AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine students in grades three through eight have scored better in mathematics and reading than they did two years ago based on the latest results of the Maine Educational Assessment tests. However, the results of writing tests given to some grades show a marked drop-off.
In reading, 65 percent of the students met or exceeded state standards in 2008 compared to 60 percent in 2006. In mathematics, 56 percent of students met or exceeded the standards this year compared to 52 percent in 2006.
“The results are very encouraging,” Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron stated in a press release this week announcing the results. “After several years of relatively flat achievement scores, we are beginning to see a positive trend.”
Gendron said the latest data provide vital information to schools, school systems, and the Department of Education. While MEAs have been in use since the 1980s, just grades four, eight and 11 were tested. Under the federal No Child Left Behind guidelines a new trend line was established in 2006 that expanded testing to grades three through eight. That meant comparisons to previous years were not possible.
“Schools now have three years of grade-level data for grades three through eight to inform the development of their programs over time,” Gendron said.
She noted that the tests serve multiple purposes, providing important data to help shape school programs, as well as an additional measure to consider when assessing an individual student’ s progress toward meeting the expectations of the Maine Learning Results.
Not all of the news was good, however. Although not required under NCLB, Maine assesses writing statewide at grades five and eight. Fifth-grade writing scores dropped significantly since 2007. According to the results, the number of students meeting or exceeding the standards dropped by 14 percent, from 58 percent last year to 44 percent this year.
In addition, the department was unable to use this year’ s grade-eight writing results, which consisted of scores from only one essay question. The scores from the administration of the writing test were significantly different from scores obtained during a pilot test of the writing program and could not be compared with the pilot.
“The scores were all over the place and were not consistent with the scores of the pilot test,” department communications director David Connerty-Marin said Wednesday.
There were many possible reasons for the inconsistent scores, but none that could be confirmed decisively, he added.
“The MEAs are not about trying to show how well we are doing,” Gendron said. “They are a tool to help us assess how we are doing, for better or worse. We are working to assess why the results were inconsistent and how we can adjust the assessment in the future so that we can use it yearly to assess progress in writing.”
In science testing, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards in grades four and eight, the only two grades tested in Maine, has remained unchanged for the last three years. Next year science testing will be done in grades five and eight to align with the revised 2007 Maine Learning Results standards.
Girls performed better than boys across all grades when it came to reading and writing as a greater percentage of females than males met or exceeded the standards in both subjects. Those results were consistent with past performance and national trends.
There continued to be no significant differences in achievement by gender in mathematics or in science and technology.
More than 99 percent of all publicly funded students in Maine participated in the MEAs, well above the 95 percent federal requirement. The figure includes both the standard tests and the administration of alternate assessments for students with severe disabilities, as required by NCLB and other federal laws.
The review of Maine’ s Learning Results standards was completed last year, and the Legislature adopted that portion of the Learning Results known as the accountability standards. The accountability standards were designated for standardized statewide assessment for federal purposes and will be assessed on the MEA starting in 2009.
A summary of MEA results, including school-level scores, can be viewed at the Maine Department of Education Web site at maine.gov/education/mea/edmea.htm.