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State raises cut scores for MEAP, MME proficiency



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September 21, 2011 - Do not be surprised if there is a dramatic decrease in test score proficiency this upcoming year for Oxford Community Schools.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, the State of Michigan Board of Education voted 6-1 in favor of increasing the cut scores for proficiency standards on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) and Michigan Merit Exam (MME).

According to a press release by Martin Ackley, Director of Communications for the Michigan Department of Education, students will need to get roughly 65 percent of questions correct in order to be considered proficient.

Last year, students only had to answer 39 percent of questions correctly to be considered proficient.

"I was chagrined that we hadn't put the bar in the right place before now," State Board of Education President John C. Austin said in the press release. "This is a good proxy for what we are trying to hit towards being college and career-ready."

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Dr. James Schwarz feels increasing cut scores was part of a "political platform that someone has created about this whole notion of what it means to be college-ready."

"I don't think realistically you can place a definition of college-readiness and what that all entails on a single cut score or a single test score," Schwarz added.

"For them to say this places more emphasis or allows us to segregate more accurately what college-readiness would be, I disagree with that."

He added it's unfair to influence public opinion about public education "through the political tampering of cut scores."

The proficient cut score percentages listed below are approximate and varies every year, depending on the MEAP/MME test.

Third Grade - Math: 72 percent (up 38 percent from last year); Reading: 67 percent (up 22 percent).

Fourth grade - Math: 58 percent (up 29 percent); Reading: 64 percent (up 19 percent).

Fifth grade - Math: 61 percent (up 22 percent); Reading: 64 percent (up 19 percent); Science: 83 percent (up 35 percent).

Sixth grade - Math: 58 percent (up 23 percent); Reading: 61 percent (up 19 percent); Social Studies: 66 percent (up 23 percent)

Seventh grade - Math: 60 percent (up 28 percent); Reading (70 percent (up 18 percent)

Eighth grade - Math: 59 percent (up 24 percent); Reading: 64 percent (up 19 percent); Science: 75 percent (up 35 percent)

Ninth Grade - Social Studies: 64 percent (up 23 percent)

High school juniors - Math 58 percent (up 16 percent); Reading: 57 percent (up six percent); Science: 65 percent; Social Studies: 63 percent (up 24 percent).

Schwarz said the new cut scores were going to have a major impact on test scores and school districts across the state's ability to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). He added he couldn't predict what the percentage of affected schools would be, but it would be "significant."

According to the press release, the old cut scores were set at a very basic level geared towards trade in the old manufacturing economy.

But the state board deemed those cut scores were not adequate for the advanced information economy of the future, which requires significantly higher levels of academic proficiency in language arts and math.

The press release stated the board decided to raise the cut scores in September, instead of earlier in the year, so students could receive the full benefits and exposure of the Michigan Merit Curriculum for high school students and the updated Grade Level Content Expectations.

"This is a school-wide measurement and will end up energizing school districts when they understand where they really are," said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan in the press release.

"We have great schools and great teachers who will take this knowledge and really move forward towards improvement," Flanagan added. "They want to get their students career and college-ready, and so do the students and their parents.

Schwarz was surprised they raised the cut scores on two counts.

"I'm surprised at the margin they are going up across the grade levels and I'm also surprised with the discussion about going to national testing within the next three years, why the state is going to mess with these cut scores now when this test is no longer going to be around in three years," Schwarz said.

Dr. Ernie Bauer, the Director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment for Oakland Schools, put together a presentation showcasing what Oxford's proficiency rate on the 2010-11 MEAP and MME tests would be when applying the new cut scores.

Student proficiency in third grade math dropped 51 percent (98 to 41) while reading fell 21 percent (87 to 66).

Fourth grade math fell 37 percent (97 to 60) while reading decreased 20 percent (97 to 71).

Fifth grade math dropped 28 percent (92 to 64). Reading scores were lower by 14 percent (90 to 76) while science fell 66 percent (89 to 23).

Sixth grade math decreased 38 percent (91 to 53). Reading dropped 17 percent (92 to 75) while social studies saw a 39 percent decrease (89 to 50).

Seventh grade math decreased by 40 percent (92 to 52). Reading fell 17 percent (90 to 73).

Eighth grade math dropped 46 percent (86 to 40), reading decreased by 24 percent (86 to 62) and science fell 68 percent (84 to 16).

Ninth grade social studies saw a 39 percent decrease in proficiency scores (82-43).

Juniors at Oxford High School saw their math scores drop 26 percent (49-23) and reading scores dip nine percent (63 to 54). Science dropped 40 percent (64 to 24), while social studies saw a 35 percent decrease in scores (82-47).

Schwarz said the district's preparation of students for the MEAP and MME wasn't going to change due to cut scores increasing.

"To say we are increasing test preparedness or we are involving students in more test-related activities, no we're not," he said. "That is not what is ultimately going to beat these new cut scores. To us, it's not a game (of) how you beat cut scores, it's about how you best prepare kids for the real world."

in language arts and math.

The press release stated the board decided to raise the cut scores in September, instead of earlier in the year, so students could receive the full benefits and exposure of the Michigan Merit Curriculum for high school students and the updated Grade Level Content Expectations.

"This is a school-wide measurement and will end up energizing school districts when they understand where they really are," said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan in the press release.

"We have great schools and great teachers who will take this knowledge and really move forward towards improvement," Flanagan added. "They want to get their students career and college-ready, and so do the students and their parents.

Schwarz was surprised they raised the cuts scores on two counts.

"I'm surprised at the margin they are going up across the grade levels and I'm also surprised with the discussion about going to national testing within the next three years, why the state is going to mess with these cut scores now when this test is no longer going to be around in three years," Schwarz said.

Dr. Ernie Bauer, the Director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment for Oakland Schools, put together a presentation showcasing what Oxford's proficiency rate on the 2010-11 MEAP and MME tests would be when applying the new cut scores.

Student proficiency in third grade math dropped 51 percent (98 to 41) while reading fell 21 percent (87 to 66).

Fourth grade math fell 37 percent (97 to 60) while reading decreased 20 percent (97 to 71).

Fifth grade math dropped 28 percent (92 to 64). Reading scores were lower by 14 percent (90 to 76) while science fell 66 percent (89 to 23).

Sixth grade math decreased 38 percent (91 to 53). Reading dropped 17 percent (92 to 75) while social studies saw a 39 percent decrease (89 to 50).

Seventh grade math decreased by 40 percent (92 to 52). Reading fell 17 percent (90 to 73).

Eighth grade math dropped 46 percent (86 to 40), reading decreased by 24 percent (86 to 62) and science fell 68 percent (84 to 16).

Ninth grade social studies saw a 39 percent decrease in proficiency scores (82-43).

Juniors at Oxford High School saw their math scores drop 26 percent (49-23) and reading scores dip nine percent (63 to 54). Science dropped 40 percent (64 to 24), while social studies saw a 35 percent decrease in scores (82-47).

Schwarz said the district's preparation of students for the MEAP and MME wasn't going to change due to cut scores increasing.

"To say we are increasing test preparedness or we are involving students in more test related activities, no were not," he said. "That is not what is ultimately going to beat these new cut scores. To us it's not a game how you beat cut scores, it's about how you best prepare kids for the real world."

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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