Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Randy Billings firstname.lastname@example.org
PORTLAND - Two elementary schools in Portland failed to meet targets for standardized tests for the second consecutive year in 2011, triggering a requirement for state-approved improvement plans and allowing parents to send their children to other schools.
Krista Haapala makes cookies with her children, Evan, 8, right, who will be a fourth-grader at Hall Elementary School, and Ethan, 11, who attended the school, at their Portland home on Friday. Haapala hopes the school’s test results will serve as a catalyst for action.
Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer
Browse information about which Maine school districts are meeting the requirements of No Child Left Behind.
The school district sent a letter last week to parents of students at the Hall and Presumpscot elementary schools, notifying them that the schools hadn't met reading standards under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The law calls for all students to meet math and reading standards by 2014.
Only a few parents have requested transfers, said David Galin, the school district's chief academic officer. Parents have until Aug. 31 to decide; school starts on Sept. 6.
Only four of Portland's 16 schools -- 25 percent -- met the standards in the 2010-11 academic year, the most recent year for which results are available. Statewide, 184 of the 608 public schools -- 30 percent -- met the standards.
The state will release the 2011-12 results in September, said David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the Department of Education.
Portland and Deering high schools haven't met the academic standards in more than six years. Casco Bay High School hasn't met them in the last three years.
No Child Left Behind, signed into law in 2001 by President George W. Bush, envisioned all students achieving 100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014. The program, intended to increase accountability and education standards, measures success based on standardized tests.
The law has been criticized as overemphasizing tests and setting unrealistic expectations.
Last year, 75 percent of 3rd- through 8th-graders were expected to meet reading standards, and 70 percent had to meet math standards. For 11th-graders, the expectation was 78 percent in reading and 66 percent in math.
Those targets are set for schools as a whole and for eight subgroups: Asian/Pacific islander; Black/African American; Caucasian; Hispanic; American Indian/Native American; economically disadvantaged; students with disabilities; and students with limited English proficiency.
If one subgroup fails to meet targets, the whole school fails.
At Hall Elementary, the Black/African-American subgroup did not meet the reading standard.
Portland doesn't report how many students make up any subgroup because that could identify individual students, said Principal Cynthia Remick. Subgroups must have at least 20 students to be counted.
Remick said it was difficult for her to specify which subgroup didn't make the standard in her letter to parents, but federal law requires her to tell parents exactly where the school is not meeting standards.
"I know that can leave a bad taste in parents' mouths because it has the impression of finger-pointing, which is not my intent," she said.
At the Presumpscot school, two subgroups didn't meet reading targets: Caucasians and students with disabilities. Principal Cynthia Loring could not be reached for comment.
Sarah Scaplen said she was surprised by the district's letter because it didn't mesh with her experience with the Presumpscot school. Her daughter, Hadley, did very well in reading in kindergarten, she said.
The family no longer lives in Presumpscot's district, but choose to have the children stay in the school. Scaplen's son, Damian Cobb, went there from kindergarten through fifth grade and is now going into the seventh grade.
"I've known all the teachers there for years. I want (Hadley) to have the same experience he did," Scaplen said.
Krista Haapala, the mother of a student at Hall school, said Friday that she's glad to know the school system is tracking performance, so it knows which students need help. She hopes the test results will serve as a catalyst for action.
"I hope parents would see that and say, 'Gosh what can I do?' instead of moving their kids to another place," she said.
(Continued on page 2)