State may set bar higher on MEAP

LANSING, Mich. — State education officials are considering raising the bar on standardized tests, even though the likely result will be larger numbers of failing students and schools, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Michigan State Board of Education Tuesday discussed a proposal to raise the “cut scores” on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program as of 2011-2012, which means that students would have to earn higher scores in order to be considered “proficient” in any given subject, the Free Press reported.

The goal is to make sure students are prepared for college-level work or technical training, Joseph Martineau, the state’s director of educational assessment and accountability, told the board, according to the Free Press. Officials said the former cut scores were too low and didn’t accurately reflect student ability, the Free Press reported.

The immediate impact would likely be large numbers of students who suddenly fail the annual test, as well as numerous schools that fail to meet No Child Left Behind mandates of adequate yearly progress, the Free Press reported. For example, if the proposed cut scores had been in place in 2009, only 34 percent of third-graders would have passed the math exam, compared to the 95 percent who passed under existing guidelines, the report said.

"Frankly, this discussion is long overdue," said state board member Daniel Varner of Detroit, the Free Press reported. He said that Detroiters were unhappily surprised when the school district’s scores on a national exam were worst in the country among big cities in 2009, even though MEAP scores showed some schools were performing adequately.

Detroit Free Press, “Proposal to raise bar on test scores could throw off schools,” Jan. 12, 2011

Michigan Education Report, “The shell game of making AYP,” March 18, 2009