October 17, 2013

SAT scores at Maine high schools show ‘good news, bad news’

Math and reading scores rise, but scores in writing and science drop, and not even half of the students are at grade level.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Maimuna Hassan, 17, now a Portland High senior, said she was pleased with her individual SAT scores, particularly since the test was difficult. “There were words on the vocabulary section I had never heard,” she said.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Portland students scored below the state averages, by significant numbers in some areas.

In math, only 35.7 percent scored at or above grade level proficiency, compared with 48.1 percent statewide. In reading, Portland schools had 44.3 percent at or above grade level, compared with 47.2 statewide.

Statewide results for writing show 22 percent of last year’s high school juniors not meeting grade-level proficiency, 37 percent meeting it and 6.6 percent exceeding it. The remaining students were deemed to have partially met the standard.

For science, statewide results show 31.7 percent of students not at grade-level proficiency, 37.6 percent meeting grade-level performance, and 3.7 percent exceeding it.

Science education has been the subject of much attention, with Gov. Paul LePage emphasizing the need for more science, technology, engineering and mathematics training so Maine students can compete globally.

PROGRESS ENCOURAGING, BUT WORK TO DO

The state’s top academic officer said she is glad that the math and reading scores, which state and federal education officials use to track schools’ progress, are on the rise.

“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 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,” Tome said in a prepared statement.

Tome has long argued that “what is measured, is valued,” and said it isn’t surprising to see rising scores in areas that are measured.

The scores are also used as part of the state’s new A-to-F grading system for public schools, and a low participation rate can affect a school’s grade as well.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at: ngallagher@pressherald.com
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