Oregon raises the bar in math cut scores
Friday, October 29, 2010
Redmond, Ore - The state Board of Education approved an increase in the cut scores for mathematics effective this year. Cut scores are the number of points a student has to reach on the state assessment test in each subject to determine whether they met, exceeded or did not meet state standards. The number of students who fall into each category is used when determining the ranking of schools on the state report cards and also whether they met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the No Child Left Behind Act.
The changes call for a seven-point increase on elementary school tests, six-point increase in grades sixth and seventh, and a four-point increase in grade eight. No increase will be made at the high school level as this was adjusted before adoption.
The reasoning behind the increase is that the current math cut scores are too low to give students an accurate picture of how prepared they are for the next grade, for graduation, and for life after high school. Increasing the cut scores at the elementary and middle school level will improve the chances of students meeting the high school math achievement standards. It will also give students a better opportunity at making the benchmark when tested on national standards, to be in place in 2014.
Superintendent Shay Mikalson said that the district fundamentally agrees with the decision, however, implementation of the cut scores during the school year creates a few challenges since it does not give teachers and students a chance to prepare for the adjustment.
“While I disagree with the timing of implementation, this decision is a positive move forward as we must all support the concept of higher standards for students in Oregon that are aligned with national expectations of college and work readiness,” said Mikalson. “However, to implement a change in math cut scores in the middle of a school year and without a corresponding change in reading scores, which is expected to occur as soon as next year, is extremely confusing for our staff, students, parents, and community and an issue we will need to immediately address.”
The jump in cut scores also creates a false assumption that student achievement is not improving.
For example, students who met or exceeded the math benchmark last year may not obtain the same rating with the cut score increases. In 2009-10, 80 percent of Redmond third grade students met or exceeded based on their tests. With an increase in cut scores that number would decrease to 44 percent. In seventh grade, 83 percent of students were meeting or exceeding. With the increase, that number would drop to 53 percent.
Mikalson said that although the new cut scores will reflect some students not meeting the benchmark, raising the math academic standards gives the district a more accurate reflection of where students are and where they need to be. It also gives teachers the opportunity to change the student’s trajectory to ensure they are ready for the rigors of the new high school diploma requirements and are college and/or career ready after graduation.
“We have a school district employed with professionals committed to our students and they will rise to the challenge to ensure every child has every chance to achieve academic success and be prepared for the 21st century workplace,” said Mikalson.