The rollout of the report cards at www.maine.gov/doe comes as Education Commissioner Jim Rier completes a statewide tour celebrating the many Maine schools that improved by at least one letter grade
AUGUSTA – The 2014 school report cards are out and certificates of achievement signed by Governor Paul R. LePage and Education Commissioner Jim Rier are in the mail for 121 schools that earned an A or B grade.
Dozens of schools that demonstrated high levels of student growth over the past year will also receive a certificate and a letter recognizing their success in better serving all students.
“I want to congratulate these Maine schools who have stepped up to put kids first and who have seen student outcomes and opportunities improve as a result,” said Governor LePage. “Maine schools can be the best in the country and if they keep up this good work and the public holds them accountable to that, they will be.”
As the report cards went public Thursday on the Maine Department of Education’s website at www.maine.gov/doe, Commissioner Rier was touring two southern Maine elementary schools that have seen impressive performance gains over the past year.
The Commissioner’s visits to South Hiram Elementary, which improved from a D to a B, and Narragansett Elementary School in Gorham, which rose from a C to an A, complete a four-day tour by the Department to celebrate the 93 schools that showed at least a one letter grade improvement on their 2014 report card.
The grading system was launched last year by the LePage Administration, which believes that when parents and the public are informed and involved in schools, students benefit. Using a familiar A-F scale and based on math and reading proficiency, student growth and graduation rates, the report cards bring transparency to existing performance data.
The opportunity for the public to better understand how their schools are doing generated such strong interest on the day the grades were first released in 2013 that the Maine DOE website received nearly 100,000 visits, more than 10 times the amount it usually does. That high volume resulted in the website crashing, something that is likely to happen again today.
The formula used this year by the Department to calculate a school’s grade is unchanged to allow for comparison. However, local and state data on the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced priced lunch, teacher experience and education levels, and spending has been added to the report cards to provide the public a more comprehensive look at schools and allow for comparison.
On the 2014 report cards, 40 elementary schools and 10 high schools earned an A, while 53 elementary schools and 18 high schools earned a B.
Most Maine schools earned a C grade, which was also the overall state grade again at both the elementary and high school level. The state’s high school point score went up slightly as a result of proficiency and graduation rate gains, though the gap between the percentage of students who graduate and those who are actually proficient widened to 38 percent.
In total, 93 schools saw a grade improvement from 2013 to 2014. Some schools earned a two grade increase including 10 schools that rose from an F to a C, four from a D to a B and seven from a C to an A. Wisdom Middle School, which serves students in Frenchville and Saint Agatha, was the only school that jumped three letter grades, from a D to an A.
School improvement is an intensive multi-year process and the Department does not attribute grade increases or declines directly to the grading system. As Commissioner Rier heard when visiting schools this past week, many of the improvements that led to the grade gains have been in the works for years, but the report cards have surfaced those successes and focused schools.
“Today, many Maine school communities deserve to take great pride in their outstanding performance and progress, which the grading system has brought to light,” the Commissioner said. “Across the state and at both A and F schools, the dedication of teachers and the care they are taking to ensure every child is successful is improving outcomes and the lives of our students. Now that the grades are out, we encourage the public to celebrate where their schools showed improvement and join us in supporting them where there are opportunities for improvement.”
A major criticism of the grading system last year was that schools with higher percentages of economically-disadvantaged students seemed to fare worse.
While poverty can impact student achievement, many Maine schools are proving that with targeted supports and interventions, demographics do not define destiny, including at the 12 elementary schools that earned an A and the 17 that earned a B.
The Maine DOE has coupled the rollout of the grades with the release of a six-part school improvement webinar series, available on its website. While school improvement must be driven locally, the Department is a resource to support that work. Since the first report cards were published, Maine DOE has delivered professional development sessions to thousands of educators, had its improvement consultants working in the state’s most challenged schools and provided new and expanded resources to support schools including a Center for Best Practice.
For more information about the Maine School Performance Grading System, visit www.maine.gov/doe/schoolreportcards/. To link to the Maine Department of Education’s Data Warehouse where the report cards and detailed multi-year information about schools and districts is available, visit www.maine.gov/doe/dataresources/.