CUT SCORES - WHAT ARE THEY?

The public does not know what cut scores are.

"Cut scores increase the grades that our children get!" True.

"Cut scores enable many more of our children to get a diploma and graduate from high school." True.

"Do cut scores require any changes in how we teach and motivate children?" No change required in the way we teach.

"Do cut scores allow children to get a passing grade, so that they can graduate with less knowledge, than was required in the past, regardless of what the curriculum specifies. Yes! Who is/was doing that?! The state Department of Education.




There are specific companies who create tests under a paid contract for any subject or group of subjects, covering exactly what the curriculum specifies. Read about them by clicking here. Some such companies are doing billions of dollars worth of annual business. A state pays many millions of dollars to one of several companies that create, administer on-line the tests that meets the curriculum requirement exactly as contracted. Then we spend millions of dollars on a group of "experts" in the state's department of education to change the scoring in order to change the grades. THE STATE CAN CHANGE THEM ANY YEAR TO MAKE THE STUDENTS' SCORE LOOK ACCEPTABLE TO THE PUBLIC, WITH A COMPLICATED AND VERY POSITIVE EXPLANATION.

In every single case when a cut score is used, it devalues, or dumbs down the created state test by lowering the required percentage of correct answers for a grade, lowering the failier point by lowering the required minimum percentage of correct answers (e.g. 60%) to e.g., 40% most often. This makes the test easier to get passing grades. And the student learns less. The only question is how much does the state Education Department dumbs down the test for all subjects or some subjects and therefore dumbs down the student.




The old TCAP cut scores


After 2010 the states started to use something called "cut scores" to change the grading of state tests (called TCAP in Tennessee). The public school scores were very poor and declining. Cut scores are a relatively new way of changing test results.



The company that creates the test prepares it such that if 90-100% of the answers are correct, the score would be an "A". If 80-89% of the answers are correct then the score would be a "B" and so on, until the correct answers are less than 60%. At less than 60% the test result for the student would be a failing grade or an "F". That is the standard to which the test supplying organizations adhere.

 

It takes a simple effort to make this change. In the scoring module of the software that scores each answer in each test for any subject, there is a grade definition module the species what percentage of correct answers constitute what grade. For example a failing F grade is typically less than 60%. Practically any programmer could find where this grade definition module is, and simply change the "less than 60%" area to "less than 40%" or anything the state Department of Education decides.



Some states like Tennessee decided to redefine all grades, for example from a certain starting date, 52% correct answers will be redefined as a "B" and less than 30% correct answers will be an "F," with all grades adjusted accordingly. Tennessee made such a decision around 2011. Many other states did the same or similar thing. The ACTs and SATs are national tests and have not been scored ever to a lower standard to show higher grades, but became the indicator of our education districts' teaching our children less and less. Our states have done exactly that, to make their education performance look better to the public, and to focus on graduating 90% of the students as soon as possible. However, when the ACT is given close to the end of high school, it provides something called an "ACT Readiness" percentage that is based on a four-subject benchmark that represent what employers would need. "ACT Readiness" indicated lately that only 15-18% of those Tennessee students who graduated WITH A DIPLOMA from high school are prepared to be educated/trained for any job such that they can earn an income to support a family of four minimally. Even then robotics will replace most of them in five years.



For example, McDonald's already contracted in 2017 to replace all employees in 25,000 stores in 2018. Other fast food manufacturers have made similar decisions. Supermarkets are planning to do the same, because today's high school graduates cannot communicate properly, cannot even do basic math or fill out a job application and have a bad attitude. This is just a start, and it is not reversible. These results were formed over 12-14 years of primary and secondary education and became a habit.



