PORTLAND (AP) – A quarter of Maine’s public schools failed to meet federal goals under the No Child Left Behind Act and were placed on a list of schools needing improvement, officials said Friday.

Education Commissioner Susan Gendron urged Mainers not to read too much into the numbers and noted that Maine students rank well compared to their peers in other states in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

“Maine educators, parents and citizens must keep in mind that school status under the No Child Left Behind Act is only one of a number of indicators that can be used to get a picture of overall school performance,” she said.

All told, the Education Department has identified 190 schools that don’t meet federal goals, including reading and math proficiency.

Another 1 percent, or fewer than 10, were identified as underperformers for two consecutive years.

Last year, only 24 of the state’s 697 public schools were listed as underperformers based on an old formula.

Letters containing the preliminary findings were mailed this week to districts and schools. Administrators were urged to speak up if their schools were mistakenly included on the list.

The numbers were worse than originally believed. Deputy Commissioner Patrick Phillips was quoted this week as saying as many as 150 schools – 20 percent – would fail to meet the federal goals.

Gendron planned to discuss the findings during a news conference on Oct. 27 at the State House in Augusta.

The new goals for reading and math are required as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The law seeks to hold local schools accountable for the academic performance of all students.

Gendron noted that Maine has scored in the top 10 states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading and math.

Because of the way the new formula is set up, officials had expected 20 percent of schools to fail to measure up, she said.

Gendron noted that many of the schools that failed to meet the new goals did not have mandatory 95 percent participation in the Maine Education Assessment Test or in average daily attendance rates.

This should be a straightforward problem to address when the MEA is administered again this March, she said.

Schools that fail to make the grade for two consecutive years will be assigned someone from the Maine Education Department to serve as consultant.

Those schools are also eligible for federal funds.

Maine’s accountability plan under the No Child Left Behind Act won approval from the U.S. Education Department last summer after the state initially sought a waiver to avoid participation.

Critics of the No Child Left Behind Act say it reflects a “one size fits all” mandate without enough federal funding.

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