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Horace “Brud” Maxcy, Ph.D. 207/287-5996
1999-2000 Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) Scores Released
New test scores in Mathematics, Science/Technology, Social Studies, and Visual and Performing Arts
As Expected, MEA 2nd Year Scores Remain Stable as the State Continues to Develop Baseline Data For Schools to Improve Toward Learning Results Implementation in the 2002-2003 School Year
Education Officials Expect to See Substantial Improvement Over a 4-5 Year Period
Notable Trends Emerge in Relating Performance to Student Coursework, Gender, TV-watching habits, and Workplace Commitments
Overall, state test scores in Maine are flat this year compared to last year, but schools continue to develop a rich baseline of data to help them improve toward full implementation of higher education standards in 2002-03, Education Commissioner J. Duke Albanese revealed today.
Commissioner Albanese reviewed the 1999-2000 Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) results for the school year as whole, including new statewide test results from the spring session of the MEA for Mathematics, Science/Technology, Social Studies, and the Visual and Performing Arts, as well as the Reading, Writing, and Health Education results released last June. He encouraged school boards and educators to engage in a similar comprehensive analysis of local results.
Overall results confirmed Maine’s historically strong performance in Reading and Writing, with 9 out of 10 students showing significant progress toward the higher standards of Learning Results. Sixty to seventy percent of students showed progress in Mathematics and Science & Technology. Commissioner Albanese observed that Maine has scored at the top of the nation and near the top of the world in math and science in recent years, but that clearly Maine has more work to do in these areas. Results were also strong in Health Education. Social Studies and Visual & Performing Arts showed inconsistent performance; both are areas in which local course offerings have often varied widely in scope and depth.
Maine’s Learning Results, enacted in 1996, represent high standards for all students, and are among the most rigorous in the nation. Schools are required to implement Learning Results by the 2002-03 school year.
The second year of MEA tests, redesigned to measure Maine’s new Learning Results, were taken by all 4th, 8th, and 11th grade students. These results add to the baseline information needed for measuring student progress in meeting the new standards which are scheduled to be fully implemented in the 2002-2003 school year. The MEA reports student and school results in performance levels and as scale scores on a performance scale from 501 to 580:
· (561 – 580) Exceeds Standards
· (541 – 560) Meets Standards
· (521 – 540) Partially Meets Standards
· (501 – 520) Does Not Meet Standards
Because implementation of major education reform is still in the early stages, and because the standards are very rigorous for all students, Commissioner Albanese emphasized that the “Partially Meets the Standards” category should still be viewed positively at this point, along with the “Meets” and “Exceeds” performance levels. But educators and the public should focus on students who are in the “Does Not Meet Standards,” and actions that can be taken to get all students moving towards higher standards.
Albanese pointed out that the optimism about our ability to improve is borne out by Maine’s strong performance nationally. Maine student performance can be compared to their peers nationally on tests administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Maine students have performed at or near the top of the nation in all NAEP state level achievement studies since 1992 – and near the top of the world in some subjects. Last year, Maine was also named the highest performing education system in America by the National Education Goals Panel, across a set of more than 40 education indicators.
Albanese stated, “Although Maine’s performance has been strong, and has improved significantly over the past 15 years, it is not where we need be. We need to equip all of our youth with much higher levels of literacy if they are going to be armed to succeed in the society and economy of the 21st century. The way to move to higher standards is with clear goals in Maine’s Learning Results and a focus on the achievement of each individual student, not just average results.”
An analysis of performance levels on the 1999-2000 tests show that scores are essentially flat relative to 1998-99. On the 21 tests across the 3 grades, the percent of students scoring in each of the four performance levels varied up or down by no more than a handful of percentage points, an expected variance in short-term comparisons. Such changes are expected as they simply represent small shifts within the number students scoring near the cut-off points between each of the four levels. In the few tests where shifts were greater than 4 points, state and testing officials stated that such movements have to be considered statistical anomalies at this point in time. Shifts in the percent of students scoring at each performance level only become important when they represent a trend (gains or losses in performance) over a period of three or more years.
This flat performance is confirmed by an analysis of average scaled scores. The state scale score averages for the 1999 – 2000 school year moved up or down only slightly, showing differences of two points or less across all subjects and grade levels tested from the averages in the 1998 – 1999 school year. Seventeen of the 21 tests were even or within one point of the previous year.
Commissioner Albanese compared short-term performance with Learning Results reform to Maine’s previous reform efforts in the early 1980s, when the MEA was first introduced. As with current test results, immediate improvement was not evident. Test results even declined in some areas in the second year. But as schools implemented the Educational Reform Act of 1984, significant gains in student performance were realized by the fifth year of the reform.
The new MEA provides much more extensive data than ever before that local schools will use to improve to meet standards. Detailed School/District Summary Reports sent to each school. The data in these reports will become increasingly valuable in viewing changes and trends in performance over time. While assessment results only describe the status of achievement at the time of testing, some of the supporting group data and student questionnaires give more direct clues that are helpful in planning or redesigning programs to help students meet standards.
Performance data by gender reveals that girls are closing the gap with boys in math and science achievement, but that boys continue to significantly trail girls in reading and writing. Other performance data show that students who watch more than one hour of TV each school night have significantly lower performance than those who watch little or no TV. Students who work more than 9 hours during the school week achieve at half the level of their peers with more modest work commitment.
Commissioner Albanese concluded by describing some of the ongoing policy changes that the state and local schools need to pursue to support ongoing education reform. These include support in using data to improve, professional development for teachers (recently increased by the Maine Legislature), building local methods of assessing an individual’s performance that go beyond pencil and paper tests every 3 years, and moving to a new system of school funding that ties resources for all students to the essential programs needed to meet high standards.
A press conference will be held today at 11:00 in the Appropriations Committee room, Room 228 of the State House in Augusta.
Press materials and summaries of results are available of the Department’s web page at http://janus.maine.gov/education/homepage.htm. Raw MEA data is also available in .dbf at http://janus.maine.gov/education/mea/meahome.htm, and can be downloaded to a variety of spreadsheet and database formats.