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MEAs Show Continued Improvement
Reading proficiency up 5 percentage points; math up 4 percentage points
July 22, 2008
AUGUSTA – Students in grades 3 through 8 are doing better in mathematics and reading than they were two years ago, according to the latest results of the Maine Educational Assessment, or MEA. In reading, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards rose from 60 percent in 2006 to 65 percent in 2008, an increase of 5 percentage points. In mathematics, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards rose from 52 percent in 2006 to 56 percent in 2008, an increase of 4 percentage points.
“The results are very encouraging,” said Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron. “After several years of relatively flat achievement scores, we are beginning to see a positive trend.”
Gendron said the data also provide vital information to schools, school systems, and the state Department of Education. While MEAs have been in use since the 1980s, a new “trend line” was established in 2006 because of a change from assessing grade-span performance expectations to assessing grade-level performance expectations at grades 3 through 8, as required by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. That meant comparisons to previous years were not possible.
“Schools now have three years of grade-level data for grades 3 through 8 to inform the development of their programs over time,” Gendron said. She noted that the tests serve multiple purposes, providing important data to help inform school programs, as well as an additional measure to consider when assessing individual student’s progress toward meeting the expectations of the Maine Learning Results.
Not all of the news was good. Although not required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Maine assesses writing statewide at grades 5 and 8. Grade 5 writing scores dropped significantly since 2007 – the number of students meeting or exceeding the standards dropped by 14 percentage points to 44 percent in 2008. The Department is reviewing the results from this writing prompt closely.
In addition, the Department was unable to use this year’s grade 8 writing results, which also consisted of scores from only one writing prompt. The scores from the administration of the writing prompt were significantly different from scores obtained during a pilot test of the writing prompt. There are many possible reasons for the inconsistent scores, but none that can be confirmed decisively.
“The MEAs are not about trying to show how well we are doing,” Gendron said. “They are a tool to help us assess how we are doing, for better or worse. We are working to assess why the results were inconsistent and how we can adjust the assessment in the future so that we can use it yearly to assess progress in writing.”
The percentage of students meeting or exceeding science standards in grades 4 and 8, the two grades tested in Maine, has remained unchanged for the last three years. Next year science testing will be in grades 5 and 8 to align with the 2007 Maine Learning Results standards.
Across all grades, a greater percentage of females than males met or exceeded the standards in reading and in writing at grade 5. This is consistent with past performance and national trends. There continued to be no significant differences in achievement by gender in mathematics or in science and technology.
More than 99 percent of all publicly-funded students in Maine participated in the MEAs, well above the 95 percent federal requirement. The 99 percent includes both the general administration and the administration of alternate assessments for students with severe disabilities, as required by NCLB and other federal laws.
Originally passed in 1997, the Maine Learning Results standards are a set of indicators, or “expectations,” of what students should know and be able to do at the end of a grade span or a particular grade level. To meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires assessments at all grade levels from 3 through 8 and in high school, Maine first developed “grade level expectations” in reading and mathematics in 2006, based on the grade span performance expectations in the 1997 Maine Learning Results. Maine then began administering the MEA to grade levels 3 through 8 to measure these grade level expectations. Before 2006, MEAs were administered in grades 4, 8, and 11 only.
In 2007, the review of Maine’s Learning Results standards was completed, and the Legislature adopted that portion of the Learning Results known as the accountability standards. These accountability standards are designated for standardized state-wide assessment for federal purposes and will be assessed on the MEA starting in 2009.
A summary of MEA results, including school-level scores, can be viewed at the Maine Department of Education website at: http://www.maine.gov/education/mea/edmea.htm
David Connerty-Marin, Director of Communications, Maine Department of Education, 207-624-6880
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