AUGUSTA – The majority of Maine’s elementary school students are still proficient in reading and math, but State Education Department officials say performance declines in all grade levels tested are a reminder of the importance of school-led improvement work continuing.
The performance of students in grades three through eight, as measured by the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) administered in October, comes just months after the Department announced proficiency in math and reading was on the rise again in Maine high schools, according to scores from the 2013 SAT.
Maine students in grades 3-8 continue to post their strongest results in reading, with nearly 70 percent of those tested performing at or above proficiency. Scores for students in grades three, five and seven were flat from 2012 to 2013, but declined slightly in the other grades tested.
While eighth-grade reading scores did drop, 71 percent of students are still proficient or better, and more students were deemed to be proficient with distinction in 2013, making this the grade-level and subject matter where Maine students continually perform their best.
Meanwhile, students in fifth-grade had a slight increase in math proficiency, with 63 percent deemed proficient or above. Math scores were flat in grade seven and down in grades three, four, six and eight.
A student is deemed proficient when their work demonstrates grade-level appropriate skill. By way of comparison, high school proficiency is just under 50 percent in both reading and math.
2013 Maine Student New England Common Assessment Program Performance
|Grade assessed||Subject||Percent proficient
|Subject||Percent proficient or above*|
|Grade 3||Reading||68 (=)||Math||59 (-2%)|
|Grade 4||Reading||66 (-3%)||Math||63 (-2%)|
|Grade 5||Reading||71 (=)||Math||63 (+1%)||Writing**||50 (+5%)|
|Grade 6||Reading||70 (-1%)||Math||61 (-3%)|
|Grade 7||Reading||69 (=)||Math||59 (=)|
|Grade 8||Reading||71 (-5%)||Math||56 (-5%)||Writing**||47 (-10%)|
*Percentage in parenthesis reflects change from 2012.
**Not used for State or federal accountability or Maine School Performance Grading System
Reading and math assessment results are the only ones used for State and federal accountability, as well as on the State’s school grading system, but Maine’s fifth- and eighth-grade students are also tested in writing. Performance in writing was down dramatically for grade eight students, but for those in grade five was up to 50 percent proficient or above in 2013, compared to 45 percent in 2012 and 41 in 2011.
Education Commissioner Jim Rier said he’s concerned by the year-to-year drops in grade-level performance, but that it’s important to remember that reflects a different group of students. Working to understand and improve the performance of cohorts of students over time should be the priority of all Maine schools, he said.
“While I am encouraged to see elementary proficiency remains so high—especially in reading—we cannot accept these troubling declines,” said Commissioner Rier. “These latest testing results must renew the commitment of Maine schools to improving student outcomes through embracing innovative approaches, enhancing educator effectiveness, and engaging parents and the public in supporting schools and students. Our Department looks forward to being a resource to that locally led work and has already stepped up our efforts to do so including offering more professional development opportunities, helping schools better understand and use their performance data and providing more improvement-related technical assistance.”
2013 marked the last NECAP administration as Maine moves to a next generation assessment system aligned with its recently updated academic standards, known as the Maine Learning Results. The first administration of that assessment will be in the spring of 2015, measuring students where they are at the end of the academic year—rather than after summer vacation—and providing results in weeks, rather than months, to better inform instruction in real-time.
Now that NECAP data is in, the Department can begin calculating the elementary school report cards that will be released this May. In the meantime, parents and the public are encouraged to become familiar with their local school’s performance across all content areas and to ask questions of their superintendents and schools boards about efforts underway to improve outcomes.
Elementary schools already have their 2013 NECAP results to share with their communities, and results are also available on the Maine Department of Education’s transparent public data warehouse at www.maine.gov/doe/dataresources.