Academic Curriculum & Assessment
Common Core State Standards
The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. The Common Core State Standards are aligned with national assessment tests such as NWEA This alignment allows all students in the United States to be measured on the same scale. Therefore, a student that is proficient in Michigan is also considered proficient in Texas. This allows for schools to more adequately prepare all students to be prepared for job skills and/or college readiness.
What are the expectations for my son or daughter? The Common Core website is a great tool to identifying the standards that your child is being held to. A parent can simply follow the link based on grade level. Clear examples are provided for each defined outcome.
Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP)
MEAP is a standardized test taken by all public school students in the State of Michigan. The test is administered beginning in 3rd grade and continues through 9th grade. The intent of standardized tests is to measure student knowledge, performance, or learning based on an established set of expected outcomes.
What is a cut score? In 2011, Michigan applied a higher standard of performance to the MEAP test. The MEAP test measures the percentage of questions on a specific learning objective that are answered correctly by an individual student. Based on the performance criteria, a student is considered “proficient” when a baseline percentage is met. A student is considered “highly proficient” when an elevated baseline is met. In 2011, Michigan increased the percentage of correct answers required for a student to be considered proficient. The reason for this was to begin to align Michigan with the higher achieving educational programs throughout the country to begin to push schools to better prepare Michigan children for college. The result was an across the state decline in MEAP scores. While discouraging, this change did force educators to explore different ways of student engagement and key measures of proficiency along the way. From this change, the trend of interim assessments grew rapidly and Response to Intervention Programs became the norm rather than the exception.
What trends should I look for in MEAP scores? Being that Michigan as a state had established performance expectations that were not to the level of other states, it is expected that while it would be ideal for all schools to achieve a 100% proficiency score to indicate all students were performing at grade level, the reality is that scores are low in many schools. Yet, these same schools can be among the top performers in the area, also known as “Reward Schools” The trends to look for in MEAP include the following:
- Are scores in a specific grade level improving? If the scores of like cohort groups (2011 3rd grade compared to 2012 3rd grade) are increasing, this is indicative of a solid performance culture building or established in the school. These scores may increase based on the longevity of a student population. Student retention is a known determinant of overall school performance.
- Are scores improving among a cohort? In other words, did the student base in the 2011 3rd grade score higher in 2012 4th grade? If scores are growing among a cohort, understanding there is always an element of a transient (see definition) population of students, this is indicative of a performance culture that is closing achievement gaps and bringing a greater number of students to grade level.
- Are scores decreasing? Decreasing scores should be examined carefully in order to determine if it’s truly a trend or a one-time drop. A decreasing score could indicate a weakness in the performance culture of a school or it can be attributed to a leadership change that has been addressed. To understand the true meaning of a score that has dropped, it is important to ask this question to the school. Often times, the school may have anticipated lower scores based on specific known factors. If a school is not “sure” why scores have dropped, this is an indicator that should create caution.
- What do scores that are unchanged mean? Often times, high performing schools will see minimal changes in proficiency year over year. The reason for this is the smaller window of non-proficient students in which a school is trying to bring up. Achieving 100% proficiency, while the goal of every school, is a tall order and happens in less than 1% of all public schools. Additionally, lower performing or mid-level performing schools may experience stagnant activity. This should be considered and questioned as choices are explored. There may be an increasing population of students or there may be a stall in innovation driving performance. Regardless, again, you should feel comfortable with the school’s response to this question.
Michigan Merit Curriculum
The MMC is an established list of high school graduation requirements as defined by the State of Michigan. The MMC was created with the goal of preparing Michigan’s students with the knowledge and skills needed for the jobs in the 21st Century. The standards were created with the intent to be rigorous and among the best in the nation. The MMC defines curriculum requirements in Math, English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, Visual, Performing and Applied Arts, Online Learning Experience, and Foreign Language. For more detailed information, click here.