Progress reports approved for K-2 Lewiston students

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LEWISTON — Parents of students in kindergarten through grade two will receive a report of their children’s progress this year, administrators advised the School Committee on Monday night.

The reports will show whether students are on track to meet end-of-grade expectations.

School Department Chief Academic Officer Sue Martin said the six elementary schools are rolling out the pilot K-2 proficiency-based reports. They won’t have letter grades, but will eventually have numbers that indicate if students are on track to know what they need by the end of the grade.

“The big difference between what we’ve been doing and proficiency based is what we have been doing is based on seat time,” Martin said. “You’re in this class, at the end, you get a grade.”

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It’s part of the direction Maine schools are headed: Students will have to demonstrate knowledge. This year’s freshmen will be the first to graduate with a performance-based diploma demonstrating a mastery of subjects.

The K-2 reports will be shown to parents this week and during parent-teacher conferences. Parents will not get copies at those meetings, Martin said.

“Most teachers do not have enough information yet to rate a kid on the end-of-year standards,” she said. But teachers will meet with parents “and say ‘based on what I know about your child, this is where he or she would be.’ When the trimester ends in early December, they will get a report with numbers.”

As the year progresses, the reports will include numbers from one to four, indicating whether or not a student is on track. The number one will mean students need more time and experience to master concepts and skills. A number four will mean the student consistently exceeds standards.

Students will also be rated for work habits separately from reading, writing and math.

“Parents love that,” Martin said.

Martin said she’s met with a small group of parents to get feedback.

“Parents said, ‘Yes this makes sense,’ and ‘Yes, I like it,’” Martin said.

Feedback on how useful the reports are will be collected before the effort continues another year.

School Committee member Tom Shannon asked what happens if a student doesn’t meet end-of-grade expectations by June.

Martin said probably “kids will be proficient in some areas, but not others. This will change how we think about summer programming next year. It really depends on how much extra support they need.”

It’s not as simple “as you didn’t meet proficiency in three standards in three areas; you should start second grade over again,” she said. “It will allow us to really target what kids aren’t getting.”

Individual decisions will have to be made on whether students are given extra help in small groups, by traditional retention or other ways “so they’re getting those skills they need but not repeating everything they don’t need.”

School Committee member Linda Scott asked that the impact on staffing be considered for the upcoming budget.

“Parents are going to want to make sure we have enough staffing and teachers to cover everything we’re doing here,” she said.

In addition to explaining the pilot reports of progress during parent-teacher conferences, letters are being sent home to parents and focus groups are being held to get parental feedback, Martin said.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

Committee supports state paying more for charter schools

LEWISTON — The School Committee unanimously supported a resolution Monday night asking state legislators to change the way charter schools are funded so school districts are not hurt financially.

The Maine School Boards Association resolution says districts are unfairly required to forward money, both the local and state share, for each local student that attends a charter school. Districts also have to pay for local students attending a charter school the same year, even though state education money doesn’t materialize until the next year.

This year, public schools will send more than $5 million in state and local money to charter schools, a cost that will rise as more charter schools are approved. It especially hurts school districts close to charter schools, since those districts lose more students, the resolution says.

The association resolution proposes that the state pay the state portion and the local share as well, easing burdens on individual districts.

Another association resolution approved by Lewiston was to recommend the state not be allowed to override a local decision on granting or denying student transfer requests.

A third resolution approved was support for Common Core standards.

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