Today the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) released the results of the fall, 2011, test for grades three through eight. According to a statement released online by the Michigan Department of Education, the state average improved one percent in mathematics and over three percent in reading.
This news arrived after the state issued enhanced cut scores to better identify grade level progress and readiness for college or after-school employment. Supposedly, for comparison purposes, the changes were applied retroactively to provide relevant data. A quick comparison of some middle schools in the mid-Michigan area showed teachers and administrators local strengths and weaknesses. The posted results not-surprisingly showed many more students as having "not met" the state standards' cut scores.
To illustrate the significance the new cut scores had, look at some local examples. While this article is not comprehensive, it showcases some of the shocking decreases reported in the mid-Michigan area.
Take, for example, Lansing's Gardner Middle School in Ingham County. In 2010, its sixth grade math MEAP scores showed only 36.7% of students not meeting the cut score. However, in 2011, the results marked the comparable set of students (now seventh graders) as 95.7% not having met the cut score. These results left most parents wondering which year's data was the best representation of their student's comprehension.
Similarly, Concord Middle School in Jackson County also showed a large shift in results. More specifically, in 2010 only 3.3% of sixth graders were categorized as not meeting the cut score in math. As a result, Concord deemed sixth grade math a success area. But in 2011, that amount jumped to 50.8% for the same group of students. It is unlikely that over half of these students suddenly forgot their math skills, but that was the recent Michigan MEAP's story. Which finding was most accurate?
The large disparity between annual reports alarmed many teachers, parents, and students across the state. How could students be highly exceeding one year but then do so poorly the next? Remember that cut scores changed dramatically compared to last year.
Teachers will have a tough road ahead understanding the results and interpreting growth areas correctly. Hopefully teachers and parents will take these reports with a grain of salt. They should also help students understand the new scoring process so they do not become overly frustrated or down about their own performance.