Approves Accreditation Grades
from Gongwer News
Service, December 12, 2002
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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
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
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could be confusing and potentially have to be rescinded.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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.