Test expert: Students in Maine not ‘left out’

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AUGUSTA – According to The Associated Press, 7.8 percent of Edward Little High School students – all minorities – have not been counted in the school’s adequate yearly determination progress report under the national No Child Left Behind reporting requirements.

At Lewiston High, 2.1 percent of students – again, all minorities – were not counted in that category for the 2003-04 school year.

At Farwell Elementary in Lewiston, 11.7 percent were left out.

At the Libby-Tozier School in Litchfield, 4.9 percent of students’ scores were not included in overall annual progress.

States have been helping schools get around reporting all test scores by certain categories – race, poverty, migrant status, English proficiency and special education – when the numbers are deemed statistically insignificant, The Associated Press reported. Failure in any category means the whole school fails and may face penalties, including reduced funding.

In Maine, the point of statistical insignificance is 20 students, a number that state educators are permitted to decide for themselves.

For instance, if a school is testing its fourth-, eighth- or 11th-graders and has less than 20 newly arrived immigrant students, they do not have to be counted in school’s overall annual performance, said Rachelle Tome, director of accountability of school improvement in the Maine Department of Education.

All Maine students – even immigrants who cannot speak English or are in special education – are individually tested. Their scores, however, may not end up being counted in the overall school performance, she said.

“We are not excluding them. Those students are taking the test. No Maine student is left out,” Tome said. The formula for looking at overall school performance by categories “needs to be valid and reliable.” When a group is so small, it can skew results, Tome said. “We want to be fair to schools.”

Critics say that contradicts the logic of President Bush’s call to ensure that no child is left behind.

Tome took issue with the AP data, saying, “It doesn’t jibe with my numbers,” as well as containing some errors. For instance, she said, the AP reported that Auburn’s Merrill Hill Alternative School – which teaches middle and high school students – excludes 100 percent of its minority students.

That’s not correct, Tome said. Instead, those scores are counted in the summaries for Edward Little or Auburn Middle School, she said.

Tome did acknowledge, however, the dilemma of committing to leave no student behind, then not counting some test scores.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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