LEWISTON — Most Maine high schools, 110 of 119, fell below a statewide test average that was buoyed by elementary and middle schools, according to the state’s release of standardized test scores.
The data were based on the Maine Educational Assessment and other standardized tests and gauged progress over the past three years, from 2006-07 to 2008-09, according to the Maine Department of Education’s Web site.
With Maine’s high school graduation rate at 83.5 percent, the statistics show that either high school diploma requirements are too lenient or the standards too tough. The answer is that diploma standards are too lenient, state educators said, and that many are graduating not ready for college or today’s work force.
“Students are taking the right courses to get their diplomas,” said Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin. “They’re getting at least a D. They’re graduating. But there is no question that some students are graduating who don’t meet the standards.”
Elementary and middle schools had more students meeting standards because they get more individual attention, said Maine Education Commissioner Susan Gendron.
“Elementary teachers are constantly adjusting programs,” she said. “When you think about high school, it’s a prescribed course of study.”
High schools need to change, Gendron said. “We lose far too many of our boys. The programming does not meet their learning styles. We need different options, targeting the interest, engaging students.”
Auburn Superintendent Tom Morrill agreed that high schools need to do more to personalize instruction. High school students are expected to know far more than their parents to keep up with more sophisticated jobs.
But there are obstacles, he said. Two big ones are education funding cuts and poverty. A report released Monday showed Lewiston had the highest number of children living in poverty, Auburn the second highest.
On Tuesday the state released test scores for 557 Maine schools: Math and reading scores were combined to give each school a percentage of how many students met standards based on the past three years. The statewide average was 59 percent.
Only a handful of high schools, nine out of 119, met or exceeded that statewide average, meaning less than 59 percent of students at 110 of those schools met the test standards.
Gendron said that by 2016, the state’s goal will be an average of 90 percent of students.
Percentages of students meeting standards ranged from a low of 21 and 27 percent, at Machias Memorial High School and Livermore Falls High School, respectively. The high was Cape Elizabeth High School, with 82.7 percent meeting standards.
Cape Elizabeth is a wealthy community; Machias and Livermore Falls are working-class towns. But the state is pushing for all high school students, regardless of local demographics, to be college- or work-ready by the time they graduate from high school.
Each school was also given a percentage for progress, or lack of progress, in the past three years. The average improvement statewide was 4.18 percent. That list was released after the state identified 10 Maine schools with persistently low test scores that qualified for federal funding if they make changes, including replacing their principals.
Later this school year Gendron will provide high schools with a sample, model curriculum and scoring guides to help more students get what they need. Gendron has contracted with two national experts in developing that model curriculum.
Tuesday’s list should not be used to rank schools but as a tool for each community to look at where their students are and how each district can improve, Gendron said.
link to statewide list released Tuesday:
View Lewiston/Auburn School Achievement and Progress in a larger map
Yellow pins are schools with average test scores in the top third of all schools in Lewiston/Auburn.
Green pins are schools with average test scores in the middle third of all schools in Lewiston/Auburn.
Blue pins are in schools with average test scores in the bottom third of all schools in Lewiston/Auburn.