Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By Leslie Bridgers firstname.lastname@example.org
Lake Region High School got its state-issued grade changed from a "D" to a "C."
In this 2010 file photo, Lake Region High School.
John Patriquin / Staff Photographer
When the Maine Department of Education handed out grades statewide for the first time in the spring, faculty members at many schools believed that their schools deserved a higher grade. Lake Region proved it.
The state's grading formula penalized schools by a whole letter grade if their student participation in tests was below 95 percent.
Lake Region was one of them, but not according to the numbers kept by the Naples school.
The district's administration challenged the state's grade and heard from Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen this week that the appeal was successful.
"It's disappointing that it took this long," said School Administrative District 61 Superintendent Kathleen Beecher. "What people are probably going to remember is that there was a 'D."'
The difference was one student, according to Rachelle Tome, the department's chief academic officer for accountability and improvement.
Students are required to take the high school assessment in their third year. A Lake Region student who was a junior, but not in the third year of high school, should have been exempted in the state's calculation of the participation rate.
Taking that student out of the equation bumped the school's participation rate over 95 percent -- from 94.5 to 95.2 percent, Beecher said.
"We deeply regret our error and thank you for bringing it to our attention," Bowen wrote in a letter to Lake Region Principal Ted Finn.
Tome said the department reviewed its data for all schools to see if any others were affected by the same mistake and found that Mount Abram Regional High School in Salem Township also should have been awarded a "C" instead of the "D" that it got.
The principal there, Marco Aliberti, said he understands the state's desire to have transparency, but wishes the department was more careful about its calculations.
"I think there needs to be more time and consideration into what actually makes up those numbers and grades," he said.
Aliberti also said he believes handing out letter grades to schools is inconsistent with what the state is trying to do in those schools -- move toward standards-based learning.
"It doesn't seem up and up with their own practices," he said.
Now, Aliberti said, he feels like he'll "have to play defense" in trying to explain to people that the school's original grade was incorrect.
"It's not necessarily going to be publicized as much as the 'D' was, unless we go out and hold a press conference," he said.
For Lake Region, which was named one of the state's 10 persistently low-performing schools in 2010, the "D" was especially disappointing, said Beecher.
"It was terrible. It's just another slap in the face when they work so hard to turn things around," she said.
Beecher was heartened, however, that Bowen, who had visited the school in the spring, recognized that effort in his letter this week.
Earning a "C" after being one of the lowest-achieving schools, he said, "is a tremendous testament to the courageous change and hard work your school has collaboratively undertaken and is something to be incredibly proud of."
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at