BETHEL — When the Maine Department of Education released its 2014 school report cards last week, SAD 44 Superintendent David Murphy said he was pleased to see that a majority of the schools in his district had maintained or improved their grade from the previous year.

“We had two of our schools jump two letter grades: Woodstock School jumped from a C to an A, and Andover Elementary School jumped from a F to a C,” Murphy said. “Telstar (Regional) High School also jumped up from a F to a D, and Crescent Park School maintained its C grade. The only school that dipped was Telstar Middle School, which went from a C to a D.

“Overall, we saw some gains in our district, which shows all of the great things that are happening in our schools right now,” Murphy said. “Now that the grades have been released, the principals of each school in SAD 44 will meet with their staff and diagnose the data from the report cards to identify what their strengths were this year, what their weaknesses were and how they can improve it next year.”

Murphy said people need to look at the schools as a whole and not just the report card.

“I think we should be cautious about looking at the grade that a school receives and nothing else,” Murphy said. “That’s problematic, whether a school gets an F or an A. People should look at the school as a whole. There are some schools that get a failing grade, but do great things for their students. You’ve got to look at their efforts beyond math and literacy scores.”

Woodstock School Principal Jolene Littlehale said that in 2013, her school missed receiving a B grade by “only 1.8 points.

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“That didn’t sit well with us, so we sat down and dug into the data to see where we fell short and started to work on a way to remediate things,” Littlehale said. “We looked at where our kids were excelling and what they needed to work on and started there.”

That remediation led to Woodstock jumping from a C to an A, and Littlehale said she and her staff are ecstatic.

“We’ve been celebrating amongst ourselves since we found out,” Littlehale said. “I feel sort of like a proud mom today.”

Littlehale praised her staff and the town’s PTA group for its role in the A grade.

“I have a staff that has been together for a long time without much change, and they look at every child as an individual,” she said. “I always say that I have the best job in the world because I have such great people to work with.” 

Murphy and Littlehale agreed that it was important to analyze the data that comes with the grade.

“I was terrible at math when I was a student and I still am,” Littlehale said with a laugh. “I think the reason behind that was there wasn’t the same data there is now to show where our kids, individually, need help. Now, we can see where they need to grow and work from there.”

Attempts to reach principals at the other SAD 44 schools were unsuccessful.

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