Dear Superintendents and Principals,
Next month, our Department will release the second round of school report cards, using existing data to provide the public a snapshot of how all Maine schools are doing.
As we promised last spring, the formula for the 2014 report cards will not be changed, and equally weigh performance – as measured by State assessments in math and reading – and progress – as measured by the growth of all students and at the elementary level, the most struggling 25 percent of students. By including growth as such a significant part of the grade, the report card recognizes that students arrive in your schools with many challenges, and gives credit for how schools help students progress towards proficiency, even if they haven’t yet achieved it. Additionally, the high school calculations include the four- and five-year graduation rate.
While all of the data used to calculate a school’s grade has previously been certified by school officials, we heard your frustration last year that you were not provided the data in the context of its use for the report cards prior to their publication. In an effort to honor those concerns and as part of our commitment to data quality and grading system transparency, we wanted to provide you an opportunity to do a final review of all data that will be used to calculate your 2014 school report card.
Your data is now available in the secure production portal of our Data Warehouse under Data Tables/School Grades/Preliminary School Grade Data. Please work with your district’s Data Warehouse Administrator to access and review that data, which we are providing down to the individual student level. If you have questions about accessing the data or find it contains any inaccuracies, please notify the Department no later than Wednesday, April 9 at SLDS.DOE@maine.gov. If we do not hear from you, we will assume your data is accurate.
Please note that the measures that comprise the grade in this pre-release have all been scaled to a round 100 points so you can focus not on the points or the grades, but rather on the metrics themselves. As a result, you will not see your actual points or your grades in this review. Prior to the public release of the grades in May, it is the intent of the Department to give schools/districts their complete report cards.
In addition to giving you a final opportunity to validate your data, we also wanted to let you know that the Department has been working to expand the snapshot of a school these report cards provide the public. While the formula for calculating the grades is unchanged to allow for comparison from 2013 to 2014, information has been added.
At the school, district and state level, a school’s percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch will be included on the 2014 report cards, as will teacher experience and educational levels. We are adding that information because the Maine Education Policy Research Institute report released earlier this year found those were the school variables that most impacted student achievement. Funding information, average daily attendance as an indicator of student engagement, and school and district contact information will also be presented.
While some of you have told me that these school grades have revealed areas in need of improvement and engaged community members in better supporting your schools, I understand not all school leaders like the grading system.
That said, as Commissioner I am committed to continuing the Maine School Performance Grading System because I believe it brings more transparency and accountability to school performance than we’ve had under previous systems, which used bureaucratic terminology and only applied to Title I schools. Furthermore, the information we are adding to this year’s report cards makes them an even more valuable tool to help the public and education leaders easily identify school strengths and weaknesses and make comparisons that will drive the improvements Maine kids deserve
Jim Rier, Commissioner
Maine Department of Education