Anything to resolve this problem, like a free two-year additional college, cannot solve the problem that was created over 12-14 years. It is the primary and secondary education that needs to be fixed. A two-year "patching" of the problem will not solve the problem. It will just cost a lot of money. To evaluate results, just have the two year completers take the ACT and see what percentage of them will be scoring ACT Ready. We have 14,500 school districts in the USA. They can monkey around with both the state testing as well as the curriculum. With each of them doing their own thing, the results in learning not only varies state-to-state, but school district to school district. It is not possible to create competative results state wide or nation wide this way, and the results will continue to go down, because that is the only way that good grades can be created with "Cut Scores". This kind of practice dumbs down the public. The dumbing down started in 1970 or even earlier. So the public cannot notice the dumbing down, because the test grades have been dumbed down

 

Please note that every state and every school district can do what they want in the USA only. The school districts are guaranteed to receive the same amount of money as what they have received the prior year, minimum. The state can modify the right number of correct answers required for a letter grade every year if they wish with the "cut score" method, to make the poor test performance appear as much as 20-30% better. They dumb down the tests. That, in turn, dumbs down our children and the diplomas they earned. But the results are not consistent. The first test results of a new state test shows that the students don't know as many of the answers as they should. They are averaging an "F," and that looks very bad for the teachers and the school district and the state. So the state Education Department changes the scoring of the test.



It appears that the state could recognize what the problems are and solve it while being open to the public who paid for all the state test "experiments." They decreased the number of correct answers required for each grade to make the scores look as if the school was doing a good job. They do not tell the parents about this adjustment, and this is what they call "Cut Scores." When the state education department changes a "B" grade from between 80-89% correct answers to anything less, like 52%, with similar adjustments on all grades from "A" to "F", they actually dumb down the test 20-30% by setting the percentage of correct answers lower than what the standard was.



  • The test is dumbed down as an example 20-30% by making 52% correct answers in the test a "B" instead of 80% correct answers as the minimum for a "B", and the other grades (scores) are dumbed down in a similar manner.


  • The state test is producing higher grades, and they celebrate in all school districts the higher grades as legitimate improvement,


  • The parents are very happy about little Johnny's grades improving, and


  • Then it is graduation time, and little Johnny gets his diploma but cannot get a job and cannot even fill out a job application, cannot communicate properly or do even basic math. Plus he has a bad attitude on the job because he cannot do it well, so he blames his boss. He did not learn enough, because he was not taught well enough to do better. Example to support the following is this. Our African American graduates have only a 3-6% readiness upon graduation from high school to be prepared to learn a job. The performance is that bad all the way down to grade one. But a charter school in NYC called Success Academy Schools, who started in 2006 and have 41 schools in NYC, score in the TOP 1-3% passing even most private schools without using "cut scores" in the New York state tests, WITH POOR, INNER CITY BLACK CHILDREN. WHEN SUGGESTING THAT OUR BOARD OF EDUCATION SEND A FEW PEOPLE TO THIS SCHOOL TO FIND OUT HOW THEY ARE DOING SO WELL, THEY REFUSED. AND THEY ARE PAID $20,000 PLUS UP TO $5,000 PER ANNUM IN EXPENSES AND A CAR ALLOWANCE.



We read all the creative justifications for cut scores by the state's Education Department. The above results are a fact, but instead of telling the public straight what it is, it gets covered up by substituting four differently named performance classifications. The big gap between the ACT Readiness vs. the total number of graduates who are NOT ACT Ready, confirms the same if one discusses this with people in ACT's management.



Each state AND EACH SCHOOL DISTRICT of which we have 14,500 approximately in the nation, are in control of all school decisions that are normally centralized in the high-performing countries. That means that we are not only dumbing down the population, BUT WE ARE PAYING FOR THE DUPLICATION OF STAFF FOR SOME OF THESE FUNCTIONS IN EVERY STATE AND SCHOOL DISTRICT. WE INTEND TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH ABOUT WHY AMERICAN EDUCATION DECLINED (e.g., AND FOR EXAMPLE ALL SCHOOL DISTRICTS HAVE ADDITIONAL STAFF UNDER THE DEPARTMENT CALLED "CURRICULUM".). ARE THE PEOPLE CHEATED OUT OF WHAT THEY NEED FOR THE REST OF THEIR CHILDREN'S LIVES (EDUCATION, KNOWLEDGE) THAT THE PUBLIC HAS PAID FOR WITH THEIR TAX DOLLARS? ARE THE STATES THAT USE CUT SCORES USE THE PEOPLE'S HARD EARNED TAX DOLLARS TO CREATE A SYSTEMATIC DUMBING DOWN OF THE PUBLIC? Or is the truth something like mass hypnosis all over the US by Da Boogabooga Man from the mountains of the Congo, or just a plain old misunderstanding, by the state's education department and supported by the governor, or do Tennessee children have a lower IQ than the inner city children in NYC? I think that we need an explanation from the governor.



