DOE Releases School Data

The list shows achievement and progress on state testing

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Education has released a School Achievement and Progress List containing achievement and progress data for all schools with three years of testing data. It is not a ranking of schools and is not intended to be used for comparison purposes. It contains data on one measure only and was prepared initially only as a tool for identifying 10 persistently low-achieving schools that would be eligible for a share of $12 million in U.S. Department of Education School Improvement Grants.

The Department had not planned to release the larger list, as it was not a requirement of the U.S. Department of Education application for the 10 schools. However, several requests were made under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act for the larger list, which is a public record under the law, necessitating the release.

“There will be a strong temptation to use this list to rank and compare,” said Education Commissioner Sue Gendron. “We hope instead it will spark community conversation about where our schools are, where we want them to be, and how we will get there. All schools should be working to improve, whether 20 percent or 80 percent of their students are meeting standards. If it’s less than 100 percent, we have a lot of work to do.”

View the list on the web

The complete list includes 557 public schools that include at least one grade between grades 3 and 8 and/or grade 11. These schools do not include 70 other schools that are K-2 schools, new schools with less than three years of testing data, or schools that have recently closed. The list also does not include eight schools where the testing population is small enough that releasing the results would violate federal privacy laws (FERPA).

Achievement Data

The achievement data include ONE number for each of the past three years (2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09) and ONE number for the average of those three years. For each year, we have calculated the percentage of proficiency (meets or exceeds standards) of all students at all grade levels tested at the school in reading and then again in math. This includes students who took the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA), the Maine High School Assessment (MHSA) and the Personalized Alternate Assessment Portfolio (PAAP). The percentages for reading and math were then averaged together to create one number representing the annual percentage for reading and math combined.

For example, for a K-5 school we would look at all students in grades 3, 4, and 5 and determine the percentage of them meeting or exceeding standards in reading. We would then repeat this process for math. These two percentages would be averaged together. This becomes the ONE proficiency number for a given school year.

We would then calculate the three-year average of those numbers.

Progress Data

To calculate the progress, we simply add the year-to-year percentage change for 2006-07 to 2007-08 and for 2007-08 to 2008-09.

For example, for a school with these results:

2006-07     30% proficient
2007-08     29% proficient
2008-09     33% proficient

would be shown as having progress of -1% (29%-30%) plus 4% (33%-29%) , or 3% overall.

The focus of this effort is to look at progress first and proficiency second, though both are important factors. We have used three years of data so that one-year anomalies, especially in smaller schools, will not skew the results. Also, three years of data allow us to focus on growth and not just proficiency.

The list is NOT ranked, and we strongly discourage ranking for a number of reasons, including:

  • The percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards and growth in that percentage is one measure; it does not tell the whole story of a school’s performance.
  • The achievement number is not as important as progress. A school that has low performance but is making significant progress may be more prepared to help students succeed than a school that is not making progress.
  • Most important is what schools and communities do with the information. A school that has less than 100 percent of its students meeting the standards should be working – and most schools are – to improve student achievement. Whether a school has 20 percent or 80 percent of students meeting standards, the important question is: “what is the school doing to improve?” A school with 50 percent proficiency would “rank” somewhere in the middle of the list, but that is less important than the fact that half the students are not meeting standards and therefore there is work to do. What we do with that information is what is important.

Persistently Low-Achieving Schools

On March 9, the Department released a list of 10 persistently low-achieving schools in the State using the same calculations described above. Though we have already released that list, we thought it important to reiterate some information about these schools in relation to today’s release of the larger School Achievement and Progress list.

These 10 schools are not the “worst” or the worst performing schools in the State. They are the schools with the lowest achievement and progress by one measure in two very specific categories set by the U.S. Department of Education. Only 98 of Maine’s schools fit into those categories; there are more than 500 other schools in the State that may have similar or lower levels of achievement but they were not eligible for the designation and the additional funding under the federal eligibility criteria.

For the purpose of that designation, we reviewed two categories of schools only:

Tier 1 – these are Title I schools that are in “improvement status.” That is, they are have not made Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) for two years or more. (These are Title I CIPS schools.)

Tier 2 – these are Title I eligible high schools. That is, they are eligible for Title I funds but their SAU has chosen to redirect those funds to another school in the school system.

Any school that is not in one of those two categories (e.g., schools not eligible for Title I funds; Title I schools that are “making AYP”; or schools in “monitor” status) could not be designated “persistently low-achieving” according to the criteria.

Schools that were identified as persistently low-achieving are eligible for a share of $12 million in School Improvement Grants for significant education reforms. Under federal requirements, schools that apply for those funds must adopt one of four “intervention models;” however, one model involves charter schools, which are not authorized under Maine law, making that option unavailable. One model requires the school be closed and the students be reassigned to another school. A third requires replacing the principal and half the staff. Finally, the “transformation model” requires replacing the principal and implementing significant reforms, including extended learning time (e.g., after-school and summer programming), professional development, and other reforms. To receive the federal funds, a school must adopt one of these four models.

“As we have said from the beginning – this is not and should not be about where schools rank on this particular list, with its specific criteria for funding eligibility,” said Education Commissioner Sue Gendron. “It is about understanding how schools are performing by one important measure, and what work is being done to improve that performance. Whether 20 percent or 80 percent of students are meeting the standards, if it’s less than 100 percent then we have a lot of work to do and this helps us all identify a starting point for work on this measure.”

For more information, visit the Maine Department of Education

David Connerty-Marin | Director of Communications |Maine Department of Education | 207-624-6880 | David.Connerty-Marin@Maine.gov