New standards for MEAP lowers proficiency rates in Mount Pleasant
The higher standards for passing the Michigan Education Assessment Program scores left many Michigan school districts short of proficiency — including Mount Pleasant School District.
Students are evaluated by cut-scores, which are based on four criteria: advanced, proficient, partially proficient and not proficient.
The new, more rigorous standards for students to be considered proficient have changed according to a percent that students answer correct. Students now have to get about 65 percent of the answers correct to pass the exam, compared to the previous benchmark of 39 percent.
MEAP scores were changed to the new proficiency standards to show an accurate comparison and representation of years before.
Mount Pleasant School District Superintendent Michael Pung said the old scores showed if the students had a basic understanding of the subject matter, whereas the new cut scores are used to gauge if students are academically ready for college and careers.
To prepare students to achieve the new level of standards, Pung said teachers follow a more rigorous curriculum-based method of teaching that matches the content students see on the standardized tests.
“The new scores present new challenges working more closely with the common-core curriculum,” he said.
As a whole, Mount Pleasant School District did not deviate far from the statewide averages.
In grades three to eight statewide, students performed the worst in science with a 16 percent passing rate, followed by a 28 percent passing rate in social studies.
The scores were still low in other areas with a 37 percent passing rate in math, 46 percent in writing and 63 percent in reading, according to data from the Michigan Department of Education.
As of last year, 80 to 95 percent of students passed reading and math. The 2011 results were far below.
In the Mount Pleasant School District, seventh-grade fell short of the state average in math scores with a 35 percent. The other grade levels surpassed the state average with fourth-grade reaching almost 45 percent.
Mount Pleasant Public Schools scored the highest in reading. Sixth-grade reading scores were 79 percent.
Statewide, reading scores averaged a 3 percent increase in student proficiency.
“Overall, I’m pretty satisfied,” Pung said. “But with that being said, we are always striving to get better.”
Pung said preparing students to perform at the level the Michigan Board of Education sees as proficient is not an easy task.
“It’s almost like trying to hit a moving target,” he said.
Pung said trying to maintain such a high academic level of achievement across the district is a handful.
The Federal No Child Left Behind guidelines calls for schools to be 100 percent Adequate Yearly Progress status proficient by 2014.
Human Environmental Studies instructor Megan Goodwin said standardized testing should be used to help teachers identify areas that students may need more of different curricular emphasis. Although she isn’t against standardized testing, she said a lot of emphasis is placed on a single test score.
“Test results are one test at one point of time,” she said. “They are a snapshot of how the student was feeling that day, how motivated, healthy and rested that student was on the days the tests were given.”
Third-grade students don’t have the experience to follow a structured set of procedures in a test, she said.
Focus on one test score to the exclusion of all other evidence of learning is unfair to both students and teachers, she said.
Goodwin stressed students enter the educational environment with varied backgrounds outside of the classroom.
“The most outstanding teachers cannot always overcome what students lack in the way of parental and community support,” she said.
Goodwin said the time involved preparing students for the MEAP could be time wasted.
The transformation of standardized testing is huge, she said. It used to be between the parent, teacher and student to determine success. Now, school funding, jobs and overall perception of schools are being influenced by student performance, she said.
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