"C" and "F" grades for SAD 44
SAD 44 officials Monday said the “F” grade given to Telstar High School by the state last week was foreshadowed by last year’s low standardized test score results.
The Maine Department of Education last Wednesday released “report cards” on all Maine public schools.
The Andover Elementary School also received an "F," while the other three SAD 44 schools – Telstar Middle, Crescent Park Elementary and Woodstock Elementary – received a “C.”
Standardized test results in reading and math, including the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) in the lower grades and the SAT in high school, were used in grading. A series of points were awarded for various combinations of testing results, with 400 the maximum total points possible for K-8 and 500 the maximum for high schools.
K-8 and high schools shared one common measure, but differed on two others. For all schools, proficiency (achievement) levels for the most recent testing were included.
For K-8 schools, “growth” – the collective improvement of individual students from the previous year – was also included. Growth was also included separately for students who had scored in the bottom 25 percent for the previous year.
For high schools, the other two components were the graduation rate based on four- and five-year rates, and “progress” - the most recent three-year average of proficiency plus the difference between that average and the previous three-year average of proficiency. Progress compares from class to class, rather than the K-8 measure of collective growth of individuals.
For SAD 44 K-8 schools, the total points results were as follows: Crescent Park Elementary School, 252.3; Woodstock Elementary School, 278.1; Andover Elementary School 135.4 and Telstar Middle School 249.6.
For Telstar High School, the total points were 185.9 out of 500. The four-year graduation rate for 2011-2012 was 81.6 percent and the five-year rate 84.4 percent.
Supt. Dave Murphy said he had challenged the Andover grade because of the small number of students who took the last NECAP.
“Although I have been informed that the state may reconsider the method they use to score smaller schools in the future, it has been determined that the score will stand because there were more than 10 students tested in that school,” he said on the district website. AES has 30 students.
Some Maine schools dropped a letter grade if an insufficient percentage of students took the standardized tests, but SAD 44 schools were not among them.
State education associations said the lower grades went to schools in poorer communities.
The Maine Educators’ Association noted that 88 percent of the elementary schools receiving an “F” had more than half of their students eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Murphy echoed that correlation in his website statement: “Many of you may be surprised to know that our district schools range from 52 percent to 63 percent with regard to the percentage of students who participate in the free and reduced hot lunch program, which is the measure used in these calculations.”
He also said, “Please understand that we are not happy with these grades, nor do we believe that they provide an accurate summary of what our schools and teachers do on behalf of our students.”
But, he added, “despite any flaws that might be associated with these report cards, please be assured that we are taking the results seriously and will be digging into the data that has been used to compile them.”
At Monday’s School Board meeting Murphy and directors discussed the school grades and what might be done about them.
Murphy said that when test scores from last school year were received last fall, “we knew we had some areas where the scores were low,” including at the high school.
Bethel Director Lynn Arizzi, chairman of the board’s Education Committee, said, “We did see these results in the fall, and at that time we knew we had some real problems, especially at the high school level, and in fact, sad to say, we’re among the lowest scoring schools in math. So this was a real concern for us then. Those test scores have been going down in that direction for a while. We were really proud of our “C” schools, and Woodstock was very close to being a B school, and actually other ones weren’t that far off from being a B school.”
And, she said, directors were surprised that results were provided for the Andover Elementary School, when in the past the test scores themselves have not been released because of the small pool of students.
She said administrators and school staff have been and will continue to do “data mining” - looking at standardized test results in detail to find trends in student performance on individual questions, as well as correlations between when material is taught and when it is tested. She also stressed a need to cultivate a better atmosphere for learning.
Murphy said that while poorer districts may be at a disadvantage in the testing and grading, the reality is that the grades are based on data, performance and progress. “When you score low, it gives you an incentive to improve,” he said.
Other directors advocated holding teachers accountable for student performance, finding ways to get students excited about learning and looking into an early kindergarten program to get kids started off on the right foot.
The state grades report also provides what is called a “Balanced Score Card,” including a comparison of finances, broken down on a per-pupil expenditure basis, between SAD 44 and the state average. They include: regular instruction - SAD 44 budgeted amount $3,737, state average $4,579; special education - SAD 44 $1,093, state average $1,657; school administration - SAD 44 $765, state $596; debt service - SAD 44 $385, state $751; facilities - SAD 44 $2,143, state $1,265; total for all measures (not just those listed here) - SAD 44 $11,935, state $11,218.
For more information on the grading go to www.maine.gov/doe/schoolreportcards.