Maine students show improved proficiency in math, reading

Performance of third-year high school students increased in math and reading, but students showed concerning slippage in the content areas tested for which schools are not held accountable for achievement results

AUGUSTA – Proficiency in math and reading is on the rise again in Maine high schools according to the scores just in from last May’s SAT, suggesting students are better prepared for success in college and their careers.

Most notable was the nearly 2 percent increase in the number of tested students who achieved proficiency or above in critical reading, up from 47.2 percent in 2011-12 to 48.9 percent in 2012-13, with 8.6 percent of those students exceeding proficiency standards.

The percentage of students who tested proficient or above in math also showed a slight uptick, from 47.2 percent in 2011-12 to 48.1 percent in 2012-13, with a record high 4.7 percent of those students exceeding proficiency expectations. That percentage of students who met or surpassed the math standards was the second highest in the eight years the SAT has been part of the state’s required Maine High School Assessment (MHSA).

A student is deemed proficient when their work demonstrates grade-level appropriate skill.

“We still have work to do, but it is encouraging to see performance gains in these foundational areas so critical to ensuring student success beyond high school,” said Maine Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome. “Am I satisfied that more than half of Maine high school students still aren’t proficient in math and reading? Absolutely not, but this increased achievement shows we are starting to move in the right direction and that we must continue to double down on our commitment to accountability, higher standards and enhancing educator effectiveness.”

Maine continues to lead the nation with the highest participation rate on the SAT with 12,700 third-year high school students taking the test on May 4 with the overall percentage of students remaining relatively flat at 96 percent over the past two testing cycles.

While math and critical reading assessments results are the only ones used for State and federal accountability as well as on the new State school grading system, Maine third-year high school students also were tested in writing and science as part of the MHSA.

Proficiency in those areas continues a concerning decline, with the percentage of students at or above proficiency in writing dropping from 46.8 percent in 2011-12 to 43.7 percent in 2012-13 and in science from 44.8 percent in 2011-12 to 41.3 percent in 2012-13.

Chief Academic Officer Tome says what is measured is valued, and she’s not surprised to see slippage in achievement areas where schools are not held accountable for the results of their students.

But Tome said parents and the public should still become familiar with their local school’s student performance across all content areas and be asking questions of their superintendents and schools boards about efforts underway to support students and improve their outcomes.

High schools already have their 2013 MHSA results to share with their communities, and those as well as aggregate statewide results are also available on the Maine Department of Education’s transparent public data warehouse at www.maine.gov/doe/dataresources.

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