December 12, 2018
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Bangor schools buck trend as Maine test scores stagnate

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Bangor High School.

Bangor students’ performance on the state’s standardized English and math tests has been trending up over the last three years as student scores statewide have generally stagnated.

More than 55 percent of Bangor public school students performed at or above grade level in math during the 2017-18 school year, compared with 37 percent of students in all of Maine, according to Maine Educational Assessment results released last week by the state Department of Education. Bangor students also outperformed the state in English, with 66 percent of students at or above grade level, compared with the state’s 50 percent.

Eesha Pendharkar | BDN
Eesha Pendharkar | BDN

Bangor has outperformed the state in English and math since the 2015-16 school year, the first of Maine’s current generation of state standardized tests. And the percentage of Bangor students performing at or above grade level in math and English has grown each year since the new test’s deployment while the statewide percentage has stayed about the same.

Eesha Pendharkar | BDN
Eesha Pendharkar | BDN

“We have aligned our local assessments to the state to find out what students know, what students don’t know and what do we do about it,” Bangor schools Superintendent Betsy Webb said.

By observing students’ problem-solving abilities, class participation and homework performance, teachers routinely collect information on student progress, Webb said. A team of teachers and administrators at each school then analyze the data, using it to understand which schools are on track and which ones need additional coaching so they meet state standards, she said.

At an annual meeting every August, teachers and administrators from across the 3,700-student school district share their data, compare progress and devise common lesson plans, according to Webb.

“Our goals with students are the same no matter what school students attend in Bangor,” Webb said. “You could walk into any classroom and students would be on the same lesson on the same day.”

Students at schools with higher numbers of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches — including Downeast Elementary, Fairmount, Vine Street and James F. Doughty schools — also outperformed the state in English and math in the most recent round of testing.

Eesha Pendharkar | BDN
Eesha Pendharkar | BDN

The school district’s systematic approach has been in place for decades, Webb said. It has been difficult, however, for the school district to gain a long-term view of its progress because the state has changed the standardized test it uses several times in recent years.

“I’m hoping they won’t keep changing assessments,” Webb said. “That will allow us to show progress.”

Eesha Pendharkar | BDN
Eesha Pendharkar | BDN

Summer and after-school programs would help Bangor schools continue to boost students’ performance, Webb said, but the district would need additional state and federal funds to add and grow those programs.

“As we increase the standards, we are going to need more resources, because the work that we’re doing is making a difference and giving [students] opportunities for the future,” she said.

 


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