A Jan. 10 article titled “Poverty affects Maine students’ grades, researchers say” described research by the well-respected Dr. David Silvernail of the University of Southern Maine, showing quite conclusively that poor performance on state tests correlates positively with poverty.
Kids in wealthy communities score high on state tests, and kids in poor communities, measured by high numbers of children in the free and reduced-price lunch program, usually score poorly.
That said, there are exceptions to this rule. Consistently, SAD 58 in the Kingfield area and Washington County’s SAD 37, two large districts with high free and reduced-price lunch counts, score high on the state New England Common Assessment Program test.
For example, one SAD 37 school, Daniel Merritt, has 60.99 percent of its students on free and reduced-price lunch, but their reading NECAP scores indicate that 85 percent of the students in that school score in the “exceeds” or “meets proficiency” categories.
SAD 37 has been high test achievers several years running, despite its supposed poverty level.
In RSU 70 in Hodgdon, Mill Pond School has a free and reduced-price lunch count of 70.26 percent (very high), while their NECAP reading score has 82 percent of its students “proficient” (also very high). Alexander School in Washington County is high in free and reduced-price lunch counts (64.81 percent) and high in reading test scores (72 percent).
What are these schools doing to achieve high NECAP test scores that other schools are missing? Is it teaching methods? Expectations? School leadership? Parent/caregiver involvement? Curriculum?
Perhaps the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research and Evaluation can tackle this paradox of a few high-poverty schools scoring high on standardized tests while the majority do not. As these high achievers in our northern counties demonstrate, it is not money alone that leads to success.