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Birmingham Test Scores Would Take a Hit Under New Standards

A look at recent MEAP and MME scores by Birmingham students under the state's new 'cut scores' show a drop in the percentage deemed 'proficient.'

The Michigan Department of Education on Thursday released what it calls a “retrospective look” at how students would have fared on past MEAP and MME exams if recently adopted scoring standards had been in place — and ' test scores did not escape a statewide decline in proficiency levels.

The new standards, adopted by the State Board of Education in September, changed state cut scores — the scores used by schools to determine whether a student is advanced, proficient, partially proficient or not proficient in certain subjects.

Overall, the results released Thursday show a major decline in student test scores on the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) and the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) in math, reading, science and social studies.

Student in grades 3-9 typically take the MEAP in the fall and are tested in math, reading, writing, social studies and/or science, depending on the grade level. The MME, taken in the spring, assesses students in 11th grade based on Michigan high school standards. The test includes the ACT Plus Writing college entrance examination, along with other state proficiency tests.

Officials said they are releasing the past four years' worth of data as a way to prepare districts for this year’s results. Jan Ellis, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said schools can use the information to help develop ways to increase future scores.

The new cut scores are more rigorous than previous standards: Students now need to get roughly 65 percent of the answers correct to “pass” the state test, instead of the previous benchmark of only 39 percent.

In Birmingham, the biggest drop was in fifth-grade science scores. Under the former cut scores, 93.8 percent of students were proficient; under the new scores, only 32 percent would be proficient.

Scores a 'tool to guide instruction'

Officials said the tougher standards are needed to get Michigan students on par with others who are college- and career-ready.

“These data will provide educators, parents and communities with a more accurate understanding of what student achievement would have been if the new cut scores had been in place during the past four years,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan said in a press release. “These retro-scores can serve as a tool to guide instruction, professional development and student support.”

State officials said the scores released Thursday are for informational purposes only — as a promise kept to administrators to give them an early look at how students would have fared.

According to the press release: “These retro-scores will not be used to recalculate any school accountability measures such as adequate yearly progress. They provide historical context to prepare for the implementation of new cut scores, beginning with the scores from this fall’s MEAP tests.”

Flanagan explained that the previous standard was based on the very basic knowledge that students needed in the old industrial manufacturing economy — where students could get a high school diploma and go into a factory and get a good-paying job. Those opportunities are mostly gone now, he said, with students needing at least a two-year community college education to compete in the technology-driven, knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.

“We have to be honest with ourselves about where we are in preparing our kids for the reality of today’s global economy,” Flanagan said. “These updated scores, while they may be difficult to accept, will help lead Michigan forward. Just looking good is not better than being good.”

Birmingham plans to meet the challenge

Birmingham school officials emailed parents Wednesday and Thursday, noting they anticipated the decline but are confident the scores won't be low for long.

"While we anticipate an initial drop in the number of students reported as 'proficient,' we are confident this change will be temporary due to ongoing school improvement efforts and student support," the email reads.

Birmingham schools spokeswoman Marcia Wilkinson said the district will respond to Thursday's results by examining its curriculum and focusing professional development efforts to meet the challenges posed by the new cut scores.

"The MEAP and MME tests are only two of several measures used in our district throughout the year to insure that students are making academic progress," the district email reads. "We maintain high standards for our students and their test scores are consistently among the highest in the state. We anticipate this trend will continue even with the new cut scores."

MEAP scores

The following is the percentage of students who met or exceeded state standards on the MEAP in 2010, compared to what the percentages would have been had the new cut scores been place.

Grade 3


Met or Exceeded 2010
Prior Cut Scores
Met or Exceeded 2010
New Cut Scores
Math 99.2% 62% Reading 97.1% 84%

Grade 4


Met or Exceeded 2010
Prior Cut Scores
Met or Exceeded 2010
New Cut Scores
Math 98.7% 69% Reading 96.1% 85% Writing 69.3% 69%

Grade 5


Met or Exceeded 2010
Prior Cut Scores
Met or Exceeded 2010
New Cut Scores
Math 96% 73% Reading 96.8% 91% Science 93.8% 32%

Grade 6


Met or Exceeded 2010
Prior Cut Scores
Met or Exceeded 2010
New Cut Scores
Math 94.9% 68% Reading 95.5% 85% Social Studies
92.5% 49%

Grade 7


Met or Exceeded 2010
Prior Cut Scores
Met or Exceeded 2010
New Cut Scores
Math 95.7% 73% Reading 93.4% 77% Writing 69.2% 69%

Grade 8


Met or Exceeded 2010
Prior Cut Scores
Met or Exceeded 2010
New Cut Scores
Math 93.3% 63% Reading 94.7% 81% Science 92.8% 28%

Grade 9


Met or Exceeded 2010
Prior Cut Scores
Met or Exceeded 2010
New Cut Scores
Social Studies
88.8% 56%

MME scores

The following is the percentage of students who scored as proficient or advanced in the spring 2011 MME, compared to what the percentages would have been if the new cut scores had been in place.


Proficient or Advanced
Prior Cut Scores
Proficient or Advanced
New Cut Scores
Reading 81% 81% Writing 72% 78% Math 76% 61% Science 81% 49% Social Studies 92% 60%

Source: Michigan Department of Education

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