LEWISTON — The trend that has parents deciding the Maine Education Assessment is not worth students’ time is continuing.

Lewiston has the highest number of “opt outs” in the state, Superintendent Bill Webster said Monday.

The percentage of students taking the MEA last spring was 80.44 percent. For results to be valid, the Maine Department of Education requires 95 percent of a school’s students take the test. Only two of nine Lewiston schools reached the required 95 percent participation rate. The two schools are Longley and Montello elementary schools.

Meanwhile, statewide MEA results scheduled to be released Monday were delayed.

The DOE said in a statement the validation process is taking longer than expected. Extra time is needed to allow the state to work with its vendor, Focal Point K-12, to ensure accurate results.

Not taking the MEA “is a hot topic here, something that’s viewed as not important, so why have your child do this?” said Amanda Winslow, principal at Farwell Elementary School.

That view is frustrating, she said, “because it’s very important.”

“I would love to see more of a positive spin be put on (the MEA), that this is your opportunity to show what you’ve learned,” Winslow said, adding her children took the MEA.

Lewiston parent Karen McClure-Richard, who had led an opt-out parent movement, said she and others continue to believe students are over tested.

Lewiston schools have cut back, “but overall there is still far too much assessment and data collection, and not enough true instructional time for students or teachers,” McClure-Richard said in an email.

With only an 80 percent participation, Lewiston’s MEA results should not be used and are unreliable, McClure-Richard said. “They are not a good representation of our schools, our teachers, their ability to education our children.”

The goal of the opt out movement is to invalidate the results, she said, “and Lewiston parents have done so for a few years now.”

The time from when students take the test in the spring and when results are released the next fall is a problem, Webster and Winslow said.

“The lack of immediacy has rendered these tests just above meaningless,” Webster said. “We are forced to use other measurements on how our students are doing.”

By the time results become available “we’re not in the same academic year,” Winslow said. “That’s a little frustrating.”

Other tests, like the North Western Education Association (NWEA) is a standardized test used by many districts, including Lewiston, they said. The NWEA takes less student time in the classroom and provides quick results.

The MEA is given statewide to Maine Public School students in grades 3-8 and grade 11; it typically takes students much of the morning for a week. By comparison, the NWEA takes one hour “with instant results,” Winslow said. “The kids get their score on the machine. We can assess it, break it down in what they’re doing well, what they need to improve on.”

Lewiston MEA scores scheduled to be released to the Lewiston School Committee before the state said it needed more time showed that the majority of Lewiston students — and students throughout Maine — are not meeting expectations.

Results showed that 51 percent of Maine students were below or well below expectations in English Language Arts. In Lewiston, 78 percent of students were below or well below expectations.

In math, 63 percent of Maine students were below or well below expectations; in Lewiston 84 percent were below or well below expectations. The state is expected to issue updated scores.

While Lewiston scores have for years been lower than state averages, two challenges further contribute to low scores, Webster said.

One is that typically parents who opt out of the MEA often come from well educated families.

“Typically those kids are among our high performers,” Webster said.

And, Webster added, English Language Learner students who are in school for one year must take the MEA, even though it takes seven years for a student to become proficient in a second language.

Still, test scores show “we need to do a better job at our programming to better engage kids,” Webster said.

He added the data doesn’t show the whole picture.

Lewiston has a student population that offers a diverse experience, “something that the workforce and colleges welcome,” Webster said. “We have students who go to the workforce and students who go to Ivy League schools.”

 

 

Farwell Elementary School principal Amanda Winslow checks in on third-graders working on their computers Monday. A number of Lewiston students did not take the Maine Educational Assessment last spring, giving Lewiston Public Schools the highest opt out MEA rate in Maine, said Superintendent Bill Webster. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

A pair of third-graders work on their computers in a hall at Farwell Elementary School Monday. A number of Lewiston students did not take the Maine Educational Assessment last spring, giving Lewiston Public Schools the highest opt out MEA rate in Maine, said Superintendent Bill Webster. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal) 

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