State Board Gives Nod to Improved Standards for State Assessment Scores

Contact: Martin Ackley, Director of Communications 517.241.4395
Agency: Education

September 13, 2011
LANSING - The State Board of Education today adopted more rigorous standards for scores on the statewide achievement tests - the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) and the Michigan Merit Exam (MME).
This shift forward will better reflect whether schools are preparing their students to be on-track to being career- and college-ready when they complete their high school educations.
Michigan now is only the third state in the nation (New York and Tennessee) to have moved to this rigorous level of assessment scoring. Like in those other states, this action will result in an adjustment in schools' overall scores on the MEAP and MME tests, but one that is more accurate to where schools need to be, according to the Michigan Department of Education.
With the more rigorous cut scores, students will need to get roughly 65 percent of the answers correct to "pass" the state test, instead of only 39 percent as was the previous benchmark.
"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. "This is a good proxy for what we are trying to hit toward being college- and career-ready."
The State Board of Education is doing this now, instead of earlier, because it wanted to wait until students had the full benefit of being exposed to the rigorous Michigan Merit Curriculum for high school graduation 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. "We have great schools and great teachers who will take this knowledge and really move forward toward improvement. They want to get their students career- and college-ready, and so do the students and their parents."
In February, the State Board of Education approved the improvement of cut scores on the MME and MEAP. Today was the presentation from the Michigan Department of Education on where the actual cut scores will be. "Cut scores" are essential components in defining the levels of performance (e.g., Advanced; Proficient; Partially Proficient; or Not Proficient) on a given test, in consideration of the content being measured.
The previous passing scores for the state assessments were set at a very basic level - enough for a basic trade in our old manufacturing economy, not in the advanced information economy of the future that requires significantly higher levels of academic proficiency in language arts and mathematics.
State assessment scores will go down initially, Flanagan explained, for example, it will show that our 3rd graders are not really 90 percent proficient statewide - but only 60 percent proficient.
"But even after this adjustment, we will continue to make progress each year, like we have been for the past three years," Flanagan said.
The State Board vote was 6-1 to adopt the new cut scores, with Board members Marianne Yared McGuire voting no and Kathleen N. Straus abstaining.
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 benchmarks based on the MME.
Likewise, MDE has worked with the same group of experts to develop the methods to be used to identify cut scores representative of being on-track to career- and college-readiness for MEAP.

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