LEWISTON — As the state continues to make standardized tests more difficult, results from the Maine Educational Assessment show that none of the city’s schools, except Farwell Elementary, scored at or above state averages.

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

The push-back from parents in recent years and results that don’t represent what students are learning, School Committee members said, prompted questions of whether the tests are worthwhile.

Curriculum directors in Lewiston and Auburn say the challenge is that the new state tests contain Common Core standards, which are raising expectations and hardship for students. 

State averages show 51 percent of Maine students performing at or above expectations in reading, 38.3 percent in math and 61 percent in science.

Averages for Lewiston schools were below those levels except for Farwell’s science score, with 62 percent of students meeting or exceeding expectations.

Heather Blanchard, the curriculum and text expert for the Lewiston School Department, said Thursday that it’s too early to know what the results mean for Lewiston.

So far, the only information she’s received from the Maine Department of Education is the average number of students in each school that met or exceeded state expectations.

What she doesn’t have are the questions asked of students on the tests, which were given last spring to grades three through eight and grade 11.

When she understands what students were tested on, it will be clearer what Lewiston students did well in and what the district needs to work on, Blanchard said.

Meanwhile, only 82 percent of Lewiston students participated in the tests in the spring of 2016; the remaining 18 percent opted not to take them. 

The federal government requires 95 percent participation for the test data to be valid. Higher participation would likely improve Lewiston’s scores and present a more accurate picture of student performance, Blanchard said.

Also, it’s not known whether Lewiston scores — or any Maine school scores — are up or down from the prior year because there were no tests that year.

In 2014, the state introduced the Smarter Balanced test, which soon turned controversial. Many teachers and parents complained that the questions were confusing and made little sense. That prompted many parents to not allow their children to take the test.

The new test was so controversial that state lawmakers junked it, charging the state to come up with a new one. Those were the Maine Educational Assessments given to students in the spring of 2016.

Meeting with Lewiston state legislators Dec. 14, 2016, School Committee members asked Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, for relief from tests.

Committee member Ben Martin questioned whether the millions of dollars spent to test students is worth it.

Student testing “is by far the biggest issue I hear from parents,” Martin said. He understands the federal government requires students be tested, “but a lot shifts back to the state government” which decides what test to administer.

Parent Tina Hutchinson agreed, saying millions of dollars don’t need to be spent “to show our kids fail.”

Lewiston has a large population of students from poor families and immigrant families where students are learning English.

“To compare us to kids from Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth” means results are useless, Hutchinson said. “Stop wasting the money on tests to tell us what our teachers can already tell us,” she said. “Let’s put the education back in the hands of those trained.”

Lewiston School Committee Chairwoman Linda Scott said that when the numbers come out, it’s hard on morale.

“We have phenomenal teachers and administrators,” she said. Many Lewiston students come to school behind their peers statewide but are learning, she said.

“You hear about Longley School’s (low numbers),” Scott said. “But you walk into Longley, that school is the most incredible place! The staff is incredible. The kids are so excited to be going and learning there.”

The image painted by the test percentages “is the wrong image,” Scott said. “We know it’s incorrect. We see the work happening.”

Libby said he expects there will be another effort to provide relief from overtesting this legislative session. 

MEA scores for Lewiston schools

Percentage of students scoring at or above expectations

READING

State average, 51 percent

Farwell Elementary, 41 percent

Longley Elementary, 12 percent

Martel Elementary, 30 percent

Montello Elementary, 20 percent

Geiger Elementary, 41 percent

McMahon Elementary, 24 percent

Lewiston Middle School, 24 percent

Lewiston High School, 44 percent

MATH

State average, 38.3 percent

Farwell, 34 percent

Longley, 10 percent

Martel, 26 percent

Montello, 13 percent

Geiger, 34 percent

McMahon, 20 percent

Lewiston Middle School, 23 percent

Lewiston High School, 17 percent

SCIENCE

State average, 61 percent

Farwell, 62 percent

Longley, 18 percent

Martel, 54 percent

Montello, 28 percent

Geiger, 49 percent

McMahon, 39 percent

Lewiston Middle School, 42 percent

Lewiston High School, 28 percent


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