OUR VIEW: MEAP scores scary, but data is key

By Daily News • Last Updated 11:04 am on Wednesday, March 07, 2012

At first glance, the 2011 Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) results for our area may cause panic. But delve a little deeper into why the scoring system was changed, how numbers actually compare to past years and what our local schools do with these results. We went straight to the source and the information is more than encouraging.

The first thing we looked at was the “why.” Bottom line is that these new cut scores, which were approved by the Michigan Board of Education, are designed to raise the bar for how ready students are to move on to the next level — be it to the next grade, to college, or to technical career training. A cut score is the point on the scoring scale that separates a student from being classified as advanced, proficient, partially proficient or not proficient. Before this year, a student didn’t need to get as many points to be in one level or another and scores allowed for a more basic level of achievement. That won’t cut it in today’s world, which is changing at lightning speed. Kids need to think differently than in the past.

MEAP tests always have been a way for schools to find out how their students are doing in math, reading, science and social studies. In order to get an accurate look at how scores compare to past years, the state actually went back four years and applied this new scoring system. For example, in math 24 percent of this year’s third graders tested proficient. Last year, that number was 94 percent. Here’s where the panic could set in. But when you apply the new cut scores to last year’s number, you’ll see that only 18 percent of kids were proficient. That’s an improvement of six percent over last year.

At the end of the day, some of us may still be left wondering why these numbers are so important? The question has been asked whether all this testing takes time away from teaching. We don’t think so. We live amidst several forward thinking school districts that use this kind of detailed data to figure out what they’re doing right and where they may need a little work. It allows our administrators and teachers to look at achievement building by building and over time. And that means our students are going to benefit.
We are all for any steps that need to be taken to help our kids compete in an ever-changing competitive world.

Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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