DESE Kept School Leaders in the Dark in Setting Cut Scores

The setting of cut scores for achievement levels is not a scientific or empirical determination.  It is the result of a policy choice.  It requires the involvement of measurement professionals but ultimately, the selection of cut scores should reflect the judgment of educators.  Unfortunately, DESE has severely limited the involvement of superintendents, principals, and teachers in the exercise of this policy judgment.

This year, DESE kept superintendents, principals and teachers in the dark about the process and its decision as related to cut scores.   The policy committee, which included 2 superintendents and 3 principals, met on August 21.  Participants were given very little information in advance of the meeting. The policy committee did not reach a consensus, in part, because the handful of administrators present were not provided requested information necessary to support the conclusions provided by the vendor running the meeting.   Despite the lack of a consensus, and the objections raised by administrators present, DESE took a recommendation to the Assessment Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC) two days later, on August 23.  The ATAC consisted of independent consultants, but no superintendents or principals, despite the fact that DESE had previously represented that practitioners would be on the ATAC.[1]  The ATAC immediately determined its recommendation to DESE Leadership who set the cut scores sometime prior to September 11.

Despite significant questions about the process, DESE did not disclose that the cut scores had been set or what determinations had been made.  On the contrary, DESE area supervisors who were asked about cut scores at regional MASA meetings responded that they did not know the status of the process.  This answer was echoed as recently as September 12th by the area supervisor at the Greater Kansas City MASA meeting.  At this point, DESE had already set the cut scores and provided a report as part of the State Board packet for the meeting to be held on September 18th.




[1] See “A Presentation to School Administrators”, Cooperative Conference, July 2014, at, which states the ATAC will be “Comprised of policy makers, researchers, and practitioners who have demonstrated expertise.”