After several years of flat scores, Maine students backslid on most sections of the state standardized tests for elementary and middle schools.

Fifth-graders made gains in math and writing, but for all other grade levels and subjects, the percentage of students scoring “proficient” or higher held steady or dropped.

The results in eighth grade were particularly poor compared to last year: the proficiency level dropped by five percentage points in both reading and math, and it dropped by 10 points in writing.

The Maine Department of Education released results Monday from the New England Common Assessment Program, tests that students in third through eighth grades took in October. All students in those grades are tested in math and reading, and fifth- and eighth-graders also take a writing test.

The reading and math results will be used to determine which schools are meeting progress targets in the state’s accountability system, and will be factored into the letter grades that schools receive on the report cards the state will release in May.

Overall, 60.2 percent of Maine students are proficient in math, down from 62.1 percent last year; 69.1 percent are proficient in reading, down from 71 percent; and 48.4 percent are proficient in writing, down from 51.1 percent.

“While I am encouraged to see elementary proficiency remains so high – especially in reading – we cannot accept these troubling declines,” said Education Commissioner Jim Rier.

Biddeford Assistant Superintendent Jeff Porter said it’s difficult to derive trends from the test results, particularly this soon after receiving them.

Although Biddeford Primary School gained four percentage points in reading proficiency and five percentage points in math proficiency, the intermediate and middle schools both showed declines in both subjects.

“From year to year, it’s hard to say one school’s up, one school’s down,” Porter said. “We see our schools go up and down.”

This was the last year for the tests in Maine. Starting next spring, Maine students will take Common Core-aligned tests developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The Common Core standards, adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, are a set of statements about what students should know and be able to do in English language arts and math by the end of each grade.

Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at:

smcmillan@centralmaine.com