Lake Region High School’s students and staff say they feel vindicated by new SAT scores that show improvement over past results that put the school on a list of Maine’s 10 persistently lowest-performing schools.

Lake Region High’s reading and math scores on the SAT taken in May are 12 and 13 points higher, respectively, than the school’s three-year average for 2007 through 2009.

Still, school officials say, much needs improvement at the high school in Naples that also serves Bridgton, Sebago and Casco.

The Maine Department of Education issued its list in early March based on math and reading scores on the college admissions exam over the last three years. Maine uses the SAT, which is given to juniors each May, to assess high schools’ proficiency.

By getting on the list, Lake Region High became eligible for a share of $12 million in federal education reform funding that was allotted to Maine. Seeking a three-year, $1.7 million grant, the Lake Region school district decided to adopt a three-year improvement plan and replace Roger Lowell, the high school’s principal for the past 16 years.

Saying they were shocked and embarrassed to be on the list, Lake Region High students and staff members began an effort to improve the school’s performance on the SAT. Additional prep classes and greater awareness among students paid off.

The high school’s average reading score increased to 451, from a three-year average of 439, and its math score increased to 431, from a three-year average of 418. Writing scores, which aren’t used to assess proficiency under federal criteria, increased from a three-year average of 420 to 438.

“It’s pretty impressive,” said Lowell, who resigned just hours before the school board decided to apply for the federal improvement funds.

Lowell and others said that making students aware of the test’s importance made the biggest difference. In past years, many college-bound students viewed the state-sponsored SAT as practice for taking the test later, at their own expense. Other students didn’t take it seriously because they weren’t planning to go to college.

“A lot of students didn’t realize the impact of the test or that we were doing so poorly,” said Leona Kluge-Edwards, a junior who took the SAT in May. “I think everyone just put forth their best effort. It shows we’re not a bad school and we can do well.”

Schools have received their results from the SAT given in May. Statewide SAT scores will be released this summer, including state average scores. The Department of Education will use the results to produce a new list of Maine’s 10 persistently lowest-performing schools, said spokesman David Connerty-Marin.

Lowell figures this year’s improvement will remove Lake Region High from the list, but it’s unclear whether the higher scores will push the school above the state average. Over the past three years, Lake Region High scored an average of two points below the state average in reading and an average of three points below the average in math.

Below-average SAT scores and inclusion on the list weren’t the only reasons that Lake Region officials decided to go for the federal money. They also were concerned about high student apathy, low parent involvement, inadequate evaluations of teachers, boys’ scores that trailed girls’ scores and a “culture of mediocrity” across the district.

“The SAT is only a portion of what the community determined needed improvement,” said Wayne Warner, the school board chairman. “The hope is that we’ll do more than just improve SAT scores. It’s a long-term goal to help kids do better.”

Lowell agreed that SAT scores aren’t the only measure of a school’s success, yet that’s what got Lake Region High on the lowest-performing list.

“I’d much rather leave on a high note,” he said.

Seven of the 10 schools on the list decided to take the reform money, which was made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

They are: Riverton Community in Portland, Deer Isle-Stonington High, Longley Elementary in Lewiston, Sumner Memorial High in Sullivan, Carrabec High in North Anson, Lake Region High and Livermore Falls High.

Houlton High, Hodgdon High and Madison Area High turned down the money.

Because some schools declined shares of the $12 million allocated to Maine, the state set aside $3 million, which will be made available to the 10 schools on the list next year.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]