PARIS — A single test grade can not forecast the future success of a student.

The not-so-surprising conclusion of many educators, including administrators from the Oxford Hills School District, was detailed recently to the Board of Directors by Superintendent Rick Colpitts.

The information was largely based on a presentation to members of the Maine School Board Association made by Dr. David Schuler about three years ago. Schuler, a superintendent in Chicago and the 2018 national Superintendent of the Year, is nationally known in education circles for championing a college and career readiness initiative in 2015 called Redefining Readiness!

“We needed to have something to use to measure our growth and performance over time and that simply using a grade did not seem to do that well,” said Colpitts who presented the research behind the conclusion to the Board of Directors at its February 4 meeting

“This is not my idea nor my notion. This is from David Schuler who presented at the Maine School Board Association three years ago,” he said of a presentation by Schuler he and several board members attended at a Maine School Board Association meeting several years ago.

“All of us were pretty impressed,” he said.

The framework of the system uses metrics – such as grade-point average, placement in advanced or dual credit courses, attendance and participation in co-curricular activities – to define students as being college- and career-ready.

Federal legislation 

Historically when one looks back at history, the federal government became financially involved in public schools in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Title One legislation which provided the nation’slargest federal aid program to public schools.

The legislation was written as part of Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and sought to address what was then seen as the single biggest factor for student’s non-achievement – poverty.

“Johnson tried to change that outcome,” said Colpitts.

In 2001, the thinking shifted and the No Child Left Behind Act was written, he said. That federal legislation authorized several federal programs that were administered by states including a mandate that states test students annually in reading and math in grades 3–8 and again in high school.

Colpitts said that no one wanted any child left behind but the way student success was determined through test scores wasn‘t necessarily effective at reflecting what a student could do.

That eventually changed to the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2015. It modified, but did not eliminate, provisions relating to the periodic standardized tests given to students.

“It did provide some flexibility in the ways funds were spent but it maintained the test attitude that one test would somehow measure a student’s capability,” said Colpitts.

Shuler thought educators could do better at helping students succeed. As president of the School Superintendent Association in Illinois in 2015, he took his stipend for that post and used it to form a committee that would conduct nationwide research to determine what leads to student success and what makes a student successful, said Colpitts.

“And it’s more than the number they earned on one standardized test,” Colpitts said of the research conclusion.

Colpitts said Schuler’s research set four college ready benchmarks and showed only 40 percent of graduating classes met three or four of the benchmarks for college ready. Only 28 percent of that group met all four benchmarks.

So what are those metrics to see if students will have success in college and what else can SAD 17 use to determine student success to enter college or the workforce after graduation?

“We want our students to be ready to enter college and the workforce. We want our students to be ready and successful in both,” Colpitts said.

One of the multiple indicators of success included a 10 percent or less absentee rate and dual enrollment courses, said Colpitts.

“That’s an indicator of success,” Colpitts said. Research showed success rates dramatically improved for students with a 90 percent or better attendance rate.

A total of 11 percent of chronically absent students only made it through two years of college, research shows.

“So attendance does matter,” he said.

So how would that system work in the Oxford Hills School District? Like other schools, the definition of truancy and what constitutes attendance can sometimes be blurred.

“We have six different runs going(to determine attendance)  and we’re still trying to nail it down,” said Colpitts. “One run we did today showed attendance at 99 percent, but what we reported to the state was significantly lower than that.”

“There are some things to refine but we’re getting closer every day,” he said of the need to be consistent in the method of reporting.

Another important indicator of success, said Colpitts, is the ability to take a dual enrollment course where a student might get both college and high school credit.
Research shows that students who have taken dual courses are more likely to stick to school when they get to college.

“It’s an indicator of success,” Colpitts said

Other research from The College Board and Brown University has shown other indicators of success such as taking AP or advanced Algebra courses.

Community service, something that the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School requires for graduation, shows it increases chances of success by 22 percent, said Colpitts.

Colpitts told the directors he will continue to share information with the board about the various metrics to judge student success as it becomes available.

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