The adjustments could be different from state to state since we already have different state tests and state curricula. It looks to us like a huge dumbing down of the curriculum itself. HUGE. There are official explanations on the Internet, but no one can deny the fact that it is the lowered test results for the grades on the test that gave a higher grade to allow children to score higher in the tests and graduate. Many could not have graduated without it. Such dumbing down cannot be done to the national tests, the ACT, the SAT, and the NAEP, but the NAEP is given only every 3-4 years per subject.



WHY ARE THEY NOT FIXING AND IMPROVING THE SCHOOLS TO THE SAME STANDARD THAT OTHER NATIONS LIKE FINLAND, SINGAPORE, FRANCE, JAPAN AND OTHERS ADOPTED? WE IDENTIFY ON THE OPENING PAGE OF THIS WEBSITE WHAT AREAS NEED IMPROVEMENT TO DO JUST THAT. THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT DOES NOT HELP WITH CHANGES THAT WOULD IMPROVE THE SCHOOL RESULTS. WHY NOT??

It appears that we never had a board majority who knew what to do, BUT they were also not listening to others' advice. THEY ARE NOT THE TYPE WHO WOULD FEEL COMFORTABLE TO ADMIT THAT THEY DON'T KNOW SOMETHING. Perhaps they could try some magic next. LIKE something recommended by Count Bawkoola (must pronounce it with a deep voice) from Transylvania to implement a magic system. We do not seem to know how to bring our education standards up to a competitive level with any other method than "magic."



There was a "unique" school board chair person (on the left) during the past 15 years in Knox County, Tennessee. At the County Commission meeting this board chair boldly requested $15 million dollars for the school system. One commissioner dared to ask "Could you please tell us what you will spend it on?" to which the education chair person answered in a very friendly manner, "Just give us the money!! We will decide how to spend it!!!". The education results were poor, as usual and have not changed since. So what does this paragraph have to do with educational achievement and school performance? It reminds me of what is very important for our children, and for the future of our country. Attitudes related to the job are very important. What we say about what we deserve, may not be important. But what we do and achieve is very important. When this comment was made at the County Commissioners' Meeting, we, the USA, dropped to 30th in the world in high school math. We used to be on top around 1970. In 2016, we dropped to 40th. Tennessee was always at the low end of USA performance. But in spending per student, we were one of the highest in the world, even in Tennessee. We prefer exceptional results, without bragging, and especially without misrepresenting the facts. And when you ask for $15,000,000 of the people's money and your performance is terrible, a little humility would be in order, and a Commissioner should not have to ask you what you will spend it on. One should present that in detail to those who are to approve it - to put it mildly.



There is no doubt that cut scores represent a very significant dumbing down of our children during the last few years. Not that it is a new method, because our education deteriorated for more than 50 years. That means that some in leadership have been doing their own magic on today's parents all along. If we are correct with all assumptions, we do not feel that it was appropriate to hide this huge dumbing down from the public, who pay for public education with their hard earned tax dollars. To lie to the public by telling them that we are doing very well, a B+ average in the TCAPs when that grade without the cut score method would be a big F, was not the right thing to do by JM, superintendent, in our opinion.



The New TNReady Cut Scores
PRELIMINARY, NEEDS JUST A LITTLE MORE WORK


Reference: TNReady Cut Scores.

Tennessee results are lower than the US average. The Tennessee state test was replaced recently. It is called TNReady. The Tennessee Department of Education also decided AGAIN, to use cut scores on the new test. We think that it would be a safe bet to assume that the new Tennessee test will be dumbed down, perhaps more than the old one, instead of going in the other direction to align it with the state's average ACT score goal of 21. ACT 21 is a very low score with only a 25% ACT Readiness percentage of graduates. ACT 21 has been a Tennessee goal for 15 years. It is a very low expectation score. Tennessee education people talk about high expectations, but the goals tell one what they really believe.



