (94-92). Science was up one percent from last year to 89 percent.

Sixth grade reading scores fell five percent from last year (97-92), math was down three percent (94-91) and social studies was up four percent (93-89).

Seventh grade reading scores were down one percent (92-91), while the math scores went up three percent to 93 percent from last year.

Eighth grade reading scores were down three percent (90-87), while the math scores went up eight percent to 86 percent. Science scores were down one percent (85-84).

There was no change in ninth grade social studies, with 82 percent of students coming in at a mastery level in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Even though the scores were down this year, Schwarz noted most of the averages at the elementary and middle school levels still came in above the averages for Oakland County and the state.

"When we look at the county and state comparisons, we are still above the state averages. We stayed the same as the state in the third grade reading, but everything else was above state level and at the county, we remained above the county in all areas but the third grade reading and fourth grade writing," Schwarz said.

Schwarz stressed he was not making excuses for the lower test scores.

"It is something that we continually strive to work at and it is difficult when you have a test that is...changing ever year and you have different kids taking the test every year," Schwarz said.

"You have a lot of built in are not always comparing apples with apples when you take these tests, which the general public doesn't often stop to think about or necessarily understand, " he said. "But we continue to carve time out in our schedules to item analysis, to have discussions and teachers are looking at this data...and having conversations."

The drop in proficiency scores could continue as the state Board of Education is discussing whether or not to raise the cut scores on the MEAP test, making it harder for students to be considered proficient.

"To get a one or a two will be more difficult than what is has been," Schwarz said. "The amount of correct answers to get into those will be greater than what you currently have to have to get into those categories to be considered proficient."

Schwarz added he had yet to hear on a specific amount they were going to raise the cut scores, but he knew discussion was ongoing at the state level about raising the cut scores for next year's test.

He felt like the cut scores were going to be raised because nationally, the MEAP has one of the lowest drawn cut scores.

"So he (State Superintendent Mike Flanagan) is wanting to raise the proficiency to that which would be equivalent to what proficiency is on other state exams in other states," he said.

The ratio of the scores should remain the same and be comparing to previous year's scores, but the numbers and percent of students at a mastery level would be different, according to Schwarz.

"My sense is that they might not adjust all grade levels equally. They might adjust some grades more so than they adjust other grades just as they may adjust one subject more than another subject," Schwarz said.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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