It’s that time of year again. Half the parents in Maine are receiving letters stating that their students aren’t meeting “state expectations” for reading on the federally mandated Maine Educational Assessment. In the lead paragraph of a recent Portland Press Herald story, Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher reported this as 50 percent of Maine students being unable to read “at or above grade level.”

The state Education Department has not defined “state expectations,” and teachers know that the elementary tests are not grade level. A readability test of the third-grade sample test shows it is written at a fifth- to sixth-grade level. When we test students on developmentally appropriate material, most of the children at my South Portland school – excluding special education students and those still learning English – are reading at or above grade level.

Here’s the problem: All the decisions on the direction of education, for the past 15 years, have been based on this erroneous data. Shouldn’t we be asking more questions? Are we focusing on the best practices for educating our children, or are we wasting limited tax dollars on yearly tests that do not give schools any useful information?

There is nothing wrong with the intelligence of the children of Maine. There is something wrong with the tests. Go to maine.onlinehelp.measuredprogress.org and take the sample third- or fourth-grade reading, writing and math tests on a small laptop screen. I think you’ll agree that they are developmentally inappropriate. Then stop by your child’s school any time and ask any child to read to you and discuss the book. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

It’s time to demand fair tests. The state Education Department has already discarded two tests. It’s time to fix the Maine Educational Assessment and make it grade level. Parents – and taxpayers – are currently receiving the message that Maine’s schools aren’t working – let’s change that message.

Kathleen Mikulka

teacher

Cape Elizabeth resident