Change “Partially Proficient” to “On Track for Proficiency”

By Rod Haenke

 I am troubled by a practice related to the our state accountability system that is so blatant and has been so unquestioned that it is taken for granted. Here's what is: The state tests are given sometime between early March and early May and yet test "end of the year" proficiency. The state commissioner confirmed this. She said, "Yes, the MCA covers all standards and benchmarks for the academic year. Yes, if you give the test early in March near the window opening you are of course losing an opportunity for further instruction." This means that students are tested to see if they have mastered a year's worth of content, and in many cases, where they have only received between 60-75% of a year's instruction!

 Since the schools must use computerized tests and some schools, especially smaller, poorer schools may only have one computer lab to use to test the kids, it must be shared. Since they must test students in Reading, Math, and Science, these classrooms must share this one computer lab meaning that they must start testing in early March. It isn’t a choice. Whereas a school that has multiple computer labs can wait until the end of the testing window where students can get as much as a month or more of additional instruction.

 Is this fair for students to be labeled as “Partially Proficient” or even “Not Proficient” if they get a score that is equivalent to the amount of instruction that they received? For instance, some students miss the Proficient cut score by only 1 or 2 points (or questions). If they were to receive a full year’s of instruction, what are the chances that they would do well enough to get one or two more questions correct?

I think it is time to rename, at least, students that score in the partially proficient range “On Track for Proficiency.”


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