By Kelli Ameling and Elisabeth Waldon
Daily News staff writers
Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) scores for fall 2011 were released Wednesday and local school officials are analyzing the results in light of changes to the testing system.
State officials raised the “cut scores” last year to determine whether students are proficient in certain subjects.
“It sets the bar a little higher,” said Diane Brissette, assistant superintendent at Greenville Public Schools. “It sets the criteria higher to be successful.”
Brissette said because cut scores were raised, scores could show a decrease in the percentage of student proficiency; however, that may not be an accurate portrayal. For example, Greenville’s third grade math scores came back at 24 percent proficiency compared to 2010’s score of 94 percent.
“This is comparing apples to oranges,” Brissette noted.
So schools could compare newly released scores to previous years, the state also applied the new cut scores to previous cut scores. With the new cut score applied to the 94 percent, it actually becomes 18 percent, showing a 5 percent increase in Greenville’s third grade mathematic scores.
Greenville Public Schools Superintendent Pete Haines said he and his colleagues took the change in cut scores as a challenge, especially in mathematic achievement.
“We had already identified a couple of intervention opportunities, which include mathematics vocabulary,” he said. “We noted during the testing cycle that simple differences in math terminology between our lessons and test questions had an impact on results.”
While math proficiency needs some work, other MEAP results were encouraging for Greenville staff, including reading.
“In many cases, our trend lines are outpacing the state average trend lines, which gives us optimism in the long term,” Haines said. “Clearly, given the lapse between testing (October) and normative results (mid-February), we must rely on many other measures to inform instruction. These measures have a history of telling an often different story, while providing much more useful information because we can draw conclusions about learning much faster, rather than waiting several months.”
Belding Area Schools Superintendent Leslie Mount said she and her colleagues tried to be proactive about communicating changes in MEAP testing and results to Belding parents.
“The bottom line is that they should not be alarmed by the change,” she said. “It is a period of readjustment and we will all feel the impact. They can be assured students are continuing to get a high quality education that aligns with the state expectations at each grade level. We all know that any given day we perform differently. We also know that we all do not perform best on a paper/pencil type test. One test, one day does not necessarily represent true student knowledge.”
Mount said MEAP math scores at Belding have dropped two years in a row now. She said according to research, this is a trend throughout Ionia County as well. She said Belding is at average and above average in other areas compared to Ionia County.
“Our belief is that our state expectations and the tested material do not match,” Mount said. “The state expectation is for information to be introduced and we believe at that grade level it is tested to mastery.”
Carson City-Crystal Area Schools Superintendent Duane Ellis said he and his colleagues compared the new MEAP results with last year’s scores by student and by grade level.
“While we are pleased to see our students’ progress, there is always room for improvement and we are working on that already,” Ellis said. “Overall, we are pleased that many of our students showed upward progress. We are excited to see the success that our new reading program and teacher training has brought and are looking forward to seeing what the new mathematics program will help us with in the future.”