The Portland school district has withdrawn student test-score data presented to the school board Tuesday, after the Portland Press Herald pointed out discrepancies between the data and scores reported by the state.

The spokeswoman for Portland Public Schools issued a new set of data Thursday and the corrected data was posted on the district’s website.

Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk noted that the overall conclusions from the data remain unchanged. “Our data shows that student performance is growing, and that the longer students stay with us in district schools, the better they do,” he said in a written statement.

The incorrect data showed that 11th-grade writing scores more than doubled, from a baseline of 22 percent proficient to 45 percent proficient, when in fact the correct baseline was 45 percent, meaning the score remained static. The data also showed that 11th-grade science scores had more than doubled from a 16 percent baseline to 34 percent, when in fact the correct baseline was 35 percent, meaning the score actually declined by a point.

The data is part of a new District Scorecard launched last year by Caulk. The initiative established a baseline score – arrived at by averaging results from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years – and sets annual targets for improvements. In addition to test score data, it measures year-over-year progress and the percentage of graduates who enroll in college within a year of graduation.

However, the baseline data was incorrect in the 11th grade writing and science categories.

The data measures the percentage of students showing proficiency, which means performing at grade level. Maine uses the SAT to measure grade 11 Maine High School Assessment tests for math, reading and writing, and a state test for science.

The district said the scorecard was prepared by a private contractor, Sarah Jessen. Jessen, who said in an interview that she has worked with the district on multiple research projects, acknowledged the error Thursday in an email to the district, which released the email to the newspaper.

“I have to admit my error in this, and apologize for not having caught this sooner,” Jessen wrote. “I had actually rechecked the performance numbers for this year for the MHSA Science and Writing, as well as the middle school numbers because the outcomes were so notable, but I did not double-check the baselines.”

She said she rechecked the other data and it was correct.

” I cannot explain how I made the MHSA Science and Writing mistakes, and I apologize for it. I have fixed the problem with the District Scorecard,” she wrote.

School Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson said she was satisfied that the district had fixed the error after it was discovered by the newspaper.

“It’s human error,” Thompson said. “There are a lot of figures there. Yes, it was significant, but it was caught and it was rectified.”

The scorecard sets targets for the upcoming year, and for 2017-18. In addition to providing district-level results, it has results for seven categories of students, broken down by race, and for students who are economically disadvantaged, have an identified disability or have limited English proficiency.

Of 112 test score categories, the district reached its goal in 12 categories, mostly in the specific categories rather than districtwide.

At the district level, the system met its goal in 5th grade writing. It fell short of the goals for grade 3 math and reading; grade 5 math and reading; grade 8 math, reading and writing; grade 11 math, reading, writing and science; and for grade 4 and 8 math scores on a specific test, the Northwest Evaluation Association test.

In another section of the scorecard that measures the progress of an individual student year-over-year, the district showed positive growth – meaning the student scored better from one test to the next – in almost all categories.

Caulk, in his written statement citing better student performance, noted that the district wants to improve the pace of growth.

“The data also shows that while our students are growing, in some cases they’re not growing fast enough. We’ve got to get them to grow at a faster rate,” Caulk said. “We plan to do that by implementing strategies that include investing in early education to make sure all students come to school ready for kindergarten; increasing students’ and families’ access to pre-kindergarten; improving literacy at the elementary level; increasing student learning time; continuing to extend the school year for students in primary grades who are reaching towards proficiency; and increasing high school graduation rates.”

 

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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