Again, it was prepared by a professional company to match the curriculum as we stated before. The state is changing to cut scores on the new test, most likely because they do not want to have the public see how poorly educated our children are. Again, let us compare to a normal, traditional grade distribution as before, with five different grades, A - F. 90-100% correct answers are an A, all the way to 59% or less being a failing grade or F. This is how the tests are designed. We are changing the grade distribution to four areas named already. "Failing" does not exist in the vocabulary. 2016 Tennessee Cut Scores In Detail. The percentage of right answers, to qualify for each of the "graded" entries is below with only one subject. English and various mathematics courses and US History are the only ones graded. No science course is graded. No music or art course is graded. WE THINK THAT THIS IS A VERY SHORT SIGHTED DECISION ON THE CHOICE OF COURSES, ALTHOUGH IT APPEARS THAT WE ARE USING TNREADY FOR GRADES 3-8 ONLY. We are beginning to see very serious preparation to replace low end, not ACT Ready graduates in fast food and in supermarkets to follow with robotics, with a continuing penetration of 125 classes of vocations whose workers have a four-year university degree. By 2023, all of this will be accomplished, along with millions of replaced workers on the street. Minority parents are very concerned about their children. We publish good news only from the school districts. The parents' idea is that "My son qualified for a diploma. Why can't you teach him a job?!" That is the impression that our public schools are leaving with the parents and the students. BIG MISTAKE. Leaving sciences, art and music out of the curriculum and testing: all of these are needed for brain development. The job market with robotics within it as a competitor, will require much more training than the 40th nation in high school mathematics could provide. Robotic technology will keep improving much more rapidly than our children. ALLOWING THE DETERIORATION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION IS ANOTHER BIG MISTAKE.






In A, B, C, D, F grading, these letters identify a 10% range of possible grades for A, B, C and D, plus a 59% range for F. Instead of A, B, C, D, F grading, the cut scores results are also in five grades or levels of student performance, but the cut scores identify a single grade boundary only and not the entire range for each single grade.

 

The most important segmentation of cut scores is the border between failing and the first passing grade.

Level 4: Mastered (Mastered Grade-level)
Level 3: On-track (On Grade-level)
Level 2: Approaching (Approaching Grade-level).
Level 1: Below (Below Grade-level)



As a conclusion on the TNReady Levels above, it appears that a failing grade in English I is not at or below having 59%, but below 23.7% correct answers in a test, depending on the subject. This is the top percentage number per subject in the "Below" column for English I . That means that we are passing a lot more children who have produced failing grades before, without them improving from failing performance. It appears that at the same time we are making the Level 3 and 4 performance more difficult than the A and B grade definitions before. We do not feel that this is the right action to improve performance. We are allowing a huge percentage of poorly performing students, awarding them to get a passing grade, instead of improving the teachers' training and work environment to enable the children to learn more. We are creating the worst possible motivation to learn more when we drop the failure score from less than 60% correct answers to less than 23.70%.



Using English I in the above chart, if the correct test answers fall between 0% - 23.70% correct answers only, the child gets a failing grade called "Below", a brilliant choice for the name of grade to save self-esteem that started in the 1970's and found to be damaging. So the teacher would say "Johnny, you got a "Below" grade in English I!" To which Johnny would say "Below what?! Below the desk?! Where? Where?" "Below" is what we used to call an "F" for "Failure". Not the best choice in names. The lowest passing grade, 23.70% or more correct answers, is called now the new failing grade, called "Below". The child gets a failing grade called "Below" when he has less than 23.70% correct answers in a test. Although not the same, it compares to 0% - 60% good answers only in a test we called an "F" for being a failing grade. The lowest passing grade goes from 23.70% to but not including 73.20% called "Approaching" (23.70% plus 49.50%), another brilliant name that someone who makes probably more than $200K thought up after a lot of agonizing. We called "Approaching" a "D". 60% - 69% correct answers in a test in the past, now corresponds to 23.70% - 73.20% correct answers in the TNReady test. That is almost as large in performance as four times a "D" score. What the TNReady cut scores are doing so far is dropping the passing grade from 60% to 23.70% passing many students who could not have passed before, and loading up the first passing grade so large that we will see the top two grades much more difficult to achieve. Supposedly, this will align us for much better ACT scores. There are two big problems with this logic. One is that it will open up the flood gates to the many children to pass who were failing under the old system that produced only 17% of those who actually graduated from high school in Tennessee with a diploma. Our past educational performance was poor. This will make it worse. Poor schools do not prepare winners by adopting a new Cut Score system that dumbs students down. Student performance does not depend on adopting cut scores for higher grades, because the cut score method reduces children's knowledge. We are dumbing them down. Lowering the first passing grade from 60% to 23.70%, does not increase the children's average knowledge. It reduces it SIGNIFICANTLY. And for the Tennessee Education Department to do this to our children, most likely with the Governor's approval, I never thought I would see such a degrading idea coming from the state education department. It is only the improvement of how we teach all children, starting with a well planned pre-school program, with well trained and happy teachers who know their subject and the latest, most effective teaching methodology in the world that holds any hope for our children. The minimum requirement to achieve that is an 80% ACT Readiness, for which we need to achieve an average ACT score of 25-26.



