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 Article of Interest - Accreditation

Education Board Approves Accreditation Grades

from Gongwer News Service, December 12, 2002
For more articles visit www.bridges4kids.org

 
Though with some trepidation over the quality of data available for the measurements, the State Board of Education Thursday approved the long-awaited cut-off scores for the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test-based portions of the Education YES! accreditation program.

Along with taking the final steps toward issuing accreditation reports, the board also approved the final criteria for, and with it the final count of schools that did not achieve, adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind act.

The action Thursday represented nearly the end of a year-and-a-half process to replace the accreditation system that faced Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins when he took office in May 2001, a system that itself faced a bevy of lawsuit threats if the board had implemented it.

"We just completed Education YES!" said Board President Kathleen Straus (D-Detroit) after the four procedural votes needed to put the cut scores in place, only one of which was unanimous. "I think a moment of silence is in order or something."

In approving the MEAP standards for Education YES!, the board bucked its Accreditation Advisory Committee and went ahead with scores to measure student growth. But the move did not come without some concern by board members that the scores could be confusing and potentially have to be rescinded.

Education YES! scores are divided into two sections, one based on the MEAP, worth 67 points, and one based on "performance indicators" worth 33 points. The MEAP points are further subdivided into the status, a three year average of scores; the change, the annual difference in the percentage of children scoring in the proficient range; and the growth, measuring the score change of individual children from fourth and fifth grade to seventh and eighth grade to 11th grade.

The committee had recommended that the board hold off on including the latter measure for a couple of years until the state has better data. Currently, department officials said they are able to tie the elementary scores to middle school scores for about 75 percent of students across the state.

Philip Kearney, chair of the committee, said the board should wait until the new annual MEAP tests are released for the 2004-05 school year to implement the growth score, meaning actual grades based on those scores would not be released until 2005-06 when a one-year change in the scores was available.

"In a couple or three years when the new MEAP tests come on line you'll be in a better position because you'll have adjacent tests," Mr. Kearney said.

And Ms. Straus, who moved to adopt the recommendation, said the board would not be abandoning the growth measure. "This is still part of the plan and we still intend to use it as quickly as the data is available," she said. "But to do it too quickly would give us an inaccurate picture."

Board member Eileen Weiser (R-Ann Arbor) said the instability issue could actually inflate grades for urban schools because the students who are stable enough to be tracked are also likely to be the higher-achieving students in the districts.

But the board split on following that recommendation.

"One of the real advantages to our accreditation compared to what was put out before was following a student," said Board Vice President Sharon Gire (D-Clinton Township).

"I understand the field wants growth, but I don't think they're going to like what they get," said Larry Lezotte, another member of the advisory committee.

But Ms. Gire, followed by most of the rest of the board after the initial split vote, said the proposal should move forward. "If it's totally unusable maybe it says to us to wait until we have better data," she said.

"If the passion is there and the willingness to measure this, I'm willing to see what happens," Ms. Weiser said.

The committee did recommend an interim measure, which the board eventually adopted with only member Marianne McGuire (D-Detroit) in opposition, that provides a growth score where links can be made between elementary and middle school tests and increases change to 33 points and status to 34 points where sufficient ties cannot be made. Where the growth score is available, it is shared between the feeder school and the receiving school. Under the cut scores adopted, students are expected to gain at least 20 points between elementary and middle schools in reading and at least 25 points in math for schools to receive a passing score of D or better.

One of the issues raised on the proposal is that urban districts will be disproportionately graded either without the growth score or with the growth score based on a small proportion of the overall student population because of high student mobility making it difficult to track students.

The Single Record Student Database provides students a unique student number that allows them to be traced from school to school and district to district, but Department of Education officials said that system will only be truly effective for the fourth graders taking the test this year to track them to their sixth grade tests and the current seventh and eighth graders to their high school tests.

The department currently is using a database of student names and score sheets and trying to match up names.

But to have a growth score, a school would have to generate three consecutive cohorts of students followed from elementary to middle and each of those groups would have to constitute at least half the students in that grade group, said Paul Bielawski, who has headed development of the accreditation system for the department. "It would not pick up ever feeder path and it would not pick up every school in the state," he said.

Chief Academic Officer Jeremy Hughes noted there are also some schools in the state, especially charter schools, that do not reach fourth grade and so would not have any of the MEAP measurements.

The committee was also concerned about the validity of attributing the change in a student's score to either the elementary school or the middle school given the three years that passes between the current tests. "It's not the best solution but it is a solution," Mr. Kearney said.

The change score measure also drew some concern and an opposition vote from Ms. Gire, who argued that the final standard was unrealistic. "I don't think we ever decided that every student has to get to 100 percent," she said.

Ms. Gire argued the system should be based on scaled scores and that grades would be based on improvements in the averages of those scores. "We won't see any movement unless a child moves from one label to the next," she said. "We could have a school move all its students within the C category way up but not to proficient."

And she said that the proficiency standard of scoring within the top two categories on the MEAP is excessive. "What we're asking for is Lake Wobegon where every student is above average," she said.

But other board members said the standard was correct. "There's no such thing as all the kids above average," said Board Secretary Michael Warren Jr. (R-Beverly Hills). "It's whether all the kids meet expectations."

"It's an appropriate and reasonable expectation," said board member John Austin (D-Ann Arbor).

The committee recommended, and the board adopted, a proposal that follows the federal law in setting a path for every school in the state that would have all of its students scoring in the proficient range by the 2013-14 school year.

Under the system, schools achieving at least 125 percent of their improvement curve in a year would receive an A, above 75 percent a B, above 25 percent a C, no more than 25 percent below the curve a D and a decline greater than 25 percent an E.

Final composite scores are still some months away. The department is currently piloting the questionnaires to collect the performance indicators, which look at such things as arts programs in the schools and attendance and drop out rates.

Under the communications plan outlined to the board Thursday, the department then will not be releasing the grades for any school until the staff and parents in that school have had the information for a month.

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: If the U.S. Department of Education accepts what the board adopted Thursday, there will be 738 schools in the state identified for improvement under the new federal No Child Left Behind law. Of those, 444 will have to begin some level of corrective action before the end of the school year, most at least having to offer school choice or supplemental educational services to students.

The board was able to shrink the list from the nearly 1,500 in initial reports by changing the standards last month to include only mathematics and reading tests and by Thursday increasing the number of students in a minority group to 30 from 10.

Mr. Hughes said most states were looking at 30 as the smallest student subgroup within a school that could affect adequate yearly progress achievement. The law requires that not only the whole school keep improving its average score toward all students scoring proficient on a standardized test, but also that any significant subgroup within the school make similar gains. The final annual yearly progress is based on the lowest improving group.

Mr. Hughes, who formerly ran the MEAP program for the Department of Treasury, said the 10-student group was designed more to protect the privacy of individuals rather than to ensure statistical relevance of the information collected.

And, while he admitted that the 30-member group would make it unlikely that individual school buildings would be affected by subgroups, he said that number also held for districts and he said many districts would face sanctions because they had 30-member subgroups not performing up to the standards.
 

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