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Farmington Schools Anticipated Drop in MEAP Scores

Officials say plummeting scores may affect more than individual students as federal benchmarks loom this spring.

Parents, students and the community may be startled by , but  officials have seen this train coming. 

that the Michigan Dept. of Education (DOE) would raise "cut" scores – the passing scores that distinguish between whether a student is advanced, proficient, partially proficient or not proficient in certain subjects. As a result, students who were judge "proficient" in 2011 are now "partially proficient", and more students are ranking "not proficient".  

"I think the main goal of the state doing this right now," said Kristin Gekiere, the district's director of assessment and school improvement, "is they want the students to be prepared for the new Common Core standards that are coming out in 2014-2015." 

In June of 2010, Michigan became one of only three states in the country to adopt more rigorous assessment scoring, Gekiere said. While there will be benefits in the long term as students move toward higher standards, the short-term results have shaken teachers, parents and likely some students. 

"This is devastating for our teachers," Gekiere said. "They've worked so hard and come a long ways." 

She developed presentations for each principal that explains building-level results, so they can pass along that information to their teachers. In addition, Supt. Susan Zurvalec explaining the new cut scores and their impact on MEAP results. 

Gekiere said student reaction was one of her biggest concerns from the time the new cut scores were announced. Officials want students and parents to know that MEAP is only one way that students are assessed, with the end goal of ensuring they're ready for college or whatever career they choose. 

When should parents be concerned about their children's MEAP scores? "When they get into the 'not proficient' range," Gekiere said. 

As school officials begin to examine MEAP results, there's another potential crisis looming. No one knows how the lower proficiency results will stand up under federal No Child Left Behind requirements.

Schools have to make progress each year toward 100 percent proficiency on standardized testing, or risk sanctions that range from creating a 2-year improvement plan to closer of the school if the inadequacy persists for more than 5 years. 

Gekiere said state officials anticipate that the vast majority of – and perhaps even all – Michigan schools will fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) when those results come out in April. The MDE is applying to the federal government for a change the state's accreditation system that will reflect where schools are actually performing, she said.

The district is working with Oakland Schools to develop new curriculum that will align with the Common Core initiative, a set of rigorous, college and career-ready curriculum standards for students that Michigan and 46 other states have adopted. However, Gekiere pointed out, the new science standards haven't yet been developed – and that's the area where Farmington's scores took the biggest nosedive, to just 19 percent of 8th graders and 22 percent of 5th graders judged proficient. 

A new math curriculum is in place, she added, that is based on skills and processes, teaching students how to apply concepts, rather than relying on memorization. 

"The state is also working on interim assessments that districts will be able to use to monitor students," Gekiere said. 

Stay tuned to Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch for continuing coverage of MEAP, including building by building scores. 

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