AUBURN — As the state continues to make student tests more difficult, scores for Auburn students show that about half of the city’s schools scored at or above state averages, and half below.

The state averages show that nearly half of Maine students aren’t performing at the levels expected by the state.

Test results were shared Wednesday with the Auburn School Committee.

Superintendent Katy Grondin told committee members that three Auburn schools scored above the state average in reading. Four schools scored above the state average in math and four in science.

That means that five schools scored below state averages in reading, four below in math, and two in science.

“We’re doing well, comparatively,” Grondin said. “Our schools did not score near the bottom, so that was good news. Obviously, we need to do improvement. A lot of work is being done.”

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School principals from Auburn high, middle and elementary schools shared with committee members a variety of existing and new programs they are overseeing to improve student learning.

The programs included efforts to boost after-school learning, exposing students to career possibilities, including high school internships; the Suspension Diversion Program, which involves the Auburn Police Department intervening to help turn around behavior of students who have been suspended; college mentors for middle school students; summer learning for middle and high school students; and programs that offer high school students dual enrollment in high school and college.

Auburn’s test data “is not as close to the state average as we’d like to be,” Shelly Mogul, curriculum director for Auburn schools, said during an interview Wednesday.

One challenge is that new state tests contain Common Core standards, which raised expectations for students. With higher standards, “you need time to make adjustments to bring new learning targets aligned to Common Core,” Mogul said.

The new standard in state expectations for all high school students is an SAT score of about 510 in math and 480 in English — a higher benchmark, Mogul said.

“When you look at our performance for our high school math, (26 percent met expectations), it makes you gasp,” Mogul said, adding that the switch to higher standards is the reason for the change in data. “We are continuing to help students reach these higher standards.”

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State averages for math are not a lot better; only 38.3 percent of all Maine students met expectations.

When compared to schools in other service-center cities, including Portland, Biddeford, Lewiston and Sanford, “we are in the range,” Mogul said.

It’s not known if Auburn scores — or any Maine school scores — are up or down from the prior year because there were no tests that year.

“This is a brand-new assessment,” Grondin said. “We can’t compare.”

In 2014, the state introduced the so-called “Smarter Balanced” test, which soon turned controversial with many teachers and parents complaining that questions were confusing and made little sense. That prompted many parents to opt out, meaning they did not allow their children to take the test.

The new tests were so controversial that state lawmakers junked the Smarter Balanced test, charging the state to come up with a new test. Those were the Maine Educational Assessments given to students in the spring.

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Committee member Brent Bilodeau asked if students opting out of tests factored into current results.

Grondin said very few students opted out.

Mogul cautioned that it’s hard to make sweeping judgments based on one test, but that the district takes the data seriously.

“We know students could be performing better,” Mogul said. “We take that data seriously. We don’t dismiss it.”

Like other Maine cities that are service centers, “our response is we’re always struggling with students whose needs daily impact their ability to be successful in school.”

 

MEA scores for Auburn schools
 
These 2015-16 results from a new state test were shared Wednesday with the Auburn School Committee. There are no test results from 2014-15 because the controversial Smarter Balance test was axed by state lawmakers.
 
READING
State average: 50.59 percent

Edward Little High School: 51 percent
Auburn Middle School: 37.5
East Auburn Community School: 50.6
Fairview Elementary School: 57
Park Avenue Elementary School: 49.5
Sherwood Heights Elementary School: 42.8
Walton Elementary School: 40.9
Washburn Elementary School: 36.2
 
MATH
State average: 38.3 percent
 
Edward Little: 26.1
Auburn Middle: 26.8
East Auburn: 44
Fairview: 50.1
Park Avenue: 43.8
Sherwood Heights: 38.9
Walton: 34.6
Washburn: 21.2
 
SCIENCE
State average: 61 percent
 
Edward Little: 34.4
Auburn Middle School: 64
East Auburn: N/A, the number of students who took the test was too small to be counted as reliable data.
Fairview: 70.7
Park Avenue: 71.1
Sherwood Heights: 51
Walton: 42.3
Washburn: 51.5

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