State proposal to grade schools angers education managers

7:02 PM, Apr 29, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The LePage administration is set to release its first report card on Maine's schools, and school leaders in Maine are angry with the chosen metrics.

Each school in the state - with a few exceptions - will get a grade from A to F. Those grades are based on standardized test scores and performance improvement. The Maine School Management Association says that criteria is insufficient as a basis for grading.

Schools that serve students in grades 3-8 will be scored based on the percentage of students rated proficient in math and reading; the percentage of students whose scores show growth in math and reading; and the growth in scores for the bottom 25% of students in math and reading.

At the high school level, the scores are based on math and reading proficiency in grade 11; math and reading progress for all students - comparing the most recent three-year average of scores to the previous three years; and four and five year graduation rates.

"When you have a model like this, it gives people a quick snapshot," explains Department of Education commissioner Stephen Bowen in defense of the plan, "It doesn't give a complete picture of a school, but it gives parents a sense of where they are, to ask these questions, go to school board meetings and to get involved to see what they can do to move schools forward."

But leaders of the Maine School Management Association are incensed by the criteria. They say schools are rated on too few metrics, and that the data do not paint an accurate picture.

"The benchmark is very narrow in what it assesses," says Connie Brown from the MSMA, "There are other things that are so important, like the arts and music and a school's culture. It doesn't look at science or writing... it just looks at two narrow things."

Portland's superintendent is also critical of the grades, saying they are simplistic and an inaccurate measure.

Commissioner Bowen says he'd like to add more to the system in the future, but the State wanted to start simple with data the districts already have.


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