Source: Sherman Publications

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Proficiency drops on state tests with new cut scores

by Andrew Moser

November 09, 2011

This year's MEAP and MME test results for Oxford Community Schools, along with schools throughout Oakland County and the state of Michigan, are not going to be pretty compared to past test results.

The State Board of Education redrew the cut scores, effective September 13, 2011, in order to "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 for grades 3-9," according to a press release sent out of the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) on Thursday, Nov. 3.

Career-and-college readiness was defined in the release as students being adequately prepared to pass first-year community college courses without remediation.

Students now must answer roughly 65 percent of questions correct to pass the state test. Previous benchmarks were roughly set at 39 percent correct in order to pass.

According to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan, previous benchmarks were based on knowledge needed in the old industrial manufacturing economy.

He added today's high school graduates need at least a two-year community college education to compete in today's tech-driven, knowledge based economy.

"We have to be honest with ourselves about where we are preparing our kids for the reality of today's global economy," Flanagan said in the release. "These updated scores, while they may be difficult to accept, will help lead Michigan forward."

According to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Dr. James Schwarz, the state of Michigan ranked near the bottom when looking at student proficiency scores across the nation.

Schwarz said the increase was going to have a dramatic affect on all public schools, not just Oxford. "We are all in the same boat, we are sitting in a similar situation," he said. "It's going to be a dramatic change from what we are used to seeing our scores being, but that is going to be the same in every district."

He said when the test scores come out in the spring and show a dramatic decrease in scores, the public's opinion of public school education would be "pretty bad."

"The public perception at first glance is going to look at those and think public schools are failing," Schwarz said. "When really, all they did was change the grading scale."

"As a district, we are going to have to be sure we are communicating with parents along with those results, what the new grading scale is, because that game has changed," Schwarz added. "It's not that we are going to be performing worse, which is what the scores will tell and I'm sure the media will play up that we are scoring worse, but in reality, we are not scoring worse. They changed the grading scale, and we need to explain why the grading scale has changed."

Schwarz noted where OCS ranked in the county and state would probably stay the same.

"Where we fall out in the rankings with other districts and where they are going to be performing with those same cut scores, that is to be scene, but I anticipate we will fall near the same area we have been falling traditionally."

On Nov. 3, the state released the past four years of MEAP and MME data, retroactively applying the new cut scores adopted by the state Board of Education in September.

When applying the new cut scores to the 2010 MEAP and MME scores for the district, the percentage of students who were deemed proficient decreased anywhere from 9.3 percent to 67.9 percent.

According to the MDE, third grade math proficiency fell 51.3 percent (98.4 to 47.1); reading 21.7 percent (87.2 to 65.5).

In fourth grade, math fell 37.2 percent (97 to 59.8); reading 19.9 percent (90.8 to 70.9).

Fifth grade math fell 28.3 percent (91.9 to 63.6); reading 14.5 percent (90.4 to 75.9) and science 65.5 percent (88.8 to 23.3).

In sixth grade, math fell 37.7 percent (90.7 to 53); reading fell 16.8 percent (92.1 to 75.3) and social studies dropped 38.6 percent (88.5 to 49.9).

Seventh grade math fell 40.4 percent (92.5 to 52.1); reading 17.8 percent (90.4 to 72.6).

Proficiency in eighth grade math fell 45.7 percent (86 to 40.3); reading dropped 23.7 percent (86 to 62.3) and science fell 67.9 percent (83.7 to 15.8).

Ninth grade social studies proficiency fell 39.2 percent, from 81.9 percent to 42.7 percent.

The MME results weren't any better for juniors. In math, proficiency fell 26.4 percent (49 to 22.6), while reading dropped 9.3 percent (63 to 53.7). Science proficiency fell 39.9 percent (64 to 24.1), while social studies decreased by 35.3 percent (82 to 46.7).

According to Schwarz, conversations currently being held at the state level indicate the desire to go towards a national standardized test of common core curriculum by 2014-15.

The idea is to have students in Michigan take the same standardized tests and be under the same measurements as students from different parts of the United States.

"The emphasis is on us to prepare to segue to the common core tests that are supposed to be out in 2014-15, which is supposedly where they have drawn these cut scores in preparation for those national tests," Schwarz said.

He added these new cut scores can parents a more realistic view to how their child is doing when compared to students from other states.

"If you are looking at where the nation is drawing their benchmarks, is it going to give parents a clearer picture relative to that comparison than what we have been using, yes," Schwarz said. "I think it will be a closer match to where the national scoring benchmarks lie."

On a local level, Schwarz thinks it will take a couple of years for parents to see growth within the framework of the new cut scores.