GLADSTONE - The state of Michigan has changed the scale for student testing. Students who performed well last year may not be so lucky in the future.
Every year Michigan public school students in grades 3-9 take the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test and 11th grade students take the Michigan Merit Exam. The scores are used to determine the proficiency level of students.
Next year the cut scores - the point on the scale that separates one performance level from the next - will be significantly altered for both tests. "It's like grading on a curve or a different grading scale, and what used to get you an A now gets you a C," said Gladstone Superintendent Jay Kulbertis.
The scores are based on four levels: Advanced, Proficient, Partially Proficient, and Not Proficient, which can be represented as numbers 1-4 respectively. "For years those cut scores were fairly firmly established," said Kulbertis. "There wasn't much weight at the state level as far as a 1 or a 2."
The state decided to adjust the scale and place more emphasis on the number of students at each level.
"The state decided to participate in the Race to The Top, the federal grant opportunity," said Kulbertis. "Rather than change any of the tests, they changed the cut scores of the tests."
Because the new standards are more difficult to reach, the statewide proficiency rates are predicted to drop. This will cause Michigan schools to fall below the Adequate Yearly Progress standards set by the No Child Left Behind Act. The target for the AYP is to have 100 percent of students proficient.
The Michigan Department of Education has applied to the United States Department of Education for a waiver of 100 percent of the AYP target. "We still have this 100 percent proficiency target out there," said Kulbertis. "It turns students who are working hard and taking tests, important tests, into political footballs."
In the next few years, the state plans to change the test as well.
"I'd rather invest our time preparing for the new testing," said Kulbertis.
The new cut scores will make it more difficult to move students who were less than proficient before the change into the proficient range.
"Our push locally was to move as many of our low performing students into the proficient range," said Kulbertis. "We certainly don't want to lose track of those students who were in the 3 and 4 range historically."
The change in scores has been explained as a way to predict college readiness at an early age.
"The standards were moved considerably with the explanation that the results would show how college-ready students were compared to other third- and fourth-graders," said Kulbertis.
As far as Kulbertis knows, there are no studies or data available to indicate an association between MEAP or MME scores and college success rates.