Lewiston Public Schools standardized test scores from 2018-19.

LEWISTON — The percentage of Lewiston students performing below or well below state academic standards has risen over the past few years and remains well above state averages.

Students in grades three through eight and grade 11 took the standardized Maine Education Assessment last year. Those scores were recently released by the state Department of Education.

Percentages for 2018-19 were not yet available, but only two schools — Montello and Geiger Elementary — met the standards, and in only one subject: English language proficiency.

That should be astonishing, Superintendent Todd Finn said in a recent interview.

Scores are “nowhere near where they should be,” Finn said. “We have enough talent and resources that all students can have access to a high-quality education. That’s not happening.”

But he aims to do something about it.

Taped to his office door is a sign: “Conceptual framework: Improve instruction.”

Over the next three years, Finn plans to implement a process that he predicts will improve the attendance, graduation and student performance rates.

Lewiston High School’s graduation rate, now at 74%, is among the lowest in the state. In recent years, it has “not crept above 78%,” Finn said.

The state average for 2018-19 was 87.5%. At Edward Little High School in Auburn, it was 76.6%.

Finn is intent on bringing Lewiston High School’s rate up to 90% for the Class of 2022. Sophomores who are lagging or failing are being identified now and will get help before it is too late, he said.

A program called Impact Academy will be housed at the former Longley Elementary School, where students can take classes before or after the regular school day or on Saturday. Community service will be a big piece of the program.

“It will start very small, at no extra cost,” he said.

Students will be offered one-on-one, small-group or online instruction, whatever works best for them. And classes will not be easier than at the high school, Finn said.

The three-year plan also will focus on reassessing the way students are identified for special education. As of now, 26% of Lewiston students are identified as needing special education services, he said. That is more than one-quarter of the student enrollment of 5,493 (as of May 2019).

Finn is also working on a new way of determining if students have learning disabilities or are some simply lagging in skills.

Another change will be in the English Language Learners program, Finn said.

“We need to support the directors of ELL so they can move students forward as they should be,” he said.

With an $86.5 million budget, the resources are there, he said.

“We have pockets of excellence and pockets of deficiency,” he said. “Instruction should be excellent throughout the district.”

The plan for that is to stress instruction over by-the-book curriculum. He wants teachers to bring their own experiences to classrooms. Do you love sports, literature, outdoor adventures? Use that passion to create a working memory among students.

“We need to have a firm understanding of what social and emotional learning is,” Finn said. “You make emotional connections and students learn better.”

He said he plans to give teachers more leeway in how they teach, not what they teach. The standards must be taught, he said.

Standards-based instruction is the focus in Auburn schools this year, according to a document titled “School Improvement Plans.” MEA scores have remained steady in Auburn schools over the years, but math scores are low, with only 26.9% of students meeting standards in 2018-19.

The improvement plan will focus on student attendance, family engagement and a tiered system of instruction designed to prevent failure that includes universal screening, interventions and progress monitoring.

Improving “teacher efficacy” includes growth plans, instructional coaches and professional development.


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