Schools miss mark in federal testing

Posted Sept. 09, 2008, at 8:28 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — More than one-third of the state’s public schools fell short of performance targets in 2007-08 under the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act, the Maine Department of Education said.

The department said Monday that 38 percent of the 632 elementary, middle and high schools missed federal performance targets on standardized reading and math tests taken last spring. That’s an increase over the previous year, when 37 percent of 635 schools failed to make what the government calls “adequate yearly progress.”

The No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2001, is President Bush’s centerpiece education reform law. It requires all states to assess students’ performance in reading and math each year in grades three through eight and 11.

Fifteen percent more of the schools in Maine failed to make progress in reading, while the number of schools that failed to improve in math increased 58 percent.

A state Education Department spokesman said the figures are typical for Maine, which has rigorous standards under the No Child Left Behind Act. The spokesman, David Connerty-Marin, also noted that while there were 30 additions to the list of underperformers, 16 schools went off the list.

“We don’t find [the figures] alarming, but we are not complacent,” said Connerty-Marin.

The federal law focuses on five subgroups — American Indian, African-American, economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient, and students with disabilities — as well as the whole school. If any subgroup fails to make adequate yearly progress, a school is put on “monitor” status for a year and “priority” status each year afterward until it shows progress.

To measure student performance, Maine uses scores from the Maine Educational Assessment and the SAT. Each school is expected to meet, or show progress toward, performance and attendance targets in each subject, said Connerty-Marin.

Also, students’ participation in the test must be at least 95 percent in each subgroup. Average daily attendance by each subgroup must be at least 90 percent in grades three through eight; for high schools, the graduation rate must be 65 percent or greater.

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