JAY — At the Regional School Unit 73 board of directors meeting on Thursday, May 9, Superintendent Scott Albert discussed factors which can affect standardized test scores and current staffing challenges that were not an issue previously.

Albert shared a document detailing staff’s sick time and personal time off for the last six years and through May 1 this year. He noted three teachers at the primary school and one at the elementary school were out on maternity leave this year. Included in the numbers were FMLA issues [surgery, etc.] and COVID-19 days, he said.

A document showing staff sick and personal days is shared Thursday, May 9, during the Regional School Unit 73 board of directors meeting at Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

“You will see some bumps in there for COVID days because when we first got back from our time off, remember if staff was actually sick or not when it first came out if you came in contact you had to be out for 14 days whether you had it or not,” Albert said. “Luckily things have gotten kind of back to normal the last couple of years with the COVID days.”

Another question Albert had been asked was if teacher attendance affects student scores on required standardized tests. “I believe teacher attendance is one of the factors to affect student test scores, just like student attendance, as is student efforts on tests, having most of our special education population have to take some of these things that they probably shouldn’t have to take,” he stressed.

Good strong home support is also needed, Albert stated. “We also have kids who don’t always give their best effort on the tests,” he noted.

“The state keeps changing the tests so you can’t do any [comparative] data from that information because they just keep giving us different tests every time,” Albert said. “Also, the biggest thing I have noticed lately is they have changed the cut lines on the tests, meaning whether the kids are proficient or not. When the line is moved from last year to this year, how do we know we haven’t improved – or improved – because [the state has] decided to arbitrarily move that line?”


Albert said administrators continually check to ensure teaching efforts are appropriate and line up with where they need to be for the tests. “We also need to take a look at how much time is spent in class on each subject, which connects with staff being out,” he noted. “We do not have enough substitutes on many days. Many of the subs we have are great, they do a great job but it is not the same as having the teacher present. When teachers are out of the classroom it does or can affect students’ learning but having a shortage of quality teachers has an even greater effect on students’ success.”

Albert spoke of a Sun Journal article he shared with the directors which deals mostly with educator shortages in Lewiston. “It’s really a problem across the state,” he noted.

“With the shortage of teachers that means you have more subs, end up with a shortage of subs in other positions,” Albert stated. “There is a high burnout and we don’t see it getting any better any quicker.”

The University of Maine at Farmington is not graduating as many teachers as in the past so different ways of hiring need to be looked at, he noted. At the recent high school honors banquet only three seniors talked about becoming teachers, Albert said.

“I went up to them afterwards, said, ‘I want you to student teach here and I would like you to come back and apply for a position here in four years because we want the people from here to come back here and if you want to be in education I want you.’ In years past you could wait until the kids came for student teaching.

“Because of the cost of things now, we have people who come here to student teach because they go to UMF but they live in the southern part of the state and they have to go live with their parents when they first get out of school because they can’t afford to live any place else,” Albert stressed. “So we are losing some of those people that would normally stay in this area because they student taught with us but they need to go someplace else because this is not where they are from.”

There are many issues in education across the state and the article talks about Lewiston being understaffed by a large number, Albert continued.

“It is a scary thing and all those things do definitely affect test scores,” he added.

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