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Standardized test results remain status quo for Michigan high school students

Teacher at a chalkboard
Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Education released overall standardized test results for Michigan's high school students this morning.

Test results for all subjects in the Michigan Merit Examination (MME) were down slightly when compared to last year. ACT results showed a mix bag when compared to last year's results.

When looking back over the last four years, officials at the Michigan Department of Education say the test results show an "upward trend in student proficiency on both the 2013 Michigan Merit Examination (MME) and ACT college entrance exam."

Vince Dean, Director of MDE's Office of Standards and Assessment says the changes year-over-year are not statistically significant this time around. But the trends over the past four years are, he says. Because of a variety of factors, like changes to the high school graduation requirements, Dean says the last four years are the most comparable. "That’s why we’re really looking at trying to get at apple to apples, in terms of our trend, Dean said.

In a press release, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said the results are a good sign:

"Over the past four years, more high school students are being taught challenging content and are becoming career-and college-ready. This upward trend is good news for students, educators and our state."

Here are the numbers released by the MDE:

MME and ACT test scores for Michigan high school students.
Credit MDE
MME and ACT test scores for Michigan high school students.

Student proficiency scores for the MME declined slightly when compared to last year.

Michigan Merit Examination scores

This test is given to high school juniors each year in the spring.

State Superintendent, Mike Flanagan said, “Over the past four years, more high school students are being taught challenging content and are becoming career-and college-ready. This upward trend is good news for students, educators and our state.”

Looking at four-year trends, the largest gains on the MME occurred in mathematics and writing. Mathematics saw an average increase in percent proficient of just over three percent; writing saw an average increase in percent proficient of nearly six percent.

Science and social studies also showed four-year positive gains, with science increasing an average of 1.5 percent and social studies increasing 1.1 percent statewide.  Reading experienced yearly fluctuations, ending with a slight decline over the same four-year period; however, it still has the highest student performance across the five MME subject areas with 53.5 percent of students scoring “proficient” or “advanced.”

ACT Scores

During the same four-year period, the average ACT score rose incrementally in all categories. Science scores showed the largest increase from 19.7 to 20.1.  English scores rose from 18.4 to 18.8 and both reading and mathematics increased from 19.4 to 19.6.  The overall composite score for Michigan students on the ACT college-entrance exam increased for the fourth consecutive year to reach 19.7.

An additional important measure – one that is included on Governor Rick Snyder’s Education Dashboard – is the percentage of students meeting the ACT college-ready benchmarks in all ACT-tested subjects (English, reading, mathematics, and science). The percentage of students meeting the benchmark in all subjects has continued to rise steadily over the past four years (from 16.2 percent in 2010 to 18.1 percent in 2013).

“While assessment score fluctuations are not unusual when comparing different classes of students, results show the need to continue the state’s strong commitment to high standards,” Flanagan said.

The MME is administered over three days with students taking the ACT Plus Writing® college entrance exam on Day 1, WorkKeys® job skills assessment on Day 2, and the Michigan components of mathematics, science, and social studies on Day 3.  The Day 1 administration of the ACT Plus Writing® provides students with the opportunity to receive college-reportable scores needed to apply for college entrance.

While nearly all student population groups are making gains in the percent proficient when using the four-year trend (in all subjects except reading), the gap in achievement between student groups is remaining static or narrowing just slightly.

A Parent Report outlining individual student achievement on the MME is provided for each student tested. Local schools are directed to distribute the MME Parent Report to parents/guardians as soon as possible after printed hard copy reports are received at the school.

Career- and college-ready cut scores are used to define a student’s performance level (i.e., Advanced, Proficient, Partially Proficient, or Not Proficient).

While the vast majority of high school students in Michigan participate in the MME, it is not appropriate for some Students with Disabilities. For these students, Michigan’s alternate assessment program, MI-Access, is appropriate.

There are three levels of MI-Access targeted toward students with different degrees of cognitive disability.  They are: Participation, Supported Independence, and Functional Independence. Determining which assessment level is appropriate for an individual student is the responsibility of the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team.

Mark Brush was Michigan Radio’s Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.