(Courtesy of ClickOnDetroit.com)
LANSING, Mich. — Students will have to score higher on Michigan’s standardized tests this academic year in order to reach what’s considered a proficient level after a vote Tuesday by the State Board of Education.
The new scoring scales affect the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests taken by elementary and middle school students and Michigan Merit Exam tests taken by high school students. The tougher scoring requirements follow up on the board’s decision earlier this year to raise standards to better reflect students’ preparedness for careers and college.
The new standards are expected to cause a significant decline in the number of students considered proficient in math, reading and other subjects covered by the exams. But state officials say the change is needed to give students, schools and families a more realistic gauge of their academic progress and standing.
“We’ve got to understand the truth about where our kids are, and that’s what this will do,” said Mike Flanagan, Michigan’s superintendent of public instruction.
The state’s scoring scale in previous years has been too easy, critics say, giving students a false sense of security when they head off to college or try to find jobs. The Education Trust-Midwest, an education policy and advocacy organization, notes a far higher percentage of Michigan fourth-graders score proficient on state reading tests than national reading tests.
The scoring shifts could be dramatic in some cases. Students have on some tests in the past been considered proficient by answering less than half of questions correctly. Students would need to answer roughly two-thirds of questions correctly to be considered proficient in the future.
About 87 percent of third graders tested proficient in reading last year, but that would have dropped to 63 percent under the new standards adopted by the Board of Education. For high school juniors, the percentage scoring proficient would have dropped from 63 percent to 54 percent.
Swings in math scores could be more extreme, and well under half of Michigan students could score proficient under the new standards.
Board members supporting the changes said schools will have to work to explain why their test scores will drop this year. Flanagan said state scores will take “a one-year hit” but then districts can focus on showing progress from year-to-year.
All states are required to establish reading and math proficiency targets under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Those targets generally are getting higher and are supposed to reach 100 percent by 2014.
Michigan is among the states that have requested a waiver from meeting the 100 percent proficiency standard. Michigan wants the federal government to waive the requirement in part because of the increasing standards required to pass state exams.
The State Board of Education voted to approve the changes by a 6-1 vote, with Marianne Yared McGuire voting no and Kathleen Straus abstaining.