Tests are designed exactly under contract for the specific subject test within the curriculum as requested by the state, such that 90-100% correct answers will be an "A" and less than 60% correct answers will be an "F". So we pay as a state $50-60 million per year for the new test, and we pay another company an additional $15-20 million per year to totally or partially dumb down a good test to get higher grades and students graduating with less knowledge than intended. In the case of TNReady we dumb down the two lowest passing grades, making the achievement of the top two highest scores' a little tougher. IT IS THE POOR SCHOOL SYSTEM THAT NEEDS TO BE IMPROVED INSTEAD OF DUMBING DOWN THE STUDENTS TO GET HIGHER GRADES. ISN'T ANYONE RESPONSIBLE FOR MANAGING THE QUALITY OF OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR THE GOVERNOR? Manipulating scores by the state school system does not resolve the poor performance coming out of our public schools. IT MAKES IT WORSE. The TNReady cut scores above appear to represent a smaller change to make grades look better to parents, but it will not help to achieve higher ACT scores, because we are simply lowering the passing grade, with some subjects a lot. That rewards only those children who were producing failing grades in the past by lowering the bar for passing a course. The big problems to improve results are teacher knowledge of the subject and teaching methodology, as well as the conditions under which the teachers work. They don't know the subjects well enough to get children excited about what they are learning, a very important part of teaching. We have to make this process easier for teachers, by having them better educated about the subject they teach, the exciting things about the subject and the work one does in the subject, giving them more authority in the classroom by handling discipline violations with tougher consequences, and eliminating some non-teaching activities for teachers that takes away their preparation time. Teaching is not a fun job any more. Learning is also not a fun job for the children. We have to change that for both.



THE BOTTOM LINE IS THIS:

IF THERE ARE TOO MANY POORLY PERFORMING CHILDREN, WITH LOW "ACT READINESS", THERE IS INCREASING DEMAND TO LOWER THE PASSING SCORE IF ONE WANTS TO RAISE THE GRADUATION RATE. THE STUDENTS CERTAINLY DO NOT LIKE THE SCHOOL AND THE TEACHERS ARE BORING TO MOST OF THEM STARTING IN FIRST GRADE AND THROUGH EVERY GRADE.

IF SOMEONE IS TRYING TO SELL CUT SCORES AS A POSITIVE MOVE, TO THE BENEFIT OF OUR CHILDREN SURVIVING, THEY ARE LYING.



 

Are cut scores the most important tool to improve our poor education system? We don't think so.






THE BIG PROBLEM IS: the schools are not improving, and the grades are likely to keep dropping as before. The state education department dumbs down the state test scores more, and the grades magically increase! The state has done it before, the public only noticed that the grades improved, and no one notices that the children are graduating with less knowledge and they are becoming unemployable. But the day is coming when this correction by cut scores will give everyone an "A", even if they have not a single correct answer on a test.

The state can do that any time.


ARE WE GETTING OUR MONEY'S WORTH FROM THE TENNESSEE PUBLIC SCHOOLS?

ABSOLUTELY NOT.




Copyright(c) 2008-2018 V. Spencer
This is a work in progress.