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Gov. LePage's school grading metrics under fire

5:55 PM, May 1, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Governor LePage and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen released Maine's first school "report cards." Almost every school in the state received a grade from A-F. Schools that only serve grades K-3 and those with small numbers of students were not included.

A to F: See how your school fared

The grades are based on how well students fared on standardized tests in Math and Reading. Schools that serve grades 3-8 had 50 percent of their score determined by how many students rated "proficient" on their NECAP test, 25 percent of the score determined by the number of students who either maintained a proficient score or improved their score from the previous year, and 25 percent of the score determined by improvement in students that scored in the bottom 25 percent the previous year.

40 percent of a high school's grade is based on the percentage of students who were rated "proficient" or above on the SATs.  Another 40 percent comes from the extent to which the 3 year average score on the SAT improves from the previous three years, and 20 percent comes from the 4 and 5 year graduation rates of the schools.

Superintendents received their grades Monday, and many were already complaining about the scoring system, saying it is not indexed for poverty or the percentage of students in the school system who are learning English as a second language. Critics also complain that by focusing exclusively on Math and Reading, the grades do not take into account students' work in science, the arts and writing.

The Maine Education Association, Maine's teacher's union, also released an analysis of the grades which shows a strong correlation between the percentage of students who receive free or reduced priced lunch and their grades. According to the MEA, 88 percent of the elementary schools receiving a grade of F had more than half of their students eligible for free and reduced priced lunch.  High schools receiving A grades had an average of 9 percent of students who were eligible for free and reduced priced lunch.  The average percentage of students eligible for free and reduced priced lunch in high schools receiving Fs was 61 percent.  Eligibility for free and reduced priced lunch is often used as a measure of poverty.

Maine's Commissioner of Education said these grades were not meant to be the beginning and end of the conversation over how schools are doing. They are simply meant to be conversation starters.  He said the state chose the grading system it did because that's the best data the state has at the moment.  He expects to expand on the system in future years.

The Department of Education also directed people who want to learn more about their schools to its Data Warehouse. There you can compare school data and find other statistics about schools in the state. You also can get there through the Department of Education's website.

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