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For Immediate Release – October 17, 2002

2001-02 MEA Results Highlight Challenges in Meeting Learning Results Expectations

2001-2002 Student Performance on MEA Is Flat

Contact: Yellow Light Breen, 624-6620, 851-2436 pager, yellow.breen@maine.gov

                                Horace “Brud” Maxcy, 624-6774, brud.maxcy@maine.gov

Augusta – Results from the 2001-02 Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) describe significant challenges for schools in helping students to achieve the high academic expectations set forth in Maine’s Learning Results.  Commissioner of Education J. Duke Albanese, in releasing the 2001- 2002 school year MEA school performance reports for students in grades 4, 8, and 11, said that the MEA results clearly define the gaps between current levels of student performance and the high academic standards set by citizens and teachers in creating Learning Results. Commissioner Albanese focused on several key themes gleaned from the latest results:

  • Scores are flat, and the need for improvement is critical to give students the opportunity to meet the standards of Maine’s Learning Results;
  • Performance is best in Reading and Writing and weakest in Mathematics and in Science and Technology;
  • The gender gap in Mathematics and Science – where female performance had historically lagged that of males -- has disappeared, but the continuing gender gap is clear in Reading and Writing with males performing significantly below females;
  • There is a serious challenge to improve both student interest and the rigor of preparation of Maine students in Mathematics and in Science and Technology;
  • Maine performance held steady despite high rates of inclusion of students from all backgrounds in the testing process; and
  • Maine’s mixed performance on the MEA must still be viewed in the context of the State’s superlative performance in contrast to other states and the country on national tests.

The detailed “Summary of Key Findings” on the Department’s website provides extensive commentary on the highlights of the 2001-02 results.

Commissioner Albanese stated that the central feature across the MEA results in all categories is the stability in scores over several years.  The 2001- 2002 MEA scores remained relatively constant while including more students who have special needs and who are limited English proficient, and Albanese lauded the fact that Maine is a national leader in including such students in the MEA.  However, he expressed concern that the performance of Maine schools and students must improve if they are to meet the rigorous expectations of Maine’s Learning Results.

While Albanese said that the large numbers of students who Partially Meet the standards do show some strong evidence of mastery, their mastery is inconsistent across the content.  “Clearly, we need more students to begin to show progress from Does Not Meet to partial mastery and from Partially Meets to meeting the standards.”

Although MEA results provide a critical barometer as schools implement changes in order to achieve the Learning Results, the MEA will not be used as a stand-alone measure to determine high school graduation unlike the policy in some other states.  Local school districts will determine by 2004 how to use the MEA in combination with their local measures to set graduation criteria, and will begin using the new criteria for the Class of 2007 for English Language Arts and Mathematics, with other areas to follow for the Class of 2008.  Albanese said, “Maine is developing complementary local systems of measurement that are broader and richer, and that will be used for important decisions such as graduation.  The MEA will help to check and confirm the results of these systems.”

Albanese said he understands the impatience of citizens to see academic gains; however, he encouraged continued support of schools as they move ahead with implementation of changes in curriculum and instruction necessary to meet Learning Results performance expectations.

The context for the latest results is particularly significant in light of new federal requirements from the No Child Left Behind Act adopted in January.  Because of the new federal legislation, Maine must address how its performance expectations will define “proficiency” under federal law, as well as how Maine’s definition compares to national tests and other states so that the adoption of low standards by other states does not perversely make Maine’s performance against high standards look poor.  In addition, Maine must submit revised criteria specifying how MEA results and other factors will be used to identify priority schools in need of improvement that could be subject to interventions or even ultimately to sanctions under federal law.  Finally, beginning in 2002-03, the State must begin reporting even more detailed data to the public about performance, not just for schools, but by several demographic subgroups.

Albanese reiterated the need to put Maine’s performance into perspective by recognizing that Maine students consistently exceed national performance levels on the National Assessment of Educational Assessment (NAEP).  In 2000, Maine eighth graders were 3rd in the country in Mathematics, and fourth graders also scored among the top 10 states in the country.  In 1998, Maine eighth graders were 1st in the nation in Reading and 2nd in the nation in Writing on the NAEP tests, while Maine fourth graders scored 4th in the nation in Reading. 

Albanese intends to hold a press conference within the next two weeks to address more specific actions to help schools and teachers address the issue of unsatisfactory performance in Mathematics and in Science and Technology, as well as the issues raised by federal law, including the process Maine will use to review its performance expectations in order to define “proficiency” and the approach Maine will take to develop revised criteria specifying how MEA results and other factors will be used to identify priority schools in need of improvement.

Press materials, including a detailed “Summary of Key Findings” and graphs with statewide data tables, are available on the web at http://www.maine.gov/education/ under New and Hot Topics (click on 2001-02 MEA Results) or http://www.maine.gov/education/mea/edmea.htm.  A link to the spreadsheet of individual school performance statewide can be accessed from the same link.  If interested in the performance of a small number of schools or districts, click instead on School Profile for a summary chart of an individual school or district.