Lewiston superintendent: NCLB 'is failing'

LEWISTON — Almost two-thirds of Maine schools met federal No Child Left Behind standards last year. This year, fewer than half met the standards, and it's going to get worse, said Lewiston School Superintendent Leon Levesque, who called the standards "insane."

By 2014, 98 or 100 percent of Maine schools won't meet No Child Left Behind, Levesque said Tuesday, because in that year 100 percent of students will have to meet standards, up from current percentages of 54 for 11th-grade math, and 71 for 11th-grade reading.

Schools are not failing. "The law is failing," Levesque said.

He served on a national task force when the law was being developed. The original intent of ensuring every child was successful in school was good and noble, he said. But what came out in the law is geared solely on identifying failure.

"It assumes everyone comes at a level playing field," he said. "It does not take into consideration all the barriers students may have."

Those barriers include homelessness, special education, poor English skills and poverty. All students are expected to succeed at the same rate, Levesque said. "It does not pass the straight-face test."

What's important, he said, is whether individual students are growing academically from year to year.

Schools need high standards, he said, but more should be done to promote and reward success. "There are 51 ways for a school to fail. This is all about penalties."

Gary Chapin, curriculum coordinator for Poland, Minot and Mechanic Falls schools, said the big picture is that schools are trying to do something that in the history of mankind nobody has done, "get to that last 20 percent" of students.

Schools have had success with 80 percent, an enormous feat, he said. "It used to be OK to say, 'Somebody's got to dig the ditches.' That's not acceptable anymore, thank God."

Poland Regional High School did not meet standards, but that doesn't mean the school is failing, Chapin said. It means it has work to do.

Most Maine high schools did not meet the law's "adequate yearly progress." The exceptions included Maranacook Community, Hall-Dale, Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth high schools.

Locally, high schools that did not make AYP (adequate yearly progress) include Edward Little in Auburn, Lewiston, Oxford Hills in Paris, Mt. Blue in Farmington, Mountain Valley in Rumford, Jay, Livermore Falls, Monmouth Academy, Oak Hill in Wales, Buckfield, Gray-New Gloucester and Lisbon.

Lewiston High School, one of the largest schools in Maine, did not meet standards even though graduation rates and academic achievement improved.

"We've significantly reduced the number of kids who do not meet the standards," Principal Gus LeBlanc said. "What really impacts us is our subgroups," which are growing, he said. "We are showing improvement in all our subgroups. But you only need to miss by one student."

Lewiston High test-score averages have gone from being 15 percent below the state average to one percent below the state average. That's significant growth, LeBlanc said.

"But we're not improving fast enough to catch up," he said, because standards are being raised each year.

Maine is the only state using SATs to measure achievement, LeBlanc said. The SAT is not an achievement test; it's a test to project success in college, he said. Other states use achievement tests to measure No Child Left Behind success. It's apples to oranges, LeBlanc said.

"When you look at student growth, we've made significant progress," LeBlanc said. "We're just not where we need to be yet."

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Data

homeschools and private schools are getting the job done??? Please - show me your data and evidence and I'd be glad to honor the content of your post...but without evidence, you are just stating an opinion.

Shane Morin's picture

The problem, SC, is that with

The problem, SC, is that with that system you're telling kids what they're going to be. By setting them down a path early on, you're significantly narrowing their options and opportunities. Ultimately a system like that impedes on the ability to pursue the "American dream".

Shane Morin's picture

That wasn't meant to be a

That wasn't meant to be a shot at the whole German system.. there's a lot we could learn from it, most certainly. Just addressing one part.

 's picture

Growing up in Germany with

Growing up in Germany with the school system there I find that the one size fits all here is not working. In Germany you have different schools for different learning abilities. Kids who are very smart get taught by a higher more challenging curriculum than kids with learning disabilities. Those kids go to schools with a great teacher/student ratio so every individual gets the attention they need and can learn at their speed. Kids who are fast learners are in larger classes with higher demands.
I find that pushing all kids through the same setting is the problem here. The smart ones get bored by waiting for the weaker ones to catch up. Why is it that our graduates not rank on top when compared to other countries?

Douglas Mac antSaior's picture

"It used to be OK to say,

"It used to be OK to say, 'Somebody's got to dig the ditches.' That's not acceptable anymore, thank God."
The world still needs them. It's noble work and I would much rather shake the hand of a ditch digger than that of a welfare case.

 's picture

Sadly public schools are

Sadly public schools are capable of only producing welfare cases and a few ditch diggers. We get a few others who spend 8 to 10 hours a day warehoused at school while their parents do that strange thing in this state WORK, then they come home to their second and third jobs of running the house and teaching the kids. Those kids end up ready for work or going of to college and leaving the state.

 's picture

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is all about holding schools accountable. No excuses, you know what is expected and you knew what the consequences would be if you did not perform. If my company did made all these excuses and produced such a poor result we would be out of business. Stand up, take responsibility and do your jobs; educate our kids or find a new career.

 's picture

It is frightening that one of

It is frightening that one of your teachers wrote this. She/he thinks a student is an employee instead of someone he/she is charged with teaching, the purpose behind his/her vocation. Down here teacher pay is connected to performance. Apparently that is not the case there. It might be something to consider. Also here, in order to receive a high school diploma students must pass a standardized test. Teachers are held accountable throughout a student's educational years to be moving each and every student to successfully passing that test which includes math and reading requirements and is being expanded to include writing, science and history among other areas. Every year students at every grade receive some type of testing with key benchmarks at specified grades. It would never be acceptable to have a school failure rate a fraction of this shameful 56%.

 's picture

Wrong, you clearly fail to

Wrong, you clearly fail to understand what you are doing. You fail to differentiate between employees and the materials you work with. You do get to pick and choose the employees, teachers, administrators, and support staff just as I get to pick and choose my employees. Neither of us gets to pick all of the factors of production i.e. smooth operation or most up-to-date equipment, raw material consistancies, ambient humidity, ambient temperature, etc for me; the student, and what they bring with them for you. Start by waking up to the fact that your students are not your employees they are the raw materials you must mold into the final product and that quality checks of how you are progressing are and will be done along the way. If you are not molding that raw material so it is where it should be at those quality checks you have failed to do your job, just as my employees have failed to do theirs if they have not compensated for the variables and produced to a specified standard at each quality check point. You are wrong we gaain compare the business world and schools, they are the same; we have to hold you accountable because you haven't been and wont do it yourselves. The US used to be #1 academically, look how far we have fallen and our economy right along with it. When a high school graduate of average intelligence cannot properly count back change as a cashier at Walmart obviously you have not done your job. When a high school graduate of average intelligence cannot write a comprehensible paragraph you have not done your job. When a high school graduate of average intelligence cannot sum 4 three digit numbers on a piece of paper without a calculator, you have not done your job. When a high school graduate of average intelligence can neither read nor comprehend the newspaper article that motivated this comment you have not done your job. Homeschoolers are getting the job done. Private schools of all types are getting the job done. I stand by my original post if you public school teachers and administrators can't or wont produce quality educational outcomes, in other words, actually educate our children, find another career.

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