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State Board of Ed votes to raise 'cut off' scores on MEAP test

Michigan students will have to do better on state tests in order to be considered 'proficient'
Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio
Michigan students will have to do better on state tests in order to be considered 'proficient'

The state Board of Education voted in favor of raising the “cut scores” or cut off scores for what’s considered "proficient" on the state’s standardized MEAP test.

Susan Dynarski is an education professor at the University of Michigan:

"The cut score that the state has defined as indicating proficiency in math is currently set such that 95% of third graders are above that score. By moving up that score, 34 percent of third graders will be defined as proficient."

Dynarski says the new scores will give parents and schools a more accurate representation of how well students are doing and what areas need improvement:  

"The idea of the cut scores is to provide a signal about what proficiency is and what you should be aiming for, and if you set the bar at a higher level, the idea would be then that they’d be aiming for that higher level."

The new cut scores, which are still to be determined, will go into effect for the 2011-12 school year.

The Detroit News reports that the new test scores could affect No Child Left Behind:  

Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 all students must be "proficient" on state standardized tests by 2014. Schools that fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress toward the goal for two or more years face consequences that get progressively more severe with each year — ranging from having to provide transportation to another school to eventual replacement of school staff, reopening as a charter school or state takeover. The percentage of schools that fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress, a federal benchmark that indicates whether schools have to implement reforms under the federal No Child Left Behind act, would jump from 14 percent to 66 percent of schools, according to state estimates.

Dave Murray reports in the Grand Rapids Press that some experts say raising the cut scores alone isn't enough:

Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of U of M's School of Education, said the state board needs to go far beyond raising the bar for students. “You have to build capacity within the system, or all you are doing is creating more failure,” Ball said. “Teachers are going to need deliberate support, because telling students that now they have to score at a different level is a recipe for failure.”

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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