Measuring up to previous standards

By Ariel Tausk

With the MME (Michigan Merit Exam) of Spring 2011 completed, students and staff at DHS are left asking themselves how they will measure up to previous years.

According to the Michigan Department of Education website, DHS ranks in the 97.5th percentile in the state for MME scores.

“They’ve always met that AYP,” Coordinator of Mathematics & Testing for MPS Bob Cooper said, regarding how DHS regularly does on the MME.

AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) is a component of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The goal of the initiative is to make each consecutive year’s standardized testing scores better until 100 percent of students reach a satisfactory score. This goal is set to be achieved in 2014.

“The idea of No Child Left Behind is that you will leave no child behind,” Cooper said.

MPS overall received a passing grade for the 2009-10 report for AYP.

Districts that don’t reach the ATP goal don’t necessarily fail, but as a result they might lower the grade of the whole school or of a subgroup in the school.

For the MME, students are divided into subgroups containing each ethnic population a school has.

“If you have at least 30 [members of an ethnic group], they have to meet those same standards,” Cooper said.

In addition, the districts that don’t meet the AYP are subject to reform. If they fail to reach the goal for three consecutive years, schools are required to provide “supplemental educational services” to only low-income students, especially the low-achieving ones.

“They have a process called ‘school improvement,’” Cooper said. “They would be looking at it long-term and saying, ‘Okay, why are we down a little bit here? Is this something we need to be really concerned with or not? Is it a trend? How can we help the students achieve higher?’”

The MME is not based on a grading system where a percentage of questions right receives a certain score. The standards by which it is graded are somewhat fluid. It is graded on a “scale score” of 1100 or higher for juniors.

“Through the years, they set some standards for the MME,” Cooper said. “And every year they adjust it to fit those standards.”

Although DHS regularly meets the AYP requirement, their somewhat flat year to year scores are a cause of concern to some.

“Good scores, but level scores,” Cooper said to describe how DHS regularly does on the MME. “They haven’t really been necessarily increasing dramatically or decreasing dramatically.”

If DHS scores even slightly higher on the MME this year, the reaction will definitely be positive among administrators.

“We’d be happy, but we’d be doing the same thing,” Cooper said. “[Asking ourselves], what can we do better? And try to work that into our school improvement process and into our curriculum and see if they can achieve at their highest level.”

According to Cooper, having 100 percent of students score satisfactorily on the MME is an honorable goal, but actually reaching it will be a difficult journey.

“I think we’ll rearrange it as we go forward,” Cooper said. “Michigan’s already looking at a new accreditation system. It hasn’t been approved yet, but they’re looking at other ways to measure.”

Cooper said there is talk of raising the cut-scores (the determinants of what should score “satisfactory” on a state test) in order to ensure students are prepared to continue their education.

“That’ll make it even harder to get to that 100 percent,” he said. “They want to make sure the scores reflect what they call ‘college ready.’”

Counselor Kurt Faust believes that DHS creates a very comfortable testing environment, which leads to student success.

“I feel really confident we’re going to do fine,” Faust said about this year’s MME scores. “I think our staff does a nice job of preparing them.”

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