Maine School Report Cards:York shines, Marshwood improves
By Casey Conley
Sunday, May 18, 2014
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — The Maine Department of Education released its annual report card Thursday, and most local schools received passing marks.
However, some superintendents remain concerned about the two-year-old rating system, particularly the methods used to determine each letter grade. Others identified errors with their scores and questioned the value of the grades considering schools already have access to information used to compile each letter grade.
“To take data and put a grade to it, what does that do? How does that change anything?” MSAD 60 Superintendent Steven Connolly said Friday.
York Public Schools received the highest marks of any nearby district, receiving “A” scores for Coastal Ridge Elementary School, York Middle School and York High School.
In MSAD 35, covering South Berwick and Eliot, Marshwood High School received an A, while the Middle School improved to a B from a C last year. The Marshwood Great Works Elementary School received a C.
In MSAD 60, which serves students from North Berwick, Berwick and Lebanon, Noble Middle School and Noble High School received C grades. The eighth-grade, which the state considers separate from the middle and high school, rated a D. Berwick, North Berwick and Lebanon elementary schools also received Cs.
Connolly argued the D score for the eighth grade was based on a data error. Although administrators had a chance to contest the scores, Connolly said his username and password for an online review system did not work, and state officials didn’t respond to his requests to resolve the issue.
Traip Academy in Kittery received a B, while the Shapleigh School there received a C.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage introduced the report cards last year for elementary, middle and high schools.
The system uses an A to F scale to grade schools based a host of attributes such as standardized test scores, student improvement and other factors. High school scores are based in part on graduation rates. Primary schools and some very small schools are not rated.
Hundreds of Maine schools were graded this year based on performance during the 2012-13 school year, and most scored a C or above. More than 100 schools improved this year over last year, the state agency said on its website. However, more than 150 schools dropped a letter grade, according to published reports.
A full list of the 2013 school report cards was not immediately available for comparison.
MSAD 35 Superintendent Mary Nash said the system seems to put high-scoring schools at a disadvantage. For instance, she said schools lose points if student’s scores drop from a 4 to a 3, even though both measures rate as “proficient” under state standards.
Nash noted the New England Common Assessment Program test used to help compile the grades is being replaced next year, which will make apple to apple comparisons more difficult in future years.
“The governor was very clear that he thought it was a parent-friendly tool, but I just don’t think it’s that helpful to us as practitioners,” she said.
A phone call Thursday afternoon to Maine Department of Education spokeswoman Samantha Warren, seeking comment on the grading system, was not returned.