In recent years, standardized test scores for students in Michigan — including scores on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program and Michigan Merit Exam — have fallen. Last Tuesday, the state’s Board of Education approved a proposal to raise the percentage of questions students must answer correctly in order to pass these exams. Increasing the amount of points required to pass will encourage schools to make sure they are educating their students to the highest standards. Elevating proficiency standards will better prepare Michigan students for success, and the board should continue to improve the state’s education system.

According to a Feb. 9 Freep.com article, raising the “cut scores” will better prepare students for their future. The cut scores are the lowest scores a student can get to demonstrate basic knowledge in a given subject. A 24/7 Wall St. article reported that the cut scores are lagging in most states — especially Michigan — where eighth graders have scored significantly lower on reading and math portions of the tests in recent years.

The plan to raise cut scores is an important decision that recognizes the changes that need to be made in Michigan public schools. The current standards aren’t doing enough to ensure that educators are adequately preparing students for their futures. The proposal reaffirms Michigan’s commitment to educating its students to the highest standards and helping them to compete nationally and internationally.

One of the biggest concerns with Michigan’s current testing system is the gap between scores on state tests and scores on national tests. According to Amber Arellano, the executive director of the Midwest office of the Education Trust, while 84 percent of Michigan fourth graders are passing state reading exams, only 30 percent are meeting standards on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal exam. The disparity between these two exams is drastic. If Michigan wants its students to succeed, legislators must stop sugarcoating the academic rigor required for students to achieve proficiency.

By raising the cut scores on standardized exams, the Board of Education can give students, parents and educators the opportunity to see where students actually place on the proficiency scale and what areas need improvement. While opponents of this plan argue that significant drops in students’ test scores may worry parents, it’s important that scores actually reflect students’ knowledge. Without recognizing the flaws in the state’s education system, Michigan students may never be adequately prepared for higher education in comparison to national standards. Students need to be challenged to succeed, and this plan — likely to be implemented in the 2011-2012 school year — gives Michigan schools the opportunity to properly test students.

Michigan should move forward with this plan and continue its commitment to students and education. Without high testing standards, students will not be prepared for higher education, and they will not achieve greater professional success. If educators want to stop the cycle and keep Michigan “smart,” the state should continue to renovate the education system.

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