Tests are, well … tests

We are tested every day. From the moment we wake up with the crushing sound of the alarm clock to the moment we go to bed, our lives are one continuous test. Some of us see tests at work and others see different types of tests daily. It should come as no surprise, then, that our children will also see a test on occasion.

Testing is good. Testing provides the barometer from which we can measure our own preparedness and proficiency in a given area. If we are invested in the results, we can learn a great deal about what we need to do in order to advance or grow on a path of our choosing.

Even bad tests can tell the greater community much about the population being tested. This is where we find ourselves with a recent article that discussed the results from the Smarter Balanced testing in Maine. Thousands of students in Maine took part in this testing earlier this year. By most written accounts, and the opinions of those I have spoken to, the test was flawed on many levels. However, the information that was gleaned from its results should not be discarded without a careful review.

Smarter Balanced testing came out of the adopted standards for Common Core. Namely, being a test that better prepares students to meet college educational requirements or those requirements of a career field. The test was unique in its delivery to the students of Maine. Whereas more traditional testing had been done exclusively on paper, the Smarter Balanced test was completed solely using a computer. It should also be mentioned that, unlike many tests that have been conducted previously, droves of students decided to opt out of taking this test for various reasons.

Although Maine will no longer use this system going forward, the data results we have can shed some light on what is going well and what needs work. Where we fall in as a community in relation to our peer cities and towns in Cumberland County and how we stack up to places like Topsham and Bath can tell us much.

For the purposes of the test there were three main areas of focus for student scoring. The proficiency of students in English, Math and Science was measured and reported. The average proficiency for the State on the English portion of the exam was 46.1 percent. The average proficiency for Math was 35.1 percent. The proficiency for Science was 58.7 percent. The averages for Cumberland County were 49.3 percent, 37.2 percent and 57.5 percent respectively.

Brunswick’s scores were higher than the state and county average for each of the categories except for Math at Brunswick High School. Even the score for Math was not that much lower than the state average. This should give us confidence that in relation to the state and county that our schools are on par to those populations.

In relation to our closest competitors for educational prowess it was noted that Brunswick Junior High School and Brunswick High School bested both their equivalent schools in Topsham and the schools in Bath. In the local marketplace, Brunswick holds the edge for preparing students for life after school.

Brunswick did not fare as well when it came to our peer towns in Cumberland County. Schools in Yarmouth, Falmouth and Freeport all reported higher averages of proficiency in most every category than the same schools in Brunswick. In fact, there were sizable differences in the percentages from a number of the schools. Freeport Middle School and Freeport High School did much better than Brunswick’s Junior High School and High School in most categories. Falmouth Middle School also saw a sizable advantage in the number of students who were proficient in each of the categories.

What these numbers tell us is that Brunswick has some improvements that can be made to further the educational experience for our youngsters to prepare them for life after high school. While the test itself was not a perfect exercise, it provided valuable data that can better the educational training that already takes place.

Every challenge that a student faces will, ultimately, make them a stronger student and a more productive member of our community. This should be encouraged and embraced by everyone.

That’s my two cents … .


Jonathan Crimmins lives in Brunswick.

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